Adverbial Phrase (Adverb Phrase): Definition, Usage and Useful Examples

Last Updated on November 13, 2023

Adverbial phrases are an integral component of the English language, serving to provide further context and detail to actions, events, and states of being. They can be used to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, and are crucial in adding depth and complexity to a sentence. But what are they exactly? In this article, we will delve into the definition of adverbial phrases, their different types, their functions, and how to utilize them proficiently in both writing and speech. 

Adverbial Phrase (Adverb Phrase)

Adverbial Phrase Pin

What Is an Adverbial Phrase?

An adverbial phrase also referred to as an adverb phrase, is a single-word or multi-word phrase that takes the role of an adverb in a sentence. An adverb describes a verb, adjective, or even another adverb. A multi-word adverbial phrase can further modify an adjective, adverb, and a verb. An adverbial phrase always consists of at least one adverb as the head, accompanied by intensifiers, qualifiers, and more. 

Adverb phrases are typically known to answer the questions that describe how, when, where, or how something was done, as shown in the following adverb phrase examples.

Let’s look at the following sentences:

  1. I kept the luggage.
  2. I kept the luggage here.
  3. I kept the luggage right here.
  4. I kept the luggage right here in front of the kitchen.

In the first sentence, there is no adverb nor adverb phrase. In the second sentence, there is an adverb “here” that describes where the luggage was stored. In the third sentence, there is an adverb phrase “right here,” which stresses where the luggage was kept and used a phrase rather than a single adverb.

The last sentence features a lengthy, more descriptive adverb phrase. Keep in mind that “right here in front of the kitchen” is a prepositional phrase that employs the preposition “in front” and the object “kitchen.” In such a scenario, the prepositional phrase acts as an adverb in the sentence. It is an adverbial and prepositional phrase because it modifies the verb to give more information about the location.

Adverb Phrases Show When, Where, How, and Why

Just like adverbs, adverb phrases modify other words by describing when, where, why, or how something was done. They can also explain the condition of an object or action or the extent to which an action or object was affected. Let’s look at the following example: “He rode the motorbike as carefully as possible.” Here drove is the verb and as carefully as possible is the adverb phrase which explains how the motorist acted.

Consider the following adverbial phrase examples that describe when, where, how, and why.

Adverbial Phrases that Describe Time (When)

  • Tomorrow at 10pm
  • Any time
  • Today’s afternoon
  • After the break
  • Before midnight

Adverbial Phrases that Describe Place (Where)

  • At home
  • Around the sun
  • By the mailbox
  • Under the table
  • Right here

Adverbial Phrases that Describe Manner (How)

  • Quite interestingly
  • As carefully as possible
  • With great care
  • Very well
  • With great excitement

Adverbial Phrases that Describe Purpose or Reason (Why)

  • To record a statement
  • For committing crime
  • For pity’s sake
  • Due to the weather
  • To have a happy marriage

Adverbial Phrases that Describe Frequency

  • Every day
  • Once in a while
  • Once in a blue moon
  • Every now and then
  • Sometimes at night

Adverbial Phrases that Describe Concession

  • Despite 
  • Regardless of 
  • Even with
  • In spite of 

Adverb Phrase Examples

Adverb phrases can be used at any point in a sentence. This is highlighted in the following adverb phrase examples:

  • Meet her at the bridge hotel this afternoon.
  • Without reasoning, she took away her life.
  • He completed the task assigned as quickly as possible.
  • To avoid disturbing the sleeping students, David chose to tiptoe to bed.
  • He completed the task hurriedly.
  • Peter needs to ride her new motorbike much more carefully.
  • To have a clear view of the mountain, John climbed to the top.
  • She walks to school every day.
  • The bride and groom opened their presents with delight.
  • This tool is available in all places.
  • He reacted very harshly.
  • You need to clean your house better than that.
  • Even with care, he couldn’t keep the document intact. 
  • Every now and then, I would go to the river bank and sit down to read a book.

Difference between Adverb Phrases and Adverb Clauses

It’s good to keep in mind that an adverbial phrase is a single or multi-word phrase that does not feature a subject nor a verb. When you consider the mentioned above adverbial phrase examples, you will notice that “right here in front of the kitchen” does not contain a verb. Instead, it’s just a lengthy phrase.

An adverb clause, on the other hand, is a multi-word clause that contains a subject and a verb and acts as the adverb in a sentence. Similar to the adverbial phrase, an adverb clause modifies an adjective, verb, or adverb in the sentence.

