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Adverb Phrase

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Adverb Phrase

Phrases are an essential part of the English language and are the building blocks of all sentences. There are five main types of phrases in English: noun phrases, adjective phrases, verb phrases, adverb phrases, and prepositional phrases. Today we will be looking at adverb phrases.

This article will begin by introducing adverbs and then adverb phrases. It will explain the different types of adverb phrases and the ways we can form them with plenty of examples. Finally, it will discuss the difference between adverb phrases and adverb caluses.

What is an adverb?

Before we dive straight into adverb phrases, let's first look at adverbs and how they work.

An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb by providing additional information.

The word 'quickly' is an adverb e.g. ‘The man ran quickly down the street’. The adverb 'quickly' provides additional information about how the man was running.

As a general rule, adverbs will be an adjective + the letters 'ly' e.g. 'thoughtfully'. This isn't always the case, but it's a good tip to remember!

Now, let's explore how a group of words can provide additional information to a sentence, in the same way the adverb in the previous example did.

What is an adverb phrase?

An adverb phrase (or adverbial phrase) is any phrase that acts as an adverb in a sentence. It provides more information about the verb, adjective or adverb that it modifies by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred.

Let’s take the first example of an adverb and use it to make an adverb phrase:

The man ran as quickly as possible down the street.

The adverb phrase ‘as quickly as possible’ provides context to how the man ran. The adverb phrase modifies the verb ‘ran’ by providing additional context.

Adverb phrase examples

Here are a few more examples of adverb phrases:

I speak to Jane all the time.

'All the time' is an adverbial phrase because it modifies the verb 'speak', describing how frequently the action occurs.

A few weeks ago, James came over.

'A few weeks ago' is an adverbial phrase because it modifies the verb 'came', describing when the action occurred.

I went to the library to find out more.

'To find out more' is an adverbial phrase because it modifies the verb 'went', describing why the action occurred. This is also an example of an infinitive phrase acting as an adverbial phrase.

An infinitive phrase is a group of words containing an infinitive (to + verb).

My friends sat as far away as necessary.

'As far away as necessary' is an adverbial phrase because it modifies the verb 'sat', describing where the action occurred.

Adverb phrase Image of woman in a library StudySmarter

'She went to the library to find out more.' contains an adverb phrase - Pixabay

Types of adverb phrases

Adverb phrases can be categorised based on the extra information they provide. There are four main types of adverb phrases: adverb phrases of time, adverb phrases of place, adverb phrases of manner, and adverb phrases of reason.

Let's take a look at some examples of each.

Adverb phrases of time

Adverb phrases of time tell us when something happens/happened or how often.

She goes to school every day.

After work, I'll ride my bike.

I'll be there in a minute.

Adverb phrases of place

Adverb phrases of place tell us where something takes/took place.

I'm going for a walk along the beach.

The party is happening now at Mia's place.

He was dancing on the table.

Adverb phrases of manner

Adverb phrases of manner tell us how something happens or is done.

She was painting very carefully.

He kicked the ball with great precision.

Very slowly, the tiger approached.

Adverb phrases of reason

Adverb phrases of reason tell us why something is happening'/happened.

To keep calm, he counted to ten.

She waited in line all day in order to get the new phone first.

He kissed her head to show his love.

Adverb phrases format

There are a few different ways we can form adverbial phrases, and there is no set rule. However, there are three common ways we can look at today; they are prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, and adverb + intensifier phrases.

Prepositional phrases

A prepositional phrase is a phrase consisting of a preposition (e.g. in, on, under, next to, across, in front of) and its object.

I slid my bag across the table.

In this example, 'across' is the preposition, and 'the table' is the object of the preposition. The prepositional phrase is acting as an adverbial phrase by providing information about where the bag (noun) is being slid (verb).

Infinitive phrases

An infinitive phrase is one that begins with the infinitive form of a verb (containing the word 'to' e.g. 'to swim', 'to run').

She went to Italy to learn how to cook pasta.

In this example, the infinitive phrase 'to learn how to cook pasta' is working as an adverb phrase of reason as it tells us why she moved to Italy.

Adverb phrase Image of pasta ingredients StudySmarter Why did she move to Italy? to learn how to cook pasta! - Pixabay

Adverb + intensifier phrases

We can also create adverb phrases using an adverb (e.g. quickly, slowly, carefully) plus an intensifier. An intensifier is a word we can place in front of an adjective or adverb to make it stronger.

He wrote in the card very carefully.

Adverb phrases or adverb clauses?

Let's compare adverbial phrases with adverbial clauses.

We now know that an adverbial phrase is a group of words that act as an adverb in a sentence by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred.

Adverbial clauses are similar to adverbial phrases. However, there are some key differences.

Adverb Clauses

What distinguishes clauses from phrases is this subject-verb element. Phrases do not have to contain a subject and a verb, whereas adverb clauses do.

An adverb clause is any clause that acts as an adverb in a sentence. The clause modifies the verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred.

