Adverb (Adverbial) Clause Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

The first sentence of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915) begins with an adverb(ial) clause.

In English grammar, an adverb clause is a dependent clause used as an adverb within a sentence to indicate time, place, condition, contrast, concession, reason, purpose, or result. Also known as an adverbial clause.

An adverb clause begins with a subordinating conjunction (such as if, when, because, or although) and usually includes a subject and a predicate.

Writing With Adverb Clauses

Examples and Observations

  • The name "adverbial" suggests that adverbial clauses modify verbs; but they modify whole clauses, as shown by the examples [below]. Their other key property is that they are adjuncts, since they are typically optional constituents in sentences. They are traditionally classified according to their meaning, for example adverbial clauses of reason, time, concession, manner or condition, as illustrated below.

    (a) Reason
    Because Marianne loved Willoughby, she refused to believe that he had deserted her.
    (b) Time
    When Fanny returned, she found Tom Bertram very ill.
    (c) Concession
    Although Mr D'Arcy disliked Mrs Bennet he married Elizabeth.
    (d) Manner
    Henry changed his plans as the mood took him.
    (e) Condition
    If Emma had left Hartfield, Mr Woodhouse would have been unhappy.

    (Jim Miller, An Introduction to English Syntax. Edinburgh University Press, 2002)
  • "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
    (newspaper editor to Senator Ransom Stoddart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962)
  • "All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why."
    (attributed to James Thurber)
  • "If Wilbur is killed and his trough stands empty day after day, you'll grow so thin we can look right through your stomach and see objects on the other side."
    (E.B. White, Charlotte's Web. Harper & Row, 1952)
  • Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."
    (Helen Keller, "Optimism: An Essay," 1903)
  • "The greatest thrill in the world is to end the game with a home run and watch everybody else walk off the field while you're running the bases on air."
    (Al Rosen, third-baseman for the Cleveland Indians, 1947-1956)
  • "Again at eight o’clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were five deep with throbbing taxi cabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt a sinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside."
    (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925)
  • "The swift December dusk had come tumbling clownishly after its dull day, and, as he stared through the dull square of the window of the schoolroom, he felt his belly crave for its food."
    (James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 1916)
  • "Though we thumped, wept, and chanted 'We want Ted' for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back."
    (John Updike, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," 1960)
  • "As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans."
    (Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast, 1964)
  • "When I was coming up, I practiced all the time because I thought if I didn't I couldn't do my best."
    (Attributed to Herbie Hancock)
  • "And when the broken hearted people
    Living in the world agree
    ,
    There will be an answer, let it be.
    For though they may be parted there is
    Still a chance that they will see
    There will be an answer, let it be."
    (John Lennon and Paul McCartney, "Let It Be")
  • "According to legend, when Lady Godiva pleaded with her husband, the Earl of Mercia, to cancel a burdensome tax he had levied against his subjects, he agreed to do so only if she rode naked through the city."
    (Jim Hargan, "The City of Lady Godiva." British Heritage, January 2001)
  • "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted."
    (Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture, 2008)

The Lighter Side of Adverbial Clauses

  • "I drank some boiling water because I wanted to whistle." (Mitch Hedberg)
  • "I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it." (Mae West, My Little Chickadee, 1940)
  • "If I ever opened a trampoline store, I don't think I'd call it Trampo-Land, because you might think it was a store for tramps, which is not the impression we are trying to convey with our store." (Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts, 1992)
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Nordquist, Richard. "Adverb (Adverbial) Clause Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo, Apr. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-adverbial-clause-1689190. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 25). Adverb (Adverbial) Clause Definition and Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-adverbial-clause-1689190 Nordquist, Richard. "Adverb (Adverbial) Clause Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-adverbial-clause-1689190 (accessed December 17, 2017).