An ELT Glossary : Adverbial / Adverbial clause


An adverbial is a clause element on the same level as subject, verb, object and complement. Some examples : 

He (S) had grabbed (V) the book (O) quickly (A)

She (S) was (V) a student (C) at Oxford (A) in the eighties (A)

After we finished, (A) I (S) went (V) straight (A) to the garden centre (A) to buy some plants.(A)

We (S) go there (A) every year (A). We (S) nearly always (A) stay (V)  all day (A)


As these examples show, an adverbial is an adverb (single word), or any phrase or clause which functions in the same way as an adverb - in Richards. Platt and Weber's (1985:6) terms : "... which answers such questions as how? where? or when?" .  They may be :

- single adverbs (quickly, straight, there, always)
- adverb phrases (nearly always)
- prepositional phrases  (in the eighties, at Oxford, to the garden centre)
- noun phrases (all day, every year)
- adverbial clauses (After we finished, to buy some plants)

Adverbials can generally occur in more than one position in the clause :
Eg: She grabbed the book quickly / She quickly grabbed the book 
and are generally optional - if they are omitted, the sentence remains acceptable grammatically.


Reference

Richards, J., Platt, J., Weber, H. (1985), Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics, Longman


Other related terms

Adjunct, disjunct, conjunct