What is an Adverbial Clause?

What is an adverbial clause (also referred to as the adverb clause)?  Well, adverbs can act in sentences to provide clarity, deeper meaning, and further understanding. In some cases, however, adverbs are simply not enough. In these cases, we must use adverbial clauses, which modify verbs, adjectives, or even other adverbs in a sentence.

What Are Adverbial Clauses (or Adverb Clause)? 

The definition of an adverb clause is word groups that function together as an adverb. In other words, adverbial clauses act to describe/modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Interestingly, unlike other clauses, adverbial clauses are dependent and cannot stand alone as singular sentences. 

Check out these examples of adverbial clauses: 

  • I will eat my vegetables now. 
  • I finish my paperwork before I leave the office every Friday. 
  • Sadly, my dad decided to throw out my artwork. 

As you can probably see in these examples, the adverbial clause can appear anywhere within a sentence. They can be literal or figurative, but usually, they answer investigative questions about the sentence (such as how? Where? And why?). 

What Are Adverbial Clauses And Phrases 

Many people are also confused about the differences between adverbial clauses and phrases. In essence, both function as a group of words that act as an adverb; however, clauses contain a subject/verb, while phrases do not. 

Here are some adverbial phrase examples: 

  • I ate my lunch with haste. 
  • I ate my lunch quite slowly. 

In contrast, here are some examples of adverbial clauses: 

  • I ate my lunch with haste compared to everyone else. 
  • I ate my lunch quite slowly in comparison to everyone else. 

Main Forms Of Adverbial Clauses 

As with most complex facets of English, there are many different forms and types of adverbial clauses. Each form has a different type of information it is trying to communicate, and you must familiarize yourself with some of them! 

Adverbial clauses Of Action

One of the most common forms are adverbial clauses of action (or manner). These clauses describe how a specific action happened. For instance: 

  • He gave his speech as if he knew it by heart. 
  • I taught my class as if I had written the lesson material myself. 

Adverbial Clauses Of Location 

Next up, there are adverbial clauses of location/place, which describe where an action took place. For example: 

  • I heard there had been free tacos at the place where I normally go to lunch! 
  • They ran past the city limits. 

Adverbial Clauses Of Special Conditions 

There are also adverbial clauses of special conditions, which describe conditions that relate to a sentence’s verbs, adverbs, or adjectives. For instance: 

  •  I was told to sit here until a waiter came to seat me. 
  • Unless you don’t like crab, we will eat seafood tonight for dinner. 

Adverbial Clauses Of Cause 

Adverbial clauses of cause (or reason) describe why a specific action takes place within a sentence. These generally use subordinating conjunctions such as “since” or “because.” For example: 

  • He read to the class because he thought his answers were correct. 
  • She is great at drawing since she has been practicing for years. 

Adverbial Clauses Of Instance 

Next up, there are adverbial clauses of instance (or time). These clauses describe when an action happens within a sentence. For instance: 

  • After he returned home, he got into pajamas and watched tv. 
  • The football team ran on the field as the band began to play! 

Adverbial Clauses Of Reason 

Another common form is adverbial clauses of reason. These clauses describe the reason why something takes action in a sentence. They often use subordinating conjunctions. For example: 

  • I ate early so that I wouldn’t be hungry during my lecture. 
  • Multiple sign-up stations were created across campus to prevent a line from forming. 

Adverbial Clauses Of Contrast

There are also adverbial clauses of contrast or comparison. These clauses describe how the subject of the main clause compares to the subject of the dependent (adverbial) clause. For instance: 

  • I am as good at writing as I am good at reading. 
  • After grading, it turns out that the afternoon class performed better than any of the morning classes. 

Adverbial Clauses Of Concession 

Lastly, there are adverbial clauses of concession, which acknowledge an aspect that modifies the main clause. For example: 

  • Despite being well-versed in German, I had a lot of trouble communicating during my European trip. 
  • I went with my first option, even though I had been deciding through 15 others. 


In the end, adverbial clauses are dependent clauses that act as adverbs within sentences. There are many types of adverbial clauses, some of the most common include: 

  • Adverbial clauses of action
  • Adverbial clauses of location
  • Adverbial clauses of special condition 
  • Adverbial clauses of cause 
  • Adverbial clauses of instance
  • Adverbial clauses of reason
  • Adverbial Clauses of contrast
  • Adverbial Clauses of concession

Each type of clause can communicate different things about a sentence’s actions.

You can test your knowledge with this adverbial clause quiz!

Posted by Avatar photo
By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *