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Adverb Clause, Phrase Definition – Lesson Plan Activity

There are many types of adverbs, adverb phrases and clauses. This page will introduce some of the basic types and their functions.
1. What is an adverb?

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2. What is an adverb phrase?

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3. What is an adverb clause?

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1. What is an adverb?

Basically, most adverbs tell you how, where, or when something is done. In other words, they describe the manner, place, or time of an action.

Here are some examples:

Type Adverb Example
Manner slowly Tom drives slowly.
Place here The party is going to
take place here.
Time yesterday I called him yesterday.

How to recognize an adverb. Many adverbs end with the suffix -LY. Most of these are created by adding -LY to the end of an adjective, like this:

Adjective Adverb
slow slowly
delightful delightfully
hopeless hopelessly
aggressive aggressively

However, this is NOT a reliable way to find out whether a word is an adverb or not, for two reasons: many adverbs do NOT end in -LY (some are the same as the adjective form), and many words which are NOT adverbs DO end in -LY (such as kindly, friendly, elderly and lonely, which are adjectives). Here are some examples of adverbs which are the same as adjectives:

Adjective Adverb
fast fast
late late
early early

The best way to tell if a word is an adverb is to try making a question, for which the answer is the word. If the question uses how, where or when, then the word is probably an adverb. Here is an example:

Word in context Question Adverb?
John plays tennis aggressively. How does John play tennis? Yes — uses HOW.
They have a small house. What kind of house do they have? No — uses WHAT KIND OF, so this is an adjective.
Steven called the police immediately. When did Steven call the police? Yes — uses WHEN.

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2. What is an adverb phrase?

An adverb may be a single word, such as quickly, here or yesterday. However, adverbs can also be phrases, some made with prepositions, others made with infinitives. This page will explain the basic types of adverb phrases (sometimes called “adverbial phrases”) and how to recognize them. Basic types of adverbs In the section on adverbs above, you learned about three basic types of adverb: manner, place and time adverbs. There are at least two more that are important. Frequency adverbs answer the question “How often?” about an action. Purpose adverbs answer the question “Why?”. Here are some examples:

Type Adverb Example
Frequency usually Mary usually gets up early.
Purpose for fun I write computer programs for fun.

While the first example, usually, is a single word, the second example (for fun) is a phrase consisting of a preposition and a noun — in other words, it is a prepositional phrase which functions as an adverb phrase.

Adverb phrases made with prepositions. All kinds of adverb phrases can be made with prepositions. Here are some examples:

Type Adverb phrase Example
Manner with a hammer The carpenter hit the nail with a hammer.
Place next door The woman who lives next door is a doctor.
Time before the holidays We must finish our
project before the holidays.
Frequency every month Sally buys two CDs every month.
Purpose for his mother John bought the flowers for his mother.

Adverb phrases made with infinitives. Another kind of adjective phrase can be made with the infinitive form of a verb. Most of these phrases express purpose, as in these examples:

Type Adverb phrase Example
Purpose to buy a car I’m saving my money to buy a car.
Purpose to support the team The students all showed up to support the team.
Purpose to show to her mother Sally brought a painting home from school to show to her mother.

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3. What is an adverb clause?

Adverbs can also be clauses, containing a subject and a full verb. This page will explain the basic types of adverb clauses (sometimes called “adverbial clauses”) and how to recognize them.

Adverbs, adverb phrases, and adverb clauses Look at these sentences:
I saw the movie yesterday.
I saw the movie on Friday.
I saw the movie before I left for Paris.

In the first sentence, “yesterday” is a one-word adverb, “on Friday” is an adverb phrase, and “before I left for Paris” is a adverb clause. All of them answer the question “When?”, but the adverb clause has a subject (“I”) and a full verb (“left”). It is introduced by “before”, so it is a dependent clause. This means that it cannot stand alone: “Before I left for Paris” would not be a full sentence. It needs a main clause (“I saw the movie”) An adverb clause, then, is a dependent clause that does the same job as an adverb or an adverb phrase.

Types of adverb clause There are many types of adverb clauses. Here are some examples of the most common types:

Type Question answered Example
Place Where? Wherever there are computers,
there is Microsoft software.
Time When? After the fruit is harvested, it is sold at the market.
Cause Why? (What caused this?) I didn’t call her because I’m shy.
Purpose Why? (What was the reason for doing this?) She took a computer course so that she could get a better job.
Concession Why is this unexpected? Although Gerry has a Master’s degree, he works as a store clerk.
Condition Under what conditions? If you save your money, you will be able to go to college.

As you can see from the examples above, most adverb clauses can be recognized because they are introduced by a particular word or phrase (such as “when”, “so that”, etc.). These words and phrases are called subordinating conjunctions, and there are many of them.

Subordination conjunctions
after, before, until, while, because, since, as, so that, in order that, if, unless, whether, though, although, even though, where

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