Clause: A clause is a group of words with both a subject and a verb.

Here is an adverb clause example similar to the first adverb phrase example:

The man ran as if his life depended on it down the street.

The adverb clause 'as if his life depended on it' provides information about how the man ran, while also containing a subject (life) and a verb (depended).

What separates an adverb clause from other types of clauses is that it is a dependent clause, meaning it cannot exist on its own as a complete sentence.

Adverb clause examples

Like adverb phrases, adverb clauses can be categorised by the information they provide:

How an action is performed:

She spilt the food despite carrying the box as carefully as possible.

How frequently an action is performed:

John went to his mother's once a week to spend time with her.

When an action is performed:

You can go to the party as soon as you finish your homework.

Why an action is performed:

They were both hungry because I had gone out to dinner without them.

Where an action happens:

I will show you the room you will be sleeping in tonight.

If a group of words acting as an adverb does not contain both a subject and verb, then it is an adverb phrase. If the group of words does contain a subject and verb, it is an adverb clause.

Adverb Phrase - Key takeaways

  • An adverb phrase is a phrase that modifies a verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred.
  • Different types of adverbs include adverb phrases of time, adverb phrases of place, adverb phrases of manner, and adverb phrases of reason.
  • We can form adverb phrases using prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, and adverb + intensifier phrases.
  • An example of an adverb phrase is, 'He picked up the vas very carefully.'
  • What distinguishes adverb clauses from adverb phrases is this subject-verb element. Phrases do not contain both a subject and a verb.

Frequently Asked Questions about Adverb Phrase

An adverb phrase is a phrase that modifies a verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred. 

An adverb clause is any clause that acts as an adverb in a sentence. The clause modifies the verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred. 

The man ran as quickly as possible down the street.

What distinguishes adverb clauses from adverb phrases is this subject-verb element. Adverb phrases, unlike adverb clauses, do not contain both a subject and verb.

A prepositional phrase is a phrase consisting of a preposition, and the object of said preposition. Prepositional phrases can act as adverb phrases.

Final Adverb Phrase Quiz

Question

Is this an adverb phrase or an adverb clause?:

When you finish your dinner, we will get ready to go.

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Answer

Adverb clause - it possesses both a subject and a verb.

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Question

Which question does this adverb phrase answer?:


I jumped over the fence to get to the other side.

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Answer

Why an action occured.

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Question

Which linguistic technique is described as 'a phrase that modifies a verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred.'

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Answer

Adverb phrase.

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Question

Fill in the blanks: Adverb clauses are a type of ______ clause; an adverb clause cannot exist on its own as a complete sentence because it is not a complete thought. 

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Answer

dependent

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Question

Which of these is not a question answered by adverb phrases?

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Answer

How frequently an action occurs.

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Question

Which word is the preposition and which is the object in this adverb phrase?

Get my wallet off the nightstand.

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Answer

'Off' is the preposition, 'nightstand' is the object.

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Question

What is this an example of?:


I want an apology the minute this conversation is over.

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Answer

An adverb clause, 'the minute this conversation is over' has both a subject (conversation) and a verb (is). 

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Question

Is this an example of an adverb phrase or an adverb clause?:


The man laughed as loudly as possible.

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Answer

Adverb phrase.

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Question

What question does the adverb phrase answer?


They met that day by the large oak tree.

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Answer

Where an action occurs.

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Question

Fill in the blanks: Therefore, if a group of words acting as an adverb do not contain both a subject and verb, they are an ______ ______. 

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Answer

Adverb phrase.

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Question

Which of these adverb phrases answers how an action occurs?

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Answer

Jane had to laugh, otherwise she would cry.

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Question

What distinguishes adverb phrases from adverb clauses?

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Answer

The subject-verb element; adverb phrases can't contain both a subject and a verb.

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Question

What type of phrase is this?:


I needed to see her to talk things through.

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Answer

Infinitive phrase.

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Question

True or False: 

An infinitive phrase is a phrase that modifies a verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred. 

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Answer

False - An adverb phrase is a phrase that modifies a verb, adjective or adverb by answering how, where, when, why, or to what degree an action has occurred. 

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Question

True or False: An adverb phrase can exist at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.

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Answer

True.

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Question

What are the four main types of adverb phrases?

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Answer

Adverb phrases of time

Adverb phrases of place

Adverb phrases of manner 

Adverb phrases of reason

Show question

Question

Which type of adverb does this sentence contain?

'She sang in a high pitch'

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Answer

Adverb phrase of manner - it explains how she sang. 

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Question

Which type of adverb does this sentence contain?

'He jumped high to avoid the puddle.'


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Answer

Adverb phrase of reason - it explains why he jumped.

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Question

Which type of adverb does this sentence contain?

'She slept peacefully in her bed'


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Answer

Adverb phrase of place - it explains where she slept.

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Question

Which type of adverb does this sentence contain?

'I feel sleepy in the morning'

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Answer

Adverb phrase of time- it explains when they feel sleepy.

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