Adverb Phrase

Phrases are an essential part of the English language and are the building blocks of all sentences. There are five main types of phrases in English: noun phrases, adjective phrases, verb phrases, adverb phrases, and prepositional phrases. Adverb phrases are an often-overlooked part of English grammar, but they play a crucial role in providing more information about how, when, where, or to what extent an action took place. 

Adverb Phrase Adverb Phrase

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    From simple two-word adverb phrase examples like 'very quickly' to more complex phrases like 'in a manner consistent with his beliefs,' adverb phrases can add depth and nuance to our language.

    Adverb definition

    Before we dive straight into adverb phrases, let's first look at adverbs and how they work.

    An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb by providing additional information.

    The word 'quickly' is an adverb e.g. ‘The man ran quickly down the street’. The adverb 'quickly' provides additional information about how the man was running.

    As a general rule, adverbs will be an adjective + the letters 'ly' e.g. 'thoughtfully'. This isn't always the case, but it's a good tip to remember!

    Now, let's explore how a group of words can provide additional information to a sentence, in the same way the adverb in the previous example did.

    What is an adverb phrase?

    An adverb phrase (or adverbial phrase) is any phrase that acts as an adverb in a sentence. It provides more information about the verb, adjective, or adverb that it modifies by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred.

    An example of an adverb phrase is:

    The man ran as quickly as possible down the street.

    The adverb phrase ‘as quickly as possible’ provides context to how the man ran. The adverb phrase modifies the verb ‘ran’ by providing additional context.

    Adverb phrase examples

    Here are a few more examples of adverb phrases:

    I speak to Jane all the time.

    'All the time' is an adverbial phrase because it modifies the verb 'speak', describing how frequently the action occurs.

    A few weeks ago, James came over.

    'A few weeks ago' is an adverbial phrase because it modifies the verb 'came', describing when the action occurred.

    I went to the library to find out more.

    'To find out more' is an adverbial phrase because it modifies the verb 'went', describing why the action occurred. This is also an example of an infinitive phrase acting as an adverbial phrase.

    An infinitive phrase is a group of words containing an infinitive (to + verb).

    My friends sat as far away as necessary.

    'As far away as necessary' is an adverbial phrase because it modifies the verb 'sat', describing where the action occurred.

    Adverb phrase Image of woman in a library StudySmarterFig. 1 - 'She went to the library to find out more' contains the adverb phrase 'to find out more'

    Types of adverb phrases

    Adverb phrases can be categorised based on the extra information they provide. There are four main types of adverb phrases: adverb phrases of time, adverb phrases of place, adverb phrases of manner, and adverb phrases of reason.

    Adverb phrases of time

    Adverb phrases of time tell us when something happens/happened or how often.

    She goes to school every day.

    After work, I'll ride my bike.

    I'll be there in a minute.

    Adverb phrases of place

    Adverb phrases of place tell us where something takes/took place.

    I'm going for a walk along the beach.

    The party is happening now at Mia's place.

    He was dancing on the table.

    Adverb phrases of manner

    Adverb phrases of manner tell us how something happens or is done.

    She was painting very carefully.

    He kicked the ball with great precision.

    Very slowly, the tiger approached.

    Adverb phrases of reason

    Adverb phrases of reason tell us why something is happening'/happened.

    To keep calm, he counted to ten.

    She waited in line all day in order to get the new phone first.

    He kissed her head to show his love.

    Adverb phrases format

    There are a few different ways we can form adverbial phrases, and there is no set rule. However, there are three common ways we can look at today; they are prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, and adverb + intensifier phrases.

    Prepositional phrases

    A prepositional phrase is a phrase consisting of a preposition (e.g. in, on, under, next to, across, in front of) and its object.

    I slid my bag across the table.

    In this example, 'across' is the preposition, and 'the table' is the object of the preposition. The prepositional phrase is acting as an adverbial phrase by providing information about where the bag (noun) is being slid (verb).

    Infinitive phrases

    An infinitive phrase is one that begins with the infinitive form of a verb (containing the word 'to' e.g. 'to swim', 'to run').

    She went to Italy to learn how to cook pasta.

    In this example, the infinitive phrase 'to learn how to cook pasta' is working as an adverb phrase of reason as it tells us why she moved to Italy.

    Adverb phrase Image of pasta ingredients StudySmarter Fig. 2 - Why did she move to Italy? to learn how to cook pasta!

    Adverb + intensifier phrases

    We can also create adverb phrases using an adverb (e.g. quickly, slowly, carefully) plus an intensifier. An intensifier is a word we can place in front of an adjective or adverb to make it stronger.

    He wrote in the card very carefully.

    Adverb phrases or adverb clauses?

    Let's compare adverbial phrases with adverbial clauses.

    We now know that an adverbial phrase is a group of words that act as an adverb in a sentence by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred.

    Adverbial clauses are similar to adverbial phrases. However, there are some key differences.

    Adverb Clauses

    What distinguishes clauses from phrases is this subject-verb element. Phrases do not have to contain a subject and a verb, whereas adverb clauses do.

    An adverb clause is any clause that acts as an adverb in a sentence. The clause modifies the verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred.

    Clause: A clause is a group of words with both a subject and a verb.

    Here is an adverb clause example similar to the first adverb phrase example:

    The man ran as if his life depended on it down the street.

    The adverb clause 'as if his life depended on it' provides information about how the man ran, while also containing a subject (life) and a verb (depended).

    What separates an adverb clause from other types of clauses is that it is a dependent clause, meaning it cannot exist on its own as a complete sentence.

    Adverb clause examples

    Like adverb phrases, adverb clauses can be categorised by the information they provide. Some of the examples of how adverb clauses are used include:

    How an action is performed:

    She spilled the food despite carrying the box as carefully as possible.

    How frequently an action is performed:

    John went to his mother's once a week to spend time with her.

    When an action is performed:

    You can go to the party as soon as you finish your homework.

    Why an action is performed:

    They were both hungry because I had gone out to dinner without them.

    Where an action happens:

    I will show you the room you will be sleeping in tonight.

    If a group of words acting as an adverb does not contain both a subject and a verb, then it is an adverb phrase. If the group of words does contain a subject and verb, it is an adverb clause.

    Adverb Phrase - Key takeaways

    • An adverb phrase is a phrase that modifies a verb, adjective, or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred.
    • Different types of adverbs include adverb phrases of time, adverb phrases of place, adverb phrases of manner, and adverb phrases of reason.
    • We can form adverb phrases using prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, and adverb + intensifier phrases.
    • An example of an adverb phrase is, 'He picked up the vas very carefully.'
    • What distinguishes adverb clauses from adverb phrases is this subject-verb element. Phrases do not contain both a subject and a verb.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Adverb Phrase

    What is an adverb phrase?

    An adverb phrase is a phrase that modifies a verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred. 

    What is an adverb clause?

    An adverb clause is any clause that acts as an adverb in a sentence. The clause modifies the verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred. 

    What is an example of an adverb phrase?

    The man ran as quickly as possible down the street.

    What is the difference between adverb phrases and adverb clauses?

    What distinguishes adverb clauses from adverb phrases is this subject-verb element. Adverb phrases, unlike adverb clauses, do not contain both a subject and verb.

     What is a prepositional phrase?

    A prepositional phrase is a phrase consisting of a preposition, and the object of said preposition. Prepositional phrases can act as adverb phrases.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of these is not a question answered by adverb phrases?

    What question does the adverb phrase answer?They met that day by the large oak tree.

    Which of these adverb phrases answers how an action occurs?

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