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In grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

 an adverbial is a word (an adverb
An adverb is a part of speech that modifies verbs or any part of speech other than a noun . Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives , clauses, sentences, and other adverbs....

) or a group of words (an adverbial phrase
Adverbial phrase
An adverbial phrase is a linguistic term for a group of two or more words operating adverbially, when viewed in terms of their syntactic function.Compare the following sentences:*I'll go to bed soon.*I'll go to bed in an hour....

 or an adverbial clause
Adverbial clause
An adverbial clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb. In other words, it contains a subject and a predicate, and it modifies a verb.*I saw Joe when I went to the store....

) that modifies or tells us something about the sentence
Sentence (linguistics)
In the field of linguistics, a sentence is an expression in natural language, and often defined to indicate a grammatical unit consisting of one or more words that generally bear minimal syntactic relation to the words that precede or follow it...

 or the verb
A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

. The word adverbial is also used as an adjective, meaning 'having the same function as an adverb'. Look at the examples below:
Danny speaks fluently. (telling us more about the verb)
Lorna ate breakfast yesterday morning.

The form of adverbials

In English, adverbials most commonly take the form of adverbs, adverb phrases, temporal noun phrase
Noun phrase
In grammar, a noun phrase, nominal phrase, or nominal group is a phrase based on a noun, pronoun, or other noun-like word optionally accompanied by modifiers such as adjectives....

s or prepositional phrases. Many types of adverbials (for instance reason and condition) are often expressed by clauses.
James answered immediately. (adverb)
James answered in English. (prepositional phrase)
James answered this morning. (noun phrase)
James answered in English because he had a foreign visitor. (adverbial clause
Adverbial clause
An adverbial clause is a dependent clause that functions as an adverb. In other words, it contains a subject and a predicate, and it modifies a verb.*I saw Joe when I went to the store....


An adverbial is a construction that modifies, or describes, verbs. When an adverbial modifies a verb, it changes the meaning of that verb. Word groups that are also considered to be adverbials can also modify verbs: for example, a prepositional phrase,a noun phrase, a finite clause or a non-finite clause.

In every sentence pattern, the adverbial is a clause element that tells where, when, why, or how. There can be more than one adverbial in a sentence. In addition, the same adverbial can be moved to different positions in a sentence.

One way to analyze sentence structure is to think in terms of form and function. Form refers to a word class--such as noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and preposition--as well as types of phrases, such as prepositional phrase, nominal clause, and adverbial clause. Function refers to the function of the form in a sentence. For example, the function of a prepositional phrase in a sentence may be adverbial; that is, it modifies a verb.

Types of adverbials that form sentence elements

Adverbials are typically divided into four classes:

adverbial complement
Adverbial complement
An adverbial complement is an adverbial that is obligatorily subcategorized for by a verb, such that if removed, it will yield an ungrammatical sentence:*She put the cheese back**She put the cheese...

s (i.e. obligatory adverbial) are adverbials that render a sentence ungrammatical and meaningless if removed.
John put the flowers in a vase.

Adjunct may refer to:* Adjunct , words used as modifiers* Adjunct professor, a professor who does not hold a permanent position at a particular academic institution* Adjuncts, sources of sugar used in brewing...

s: these are part of the core meaning of the sentence, but if omitted still leave a meaningful sentence.
John helped me with my homework.

In linguistics, the term conjunct has three distinct uses:*A conjunct is an adjunct that adds information to the sentence that is not considered part of the propositional content but which connects the sentence with previous parts of the discourse...

s: these link two sentences together.
John helped so I was, therefore, able to do my homework.

The term disjunct can refer to:* disjunct * disjunct or quincunx in astrology, an aspect made when two planets are 150 degrees, or five signs apart...

s: these make comments on the meaning of the rest of the sentence.
Surprisingly, he passed all of his exams.

Distinguishing an adverbial from an adjunct

All verb- or sentence-modifying adjuncts are adverbials, but some adverbials are not adjuncts.
  • If the removal of an adverbial does not leave a well-formed sentence, then it is not an adjunct
  • If the adverbial modifies within a sentence element, and is not a sentence element in its own right, it is not an adjunct.
  • If the adverbial is not grammatically tied to the sentence it is not an adjunct, e.g.

Mr Reninson, however, voted against the proposal. (adverbial conjunct not adjunct)

Directional and locative particles

"In", "out", and other prepositions may be used adverbially to indicate direction or location:
  • Superman flew in (directional)
  • Are you in? (locative)
  • The car drove out (directional)
  • The ball is out (locative)


In some models of grammar negators
Negation (rhetoric)
In rhetoric, where the role of the interpreter is taken into consideration as a non-negligible factor, negation bears a much wider range of functions and meanings than it does in logic, where the interpretation of signs for negation is constrained by axioms to a few standard options, typically just...

 such as "not" and "never" are considered adverbs and their function that of negating adverbial.


Often ignored, expletive
Expletive attributive
Expletive comes from the Latin verb explere, meaning "to fill", via expletivus, "filling out". It was introduced into English in the seventeenth century to refer to various kinds of padding—the padding out of a book with peripheral material, the addition of syllables to a line of poetry for...

s may take up many adverbial syntactic functions. Pragmatically and semantically, they often serve as intensifier
Intensifier is a linguistic term for a modifier that amplifies the meaning of the word it modifies. Examples are "very," "quite," "extremely," "highly," and "greatly." An intensifier is the opposite of a qualifier, a modifier that weakens the word modified: "fairly," "somewhat," "rather," "a...

s, boosting the content of the clause they appear in.
  • What the hell are you talking about?
  • I didn't bloody well do that!
  • You're freaking lying!
  • You bloody well know that smoking's not allowed here!
  • He got sodding killed.