Adverb (Adverbial) Clause Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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In English grammar, an adverb clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb within a sentence by indicating time, place, condition, contrast, concession, reason, purpose, or result. This is 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 predicate.

The Function of Adverbial Clauses

Like adverbs, adverbial clauses indicate time, place, condition, contrast, etc. Unlike adverbs, adverbial clauses modify whole clauses rather than just a verb. Jim Miller explains this in more detail in the excerpt from An Introduction to English Syntax below.

"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 Darcy 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," (Miller 2002).

Adverbial Clause Examples

Adverbial clauses are easy to spot when you're looking for them. Read the following quotes and excerpts for more examples of adverbial clauses.

  • "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend," (Young, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).
  • "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," (White 1952).
  • "Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it," (Keller 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
  • "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," (Fitzgerald 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," (Joyce 1916).
  • "Though we thumped, wept, and chanted 'We want Ted' for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back," (Updike 1977).
  • "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," (Hemingway 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," (Lennon and McCartney, 1970).
  • "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," (Hargan 2001).
  • "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted," (Zaslow and Pausch 2008).
  • "I drank some boiling water because I wanted to whistle." -Mitch Hedberg
  • "I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it," (West, My Little Chickadee).
  • "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," (Handey 1992).

Sources

  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott. . The Great GatsbyCharles Scribner's Sons, 1925.
  • Handey, Jack. Deep Thoughts. Penguin Publishing Group, 1992.
  • Hargan, Jim. "The City of Lady Godiva." British Heritage, Jan. 2001.
  • Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1964.
  • Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. B.W. Huebsch, 1916.
  • Keller, Helen. Optimism: An Essay. T.Y. Crowell, 1903.
  • Lennon, John, and Paul McCartney. “Let It Be.” Let It Be, George Martin, 1970, 6.
  • Miller, Jim. An Introduction to English Syntax. 2nd ed., Edinburgh University Press, 2002.
  • My Little Chickadee. Dir. Edward Cline. Universal Pictures, 1940.
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Dir. John Ford. Paramount Pictures, 1962.
  • Updike, John. Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. Lord John Press, 1977.
  • White, E.B. Charlotte's Web. Harper & Brothers, 1952.
  • Zaslow, Jeffrey, and Randy Pausch. The Last Lecture. Hachette Books, 2008.