Adverb Clauses and Adverbial Phrases

Adverb Clauses and Adverbial Phrases

Adverb clauses and adverbial phrases are groups of words that play the role of an adverb. Let’s take a look at this example sentence on the board.

When I complete this task, we can go.

The meat of this sentence, the subject and verb of this sentence, comes in the later part of the sentence:” “we can go.” We is the subject and can go is the verb phrase. “When I complete this task” could actually be removed from the sentence and the sentence would still make sense. “We can go” makes perfect sense by itself. “When I complete this task” is an adverb because adverbs aren’t necessarily important to a sentence.

You can remove an adverb and the sentence will still make sense without it. Adverbs merely modify or further describe another word in the sentence. Since we can remove “When I complete this task” from the rest of the sentence, then it is probably our adverb clause (it is). There is not one word in this adverb clause that actually would be an adverb by itself. It’s the group of words that modify the verb phrase can go, because can and go together make up the verb phrase. “When I complete this task” is our adverb clause and it modifies can go. It’s answering the question “when.” When can we go? When I complete this task.

Adverbs often answer a question. The question here is “when,” and it’s saying “when I complete this task.” Notice that it’s called a clause. This is called an adverb clause. That’s because clauses contain both a subject and a verb. That is the case with this group of words right here. You see a subject and a verb. I is the subject and complete is the verb.

Let’s look at this next sentence.

In a moment, the pizza will be ready.

Here, the meat of our sentence is in the later part of the sentence. Pizza is the subject and will be is the verb phrase. Again, “in a moment” could be removed from the sentence. Now, let’s try reading the sentence without this. “The pizza will be ready.” The sentence still makes sense, so this is probably our adverbial phrase. Notice this time that it’s called an adverbial phrase instead of an adverb clause. What’s the reasoning behind that?

The reasoning is that a clause contains both a subject and a verb. A phrase does not contain a subject and a verb. Here, there is no subject and there is no verb. That’s why it’s called an adverbial phrase. This group of words right here, “in a moment,” describes or modifies “will be.” Again, it’s answering the question “when.” When will the pizza be ready? It will be ready in a moment.

The important thing to remember is the main distinction between adverb clauses and verbal phrases. Adverb clauses are groups of words that modify another word, but the adverbial clause, or the adverb clause, contains both a subject and a verb. In the case of an adverbial phrase, it again is a group of words that modifies another word, but, in this case, the adverbial phrase does not contain a subject and a verb.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is an adverb clause?


An adverb clause is a dependent clause characterized as an adverb, meaning that the clause modifies a verb, adjective, or adverb. In the example below, the adverb clause after the movie ended modifies the verb eat:

“Olivia decided she would eat after the movie ended.”


What do adverb clauses begin with?


An adverb clause begins with subordinating conjunctions; words such as after, if, and although.


What is an adverbial phrase?


An adverbial phrase, also called an adverb clause, is a phrase that consists of multiple words that create an adverb in a sentence. In the example below, the adverbial phrase Although he was exhausted modifies the verb decided:

Although he was exhausted, Jacob decided to spend all night studying.”



by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: March 22, 2022