A subordinate adverbial clause performs a similar function to an adverb in a sentence. For example in the sentence
- She left for the airport early.
The word early is an adverb. This adverb can be replaced by an adverbial clause, as in:
- She left for the airport when it became light. or
- She left for the airport before the city traffic got too heavy.
In both these sentences the bold words form an adverbial clause.
Adverb Clause in English Grammar
In some cases an adverbial clause can come before the main clause, as in:
- Before he left he gave her a letter.
If the adverbial clause comes before the main clause it is sometimes separated from the main clause by a comma, especially when the adverbial clause is quite a long one. When the adverbial clause follows the main clause there is usually no comma.
Types of Adverbial Clause
There are various types of adverb and, correspondingly, there are various types of adverbial clause.
Adverbial Clause of Time
This indicates the time something happens and is introduced by a conjunction relating to time such as after, before, when, whenever, while, until, as soon as. The bold words in each of the following sentences form an adverbial clause of time:
- We need to leave before the traffic gets bad.
- He got there as I was leaving.
- It had snowed heavily while we slept.
- Whenever they meet they quarrel.
- While we slept someone broke into the house.
Adverbial Clause of Place
This indicates the place that something happens and is introduced by a conjunction relating to place such as where, wherever, everywhere. The bold words in each of the following sentences form an adverbial clause of place:
- We left the books where we had found them.
- Wherever we went we saw signs of terrible poverty.
- Everywhere she goes she upsets people.
If the conjunctions where or when follow a noun the subordinate clause so formed is not an adverbial clause of place, but a relative clause. For where you can substitute in which and for when you can substitute at which. In each of the following sentences the bold words form a relative clause not an adverbial clause.
- This is the place where we last saw him.
- This is the time when the pain gets worse.
Adverbial Clause of Purpose
This indicates the intention someone has when doing something and is introduced by a conjunction relating to purpose such as in order (to), to, so as to, so that.
The bold words in each of the following sentences form an adverbial clause of purpose:
- We started on our journey very early so that we could avoid the city rush hour.
- He reduced the number of staff in order that he might avoid bankruptcy.
- We are saving hard so that we can buy a new house.
Adverbial Clause of Reason
This indicates why something happens or is done and is introduced by a conjunction relating to reason such as because, since, as, in case. The bold words in the following sentences form adverbial clauses of reason:
- I couldn’t go to the wedding because I had to work that day.
- As it was raining we had the party indoors instead of in the garden.
- Since your child broke the window you should pay for the repair.
- I’m taking some sandwiches in case there is no buffet on the train.
Adverbial Clause of Result
This indicates the result of an event or situation and is introduced by a conjunction relating to result, so that. The words so and that can be separated. The bold words in each of the following sentences form an adverbial clause of result:
- She spoke very quickly so that we could scarcely understand her instructions.
- He fell awkwardly so that he broke his leg.
- She was so ill that she had to be taken to hospital immediately.
- We were so bored that we left the lecture early.
An adverbial clause of result always comes after the main clause, unlike some other adverbial clauses which can also come before it.
Adverbial Clause of Condition
This indicates a possible situation and its consequences and is introduced by a conjunction relating to condition such as unless, if, as if, provided (that), providing, as long as. The bold words in each of the following sentences form an adverbial clause of condition:
- I’ll come to the party provided I don’t have to work.
- If you finish your project you can leave early.
- I could have told you that if you had bothered to ask me.
- We will miss the plane unless we leave for the airport now.
- As long as you work late this evening you can have tomorrow morning off.
- If you study hard and do well in your exams, you will easily get into university.
Adverbial Clause of Manner
This indicates the way someone behaves or the way in which something is done, and is introduced by a conjunction relating to manner such as as though, as if, as, like. The bold words in each of the following sentences form an adverbial clause of manner.
- He talks as if he knows a lot about the subject.
- She looked at him as though she hated him.
An adverbial clause of manner always follows the main clause, unlike some other adverbial clauses which can also come before it.
Adverbial Clause of Concession
This contains a fact that contrasts in some way with the main clause or makes it seem surprising and is introduced by a conjunction such as although, though, even though, whereas, while, whilst. The bold words in each of the following sentences form an adverbial clause of concession:
- I admire his work although I don’t really like him.
- Even though she loves him she doesn’t trust him.
- Whilst he works very hard, he doesn’t really achieve anything.
- My friend loves to lie on the beach all day, whereas I like to explore the surrounding villages.
- Although he had all the right qualifications and experience for that particular post, he was not appointed.
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