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Understanding Adverbial Clause (Definition, Examples, and Exercises)

An adverbial clause (sometimes referred to as an adverb clause) is a group of words that, together, functions as an adverb. This means that the clause describes or modifies a verb, adjective, or another verb. Making it highly confusing when referencing this with other types of clauses.

What is an Adverbial Clause?

An adverbial clause is a group of words that function together as an adverb in a sentence. They are used to describe or modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

They are ‘subordinate’ clauses that give the reader more information about a particular action – why it happened, how it happened, when it happened, and under what circumstances something happened.

An adverbial clause begins with a subordinating conjunction and always contains a Subject and a Predicate.

Subordinate conjunctions are words that are used to join a subordinate clause (dependent clause) to an independent clause. Some of the most common subordinate conjunctions include:

AfterAs ifWhereSo (that)
AlthoughEven ifWheneverThan
Even thoughAs far asWhileThough
SinceAs long asWhyProvided (that)
UnlessAs soon asWhetherRather than

Let’s understand the use and purpose of adverbial clauses through this example:

Here, “because it was raining last night” is an adverbial clause as it tells us ‘why’ we did not have school today.

Let’s look at some more examples:

  • They came to our house after Marry left.
  • They went to the beach as they have a holiday home there.
  • Although she drove really fast, she could not attend the concert in time.

Here ‘after Marry left’, ‘as they have a holiday home there’, and ‘Although she drove really fast’ are all adverbial clauses that explain why, when, and how did a particular action take place. 

So as you can see, the main function of the adverbial clauses is to act as an ‘Adjunct’. Adjuncts are optional words or phrases that are added to a sentence to supplement it. They are used to add value to the sentence by providing the reader with additional information about the action – something that standard adverbs fail to do.

Adverbs of manner chart
Adverbs of manner chart

For example:

  • She baked bread before she left for work.
  • Though I came home late, we reached the party on time.
  • We’ll go on holiday as soon as I am back from my business trip.
  • I am going to the party whether you like it or not.

As you see, here all the clauses marked in bold are adverbial clauses as they are:

  • Providing additional information about the actions
  • They are preceded by subordinate conjunction, and
  • Independently, they have no meaning of their own

Adverbial dependent clause

Unlike other clauses, adverbial clauses are dependent clauses that cannot stand on their own. That is, when written alone, as an independent sentence, they make no sense. They are dependent on the main clause for completion and are used to provide readers with additional information about the event, i.e., the time, purpose, place, and cause of action.

The adverbial dependent clause can be placed both before and after the main clause. When placed before the main clause (independent clause), it is separated by a comma (,) but when placed after the main clause, it is written without a comma.

Adverbs of place chart
Adverbs of place chart

The structure of the adverbial dependent clause is as follows:

Adverbial dependent clause + comma (,) + main clause


Main clause + adverbial dependent clause


Here are some examples of adverbial dependent clauses:

  • because I came home late
  • if it is not snowing
  • after the play had finished
  • in order to stay fit
  • if you like it

All the above phrases are adverbial clauses as they have both a subject and a verb. But none of them are complete. They need a main clause to make sense. Let’s see how:

  • I could not play with my friends because I came home late.
  • If it is not snowing, we will go shopping.
  • Jacob reached the theater after the play had finished.
  • In order to stay fit, you must eat healthy food.
  • You can take it if you like it.

Now after attaching an independent clause, all the adverbial clauses are making sense.

Let’s see some more examples of adverbial clauses according to their type:

TypeExampleAdverbial Dependent Clause
TimeThey went shopping before going home.before going home
PlaceMy little sister follows me wherever I go in the house.wherever I go in the house
MannerMy mother treats me as if I was a child.as if I was a child
ConditionWe will go to the picnic if the weather is nice.if the weather is nice
PurposeBen started early so that he can reach the office on time.so that he can reach the office on time
ConcessionHe could be heard clearly even though he was whispering.even though he was whispering

Examples of adverbial clauses at the beginning of a sentence:

 PlaceWhen I was in Paris, I got to meet my childhood friend.When I was in Paris,
MannerAs I have learned to play guitar, I am confident about winning the competition.As I have learned to play guitar,
ConditionAfter the storm passed, we went out to survey the damage.After the storm passed,
PurposeIn order to reach the office on time, Ben started early.In order to reach the office on time
ConcessionAlthough I may never succeed, I would still play the game.Although I may never succeed,

Adverbial subordinate clause

Adverbial clauses are also known as adverbial subordinate clauses as they cannot stand as a complete sentence. However, just like adverbs, they provide meaningful information about the main event and help the reader get answers to questions like How? When? Where? Why?

