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Adverbial Clause

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Adverbial Clause

It's time to dive into the adverbial clause.

Or is it an adverb clause? What's the difference? I think I learned about adverb clauses ... no, that was adverb phrases. Adverbial phrases? No, that's something different. What about just plain, normal adverbs?

If the definitions are difficult to keep separate, don't worry! With a few simple concepts and tricks, you can master the adverbial clause, tell it apart from similar terms, and recognize it in every form.

What's a Clause, Again?

Before going further into adverbial clauses, here's a general reminder about clauses. These are the main points that will help you understand adverbial clauses.

  • A clause is a meaningful group of words made up of a subject and a predicate.
  • Clauses can be independent or dependent.
  • An independent clause (also called a main clause) is a clause that can exist alone as a full sentence.
  • A dependent clause (also called a subordinate clause) is a clause that can't exist on its own as a full sentence.

Now you can press forward with adverbial clauses!

Adverbial Clause Definition

Adverbial Clause, Dictionary definition, studysmarter

The definition of an adverbial clause. Image from flaticon.

All of these different clause types are starting to get confusing. To clarify before getting started, here's the definition of an adverbial clause.

An adverbial clause (also called an adverb clause) is a dependent clause that acts as an adverb.

You might come across both the terms adverbial clause and adverb clause. Just know that they mean the same thing! As a reminder, here's the definition of an adverb.

An adverb is a word that adds information to an adjective, verb, or another adverb.


An adverb clause can replace a single adverb in a sentence. Because it's a dependent clause, an adverbial clause can't exist on its own; it has to be attached to an independent clause.

How is this different from an adverbial phrase?

First it was adverbs and adverbial phrases, and now adverbial clauses? Why are the terms so similar? The differences can be confusing but are laid out here; you can refer back to this if you get confused about the definitions.

  • An adverbial phrase replaces a single adverb but does not have a subject and a predicateWe drove to the coffee shop.In this example, to the coffee shop doesn't have a subject and a predicate. You can easily tell because it doesn't have a verb. That means that this is an adverbial phrase, not an adverbial clause.

    This verb trick is an easy way to tell phrases from clauses, but it's not perfect. We'll learn about the exceptions later!

  • An adverbial clause replaces a single adverb but does have a subject and a predicateWe drove where the coffee shop is located.Where the coffee shop is located has a subject and a predicate. You can quickly tell because it has a verb phrase, is located. It almost looks like a mini-sentence. That means that this is an adverbial clause.

Purpose of an Adverbial Clause

An adverbial clause can sometimes add more information than a regular adverb can. It can give information about time, place, manner, reason, condition, and more.

Adverbial Clause Open Hands Facing Upwards StudySmarter

"I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person," Harriet Tubman. Image by StockSnap, pixabay.

This is taken from a quote by abolitionist Harriet Tubman. The adverbial clauses have been replaced with just single adverbs. Take a look:

"Afterward, I looked at my hands curiously. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I smiled happily."

Now look at the original quote:

"When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven." —Harriet Tubman1

Can you feel the difference? The adverb clauses are much more impactful than the single adverbs, and they make for more powerful imagery.

There are five adverbial clauses in the original quote: When I found; I had crossed that line; to see; if I was the same person; like I was in heaven.

Types of Adverbial Clauses, with Examples

There are nine major types of adverbial clauses. Here's a list of the types of adverbial clauses, plus examples to demonstrate each type.

Time

An adverb clause of time tells you when something happens.

These adverb clauses start with words like when, before, after, as soon as, since, whenever, while, and until. Here are some examples:

  • Let me know when you're finished with work.
  • Before we left on our road trip, we made sure to refuel the car.
  • Whenever I start reading you my essay, you fall asleep!
  • Ever since he went on that study-abroad trip, he's been ridiculously snobby.

Place

An adverb clause of place tells you where something happens.

These adverb clauses start with words like where and wherever.