An example of this might be:

  • I kept the luggage although I knew it wasn’t mine. (concession)

Here the adverbial phrase features a subject and a verb. In this case, “I” is the subject, and “knew” is the verb meaning it’s a clause. The adverbial phrase modifies the verb “kept”.

Always add adverbial phrases to your writing to make it easy for your readers to understand. This also makes the content fun and exciting, thereby encouraging more people to read your work. With the help of the examples outlined above, you should be in a position to recognize and even classify the adverbial phrases in a sentence.

Formation and Position of Adverbial Phrases

Formation of Adverbial Phrases

Adverbial phrases or adverb phrases can be made up of two adverbs and are typically formed by adding a qualifier or intensifier (e.g., “incredibly,” “rather,” “very,” “somewhat”) before another adverb. They can also be prepositional phrases that act like an adverb phrase. 

There are several ways to form adverbial phrases in English:

Using prepositional phrases: Prepositional phrases often function as adverbial phrases, providing information about place, time, or manner.

  • Example: She arrived during the party (time)
  • Example: He placed the book on the shelf (place)

Using adverbs and intensifiers: By combining two or more adverbs or using intensifiers, an adverbial phrase can be created.

  • Example: He moved extremely slowly (degree)
  • Example: She sang amazingly well (manner)

Using infinitive phrases: Infinitives (to + verb) can also function as adverbial phrases, giving more information about the purpose or reason for an action.

  • Example: He ran to catch the train (purpose)
  • Example: She traveled to learn new languages (reason)

When forming adverbial phrases, it is crucial to ensure they accurately modify the intended part of the sentence. Adverbial phrases can modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs and provide context, making the meaning of the sentence clearer.

Position of Adverbial Phrases

When it comes to placing adverbial phrases within sentences, they can take up various positions depending on their purpose, such as:

  1. Front position: When an adverbial phrase is placed at the beginning of a sentence, it often indicates emphasis or sets the context of the sentence. For instance, the sentence “In the early morning, he goes for a run” uses the adverbial phrase In the early morning at the beginning of the sentence.
  2. Mid position: Adverbial phrases can be inserted between the subject and the main verb or between the auxiliary verb and the main verb in a sentence. For example, in the sentence “They sometimes attend the conference,” the adverbial phrase sometimes is placed between the subject and the main verb.
  3. End position: Adverbial phrases can also be placed at the end of a sentence. This is the most common position for adverbial phrases, indicating how an action is performed or providing extra information. An example of this would be “The movie ended with a twist,” where the adverbial phrase with a twist is placed at the end of the sentence.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main functions of adverbial phrases?

Adverbial phrases are groups of words that function as adverbs, modifying the verb or the entire sentence. They provide additional information about the action or event, such as when, where, how, and why it happens. Adverbial phrases help create a clearer picture for the reader, adding richness and depth to a sentence.

What are the different types of adverbial phrases?

There are several types of adverbial phrases, including phrases of time, place, manner, degree, frequency, and purpose. Each type focuses on different aspects of the action or event, giving the reader more information and helping to create a vivid image.

What are some common examples of adverbial phrases?

Some common examples of adverbial phrases include “in the morning” (time), “at the top of the hill” (place), “with a smile” (manner), “quite quickly” (degree), “once a week” (frequency), and “to impress their friends” (purpose).

How can we identify and construct adverbial phrases?

To identify adverbial phrases, look for groups of words that provide additional information about the action or event. They can appear at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence. To construct an adverbial phrase, ensure it answers one of the questions like when, where, how, why, to what extent or how often, and modify the appropriate verb, adjective, or adverb in the sentence.

8 thoughts on “Adverbial Phrase (Adverb Phrase): Definition, Usage and Useful Examples”

  1. Hi,

    • I have a doubt in the given adverbial phrase. Could please explain how it works as an adverb phrase. “To avoid disturbing the sleeping students, David chose to tiptoe to bed.”

    Thank you

    • “To avoid disturbing the sleeping students” is an adverbial phrase
      1. It is a phrase because it has no finite verb
      2. It functions as an adverbial phrase because it modifies the very “chose” to express “reason”

  2. Please you stated here that adverbial clause does not contain a subject and a verb, but your note on adverbial clause states otherwise. Could you clarify that please.
    Thank you.

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