Adverbial subordinate clauses begin with specific subordinating conjunctions that try to link dependent and subordinate clauses together. Some examples of subordinating conjunctions include:

AfterDue to
As ifBefore
In order toWhose
As soon asTherefore


Let’s take a look at some examples to see how adverbial subordinate clauses work:

  • We can go to a movie.

Now, this in itself is a complete sentence or clause. It has its own subject and verb. It’s suggesting: we can all go to a movie.

But sometimes this is not all we want to convey. Now look at this sentence:

  • We can go to a movie if I can find my wallet.

Here ‘if I can find my wallet’ is an adverbial subordinate clause that suggests an action that ‘We can go for a movie only if I can find my wallet’.

So, while the subordinate clause is incomplete when it stands alone, it gives a complete and new meaning to the main (independent) clause.

 Other examples include:

  • Myra went for a walk even though it was raining heavily.
  • While waiting for the bus, he reads the newspaper.
  • It was dark in the room so Nima switched on the lights.
  • We played the cards game in the candlelight while we waited for the power to return.
Adverbial clause infographic
Adverbial clause infographic

Easy examples of an adverbial clause

Let’s understand adverbial clauses better with some more examples.

  • I want some more sugar as I want to bake a cake.
  • I will take care of the baby until you come home.
  • I am on a strict diet so that I can lose some weight.
  • The class started after we arrived.
  • In order to move abroad, I am preparing for IELTS.
  • The teacher likes Myra a lot because she is an obedient girl.
  • I’ll watch the movie after my daughter fell asleep.
  • We left the ground at 6:00 PM before the game was over.
  • Paul will take you to the show when you are ready.
  • The dress fits me properly after I made a few alterations.
  • Although I was tired, I enjoyed the ride.
  • After you have finished your lunch, we’ll leave for the airport.

Rules of Adverbial Clauses

As mentioned above, adverbial clauses are dependent clauses that modify the verb, adjective, clause, or another verb. But not all subordinate phrases qualify to be an adverbial clause. There are some rules and requirements to meet.

Here are some key features that an adverbial clause has:

It is an adjunct

An adverbial clause is an adjunct. They are just like what supplements are to our body – necessary but not important. They provide additional information about the sentence and enrich its value. But they are not mandatory and their removal in no way, shape, or form makes the sentence incomplete or grammatically wrong.

Let’s understand this with an example:

  • Murphy and I went for a ride after he came back from the office.

Here ‘after he came back from the office’ is an adverbial clause that provides additional information about the sentence. But even if we remove it, the sentence is complete:

  • Murphy and I went for a ride.

It is a dependent clause

An adverbial clause is a dependent clause that cannot stand alone as a meaningful sentence. They need a dependent clause to make complete sense. Alone, they have no meaning of their own.

For example:                                                  

  • Sam looked scared as if he has seen a ghost.

In the above sentence, as if he has seen a ghost is an adverbial clause that is dependent on the main clause. Alone, it is incomplete and he has no meaning.

It usually starts with a subordinating conjunction

Adverbial clauses always start with conjunction, also known as subordinate conjunctions. The main purpose of subordinate conjunctions is to join the main clause with the subordinate clause.

The subordinate conjunctions include if, when, as, until, because, although, before, after, etc.

For example:

  • We’ll have school if it’s not raining.
  • Unless you are tired, we can go out for dinner.
  • I’ll buy that watch although it is expensive.

It contains a subject and a verb

An adverbial clause always contains a subject and a verb. In fact, it is the presence of subject and verb that make it a clause and not an adverbial phrase.

For example:

  • He cooks food every morning before she leaves for work.
  • My boss agreed to do business with rivals.

Here, the first sentence is an example of an adverbial clause where the subordinate clause has both a subject and a verb. The second sentence is an example of an adverbial phrase as there’s neither a subject nor a verb in the subordinate phrase.