  • It's your birthday, so we'll go wherever you want to go for lunch.
  • The floor was so old, I could see where it was worn down from footsteps.
  • We asked her to find us where we were.
  • You'll probably find the keys wherever you last saw them.

Manner

An adverb clause of manner tells you how something happens.

These adverb clauses start with words like like, as if, as though, and so ... that.

  • They reacted just like I thought they would.
  • You acted so calm, as if the stress didn't affect you at all.
  • My dog looked at me like she was guilty of something.
  • I was craving ice cream so badly that I bought five gallons.

Condition

An adverb clause of condition tells you what condition needs to be met for something to happen. In other words, something will happen if something else happens first.

Adverb clauses of condition start with words like if, as long as, whether, and unless.

  • If I can't make it to the pharmacy on time, could you pick up my prescription for me?
  • I'm auditioning for the musical, whether you like it or not.
  • Unless we start taking these rehearsals seriously, the musical is going to be a disaster.
  • As long as he stays hydrated, he'll make it through his hiking trip safely.

Purpose

An adverb clause of purpose tells you the goal of an action.

Adverb clauses of purpose start with words like so, so that, in order for, and that.

  • You'd better request the day off, so the absence doesn't count against you.
  • In order for us afford a new car, we have to start saving money now.
  • I'm calling you so I can remind you about the basketball game today.
  • I tried to come in quietly, so I would avoid waking up the baby.

Reason

An adverb clause of reason tells you why something happens.

Adverb clauses of reason start with words like because, since, that, and as.

  • I was late because I got into a car accident.
  • They were just angry that you forgot their birthday.
  • The judge didn't believe her, as she had already lied about two other accusations.
  • Since you're not going to the concert anymore, I guess I won't either.

Comparison

An adverb clause of comparison compares and contrasts itself with the clause next to it.

Adverb clauses of comparison start with words like as, than, and like.

  • She finished the tacos faster than I could make them.
  • Just like Maria did last week, you accidentally set the printer on fire.
  • You protected the goal like a bear protecting its cubs.
  • You decorate cakes better than these contestants.

Wait, doesn't the fourth example not have a subject and a predicate? That's just a phrase, right? Well, in some adverbial clauses, the verb can be removed because it's implied. We could fill in the rest of the clause on our own: you decorate cakes better than these contestants (decorate cakes). Even though the verb isn't stated, we still understand the verb that would be there, so this example is still an adverbial clause.

Concession

An adverb clause of concession admits something.

Adverb clauses of concession start with words like although, even though, while, despite, though, and in spite of.

  • Despite the announcer getting punched in the face on stage, I thought the awards show went well.
  • Although we didn't have time to finish the slideshow, we still got an A on our presentation.
  • While the decorations were pretty and the staff was nice, I won't go to that restaurant again.
  • We stayed for the whole performance, though the acting was hilariously bad.

Result

An adverb clause of result tells you what happened as a result of the clause next to it.

Adverb clauses of result start with words like such that and so ... that.

  • She positioned the picture at an angle, such that the tear in it was hidden.
  • She was so angry that she didn't talk to her sister for a week.
  • She made the plans in such a way that she could avoid spending time with her.

Adverbial Clause Identification

Now you've learned the types of adverbial clauses, but how would you identify an adverbial clause in the wild?

To identify an adverbial clause, ask yourself which word is receiving more information from the clause. If the word is a verb, adjective, or adverb, it's an adverbial clause.

If you bring me my wallet, I'll give you some money for the groceries.

What word is receiving more information from this clause?

What will happen if you bring me my wallet? I'll give. Give is a verb. That means this clause is an adverbial clause.

The city where I used to live is hosting the Olympics.

Where means it's specifying place, which means is adverbial ... right? Not so fast; what word is receiving new information from this?

What is where I used to live? The city. City is a noun, not a verb, adjective, or adverb. Since this modifies a noun, it's not an adverbial clause, but an adjectival clause.