It always modifies the main verb

Adverbial Clauses always modify the main verb by providing additional information about the subject/ action being taken.

For example:

  • She bought pizza for everyone after she got her first paycheck.

Here the adverbial clause modifies the verb bought by describing ‘how’ the subject bought pizza for everyone.

When it comes in front of a sentence, it is followed by a comma (,)

When adverbial clauses are written in front of the sentence, we always separate them from the main clause by putting a comma (,). Such adverbial clauses are called Fronted adverbial clauses.

For example:

Since they were waiting, we went to meet them.

After the game finishes, we’ll go for lunch.

As soon as you reach home, give me a call.

Why are Adverbial Clauses Important?

Adverbial clauses are simple subordinate statements that intend to provide readers with additional information about the main clause or sentence. They help answer at least one of the four basic adverb questions: Why? When? How? Where? They help readers understand why a particular event took place, when it took place, where it happened, and/ how it happened.

For example:

  • I can go on a holiday if you lend me some money.
  • She got up at 5:00 AM so that she can bid her father goodbye.
  • Miya went for a walk because she was feeling bloated.
  • I’ll follow you wherever you go.

In all the above sentences, the adverbial clause is answering at least one basic question like:

  • How can I go on a holiday – if you lend me some money.
  • When the subject got up – She got up at 5:00 AM.
  • Why did Miya go for a walk – because she was feeling bloated.
  • Where will I follow you – wherever you go.

Common Questions

Does every adverbial clause begin with “a”?

No, not all adverbial clause begins with the alphabet “a”. While after, as, and although are some of the common conjunctions used in adverbial clauses, there are many other like before, because, until, if, so, wherever, and many more. 

What are adverbs of time?

The adverbs of time provide an answer to When? That is, when did a particular event happen or how often did it occur? The following table shows the most common subordinating conjunctions for a time along with some examples:

when, while, until, since, before, after, as, as long as, till, until, as soon as, no sooner thanAfter she came home, we all went for dinner.The students were making noise in the class since the teacher was not around. As soon as he came back from the office, we all went out to eat ice cream.

What are adverbs of place?

The adverbs of place state ‘where’ a particular event happened. Common conjunctions and examples include:

where, anywhere, everywhere, whereverWherever we went, we were greeted warmly by the crowd. She moved to the city where job prospects were high. Whenever I meet her, I always find her happy and smiling. They found a snake where I was sitting a day before.  

What are adverbs of manner?

These adverbial clauses explain ‘how’ an event took place. Common conjunctions include:

as, like, the wayShe spends a lot of money as she is very rich. He always scores good marks as he is very studious. My mother asked me to pain the room the way I wanted to.  

What are adverbs of comparison?

Adverbs of comparison help us compare the subjects of two clauses (the dependent and the independent clause). The comparison is either of degree or manner. Here are some examples:

as, than, as … asI am a better cook than my sister.Mark can speak French as fluently as English. She wanted a beautiful dress just like her sister has. He is as smart as he is tall.

What are adverbs of reason?

These adverbial clauses help us understand ‘why’ a particular event took place. Common conjunctions for adverb of reason and examples include:

since, because, as, forI could not attend the party as I was sick.Her mother bakes a cake every Sunday as she is a professional baker. She lost her job for she was very lazy.  

What are adverbs of condition?

These adverbs explain the ‘condition’ for something to happen. Here are the common conjunctions with examples:

with, unless, if, only if, even if, whether or notUnless she apologizes, I will not forgive her.He went for a drive with his friends only after her mother came back. I am going to the concert whether you like it or not. Even if we become friends again, I am never going to trust her.

What are adverbs of concession?

An adverb of concession helps us to draw a ‘contrast’ between the main clause and the subordinate clause. The adverbs of concession often start with the following subordinating conjunctions:

though, although, while, even though, whereas, even ifThough the phone charges have increased, the internet charges have decreased. While I am on vacation, I am planning to visit my grandmother. Although I studied hard, I did not score good marks.

Now that you have understood what adverbial clauses are, practice them as much as you can, and feel free to be creative. The following adverbial clauses can help you get started:

After I return
Before we go
As soon as I am back
Whenever you like
Since it was raining
Wherever you go
Because she is a nice girl
So as to save money
In case you are hungry

Watch a video on adverbial phrases

Sentence structure

More on sentence structure:



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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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