You can identify the different types of adverbial clauses by asking yourself what kind of question the clause answers. Here are some examples:

  • Time: When does something happen?
  • Place: Where does something happen?
  • Manner: How does something happen?
  • Condition: This is true if what?
  • Purpose: What's the goal of this?
  • Reason: Why does something happen?
  • Comparison: How is this similar/different from something else?
  • Concession: What is being admitted?
  • Result: What is the outcome?

Try this for yourself: the next time you read something, try and find all of the adverbial clauses, and figure out what kind of questions the clauses are answering.

Adverbial Clause - Key takeaways

  • An adverbial clause (also called an adverb clause) is a dependent clause that acts as an adverb.
  • Adverbial clauses can sometimes add more information to a verb, adjective, or adverb than a single adverb can.
  • There are nine major types of adverbial clause: adverbial clauses that give information of time, place, manner, condition, purpose, reason, comparison, concession, and result.
  • You can identify an adverbial clause by asking yourself what the kind of word the clause modifies. If it modifies a verb, adjective, or adverb, it's an adverbial clause.
  • You can identify the type of adverbial clause by asking yourself which question the clause answers.

1 Sarah Hopkins Bradford, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, 1869.

Frequently Asked Questions about Adverbial Clause

An adverbial clause (also called an adverb clause) is a dependent clause that acts as an adverb.

To identify an adverbial clause, ask yourself which word is receiving more information from the clause. If the word is a verb, adjective, or adverb, it's an adverbial clause.

Here are some examples of adverbial clauses:

  • Let me know when you're finished with work.
  • You'll probably find the keys wherever you last saw them.
  • If I can't make it to the pharmacy on time, could you pick up my prescription for me?

There are nine major types of adverbial clauses:

  • Time
  • Place
  • Manner
  • Condition
  • Purpose
  • Reason
  • Comparison
  • Concession
  • Result

An adverbial clause can sometimes add more information than a regular adverb can. It can give us information about time, place, manner, reason, condition, and more.

Final Adverbial Clause Quiz

Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


In her own house, she danced like nobody was watching.

Show answer

Answer

Time

Show question

Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


You solved that puzzle like your life depended on it.

Show answer

Answer

Manner

Show question

Question

What is an adverbial clause?

Show answer

Answer

An adverbial clause (also called an adverb clause) is a dependent clause that acts as an adverb.

Show question

Question

Is an adverbial clause a dependent or independent clause?

Show answer

Answer

Dependent

Show question

Question

True or false: 

You can remove the verb from an adverbial clause of comparison if the verb is already implied.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What is the purpose of an adverbial clause?

Show answer

Answer

An adverbial clause can sometimes add more information than a regular adverb can. It can give us information about time, place, manner, reason, condition, and more.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between an adverbial clause and an adverbial phrase?

Show answer

Answer

An adverbial clause has both a subject and a predicate. An adverbial phrase does not have both a subject and a predicate.

Show question

Question

What are the nine types of adverbial clause?

Show answer

Answer

  • Time
  • Place
  • Manner
  • Condition
  • Purpose
  • Reason
  • Comparison
  • Concession
  • Result

Show question

Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


Despite the horrible traffic, we made it to the recital just in time.

Show answer

Answer

Concession

Show question

Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


If you give me directions, I can drive you to work.

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Answer

Condition

Show question

Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


I didn't buy the plane tickets because you told me you didn't want to go.

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Answer

Reason

Show question

Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


Slow down! You're talking faster than I can type.

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Answer

Comparison

Show question

Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


I woke up early so I could drive to school without sitting through traffic.

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Answer

Purpose

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Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


You're avoiding me as if there's something you're afraid to tell me.

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Answer

Manner

Show question

Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


I was so tired that I slept through my alarm.

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Answer

Result

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Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


I'll go wherever I need to go to see a doctor today.

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Answer

Place

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Question

What type of adverbial clause is this?


Just let me know when you're ready to leave and we'll hit the road.

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Answer

Time

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