An Adverbial is a word or phrase that is used, like an adverb, to modify a verb or clause. Of course, adverbs can be used as Adverbials, but many other types of words and phrases can be used this way, including preposition phrases and subordinate clauses.

  • The bus leaves in five minutes. [preposition phrase as adverbial: modifies leaves]
  • She promised to see him last night. [noun phrase modifying either promised or see, according to the intended meaning]
  • She worked until she had finished. [subordinate clause as adverbial]

What exactly is the difference between adverb and Adverbial? The former is a word class label, whereas the latter is a function label. Adverbials are the optional units in a clause which provide an answer to one or more of the questions 'when did this occur?', 'where did this occur?', 'why did this occur?', or 'how did this occur?'. So in the sentence Harriet did well in the SPaG test we say that the word well is an adverb which functions as an Adverbial. Here are some further examples, with the Adverbials highlighted:

  • Last week, we finished all the work quickly. [noun phrase and adverb phrase functioning as Adverbial]
  • The police drove very fast. [adverb phrase functioning as Adverbial]
  • She hurriedly finished her meal in the restaurant. [adverb phrase and prepositional phrase functioning as Adverbial]

A linking Adverbial is an Adverbial that links a sentence, clause, etc. to another bit of text. Here are some examples:

  • Early application from students abroad is advised. However, where there is time to do so, students who are uncertain about their qualifications should write in the first instance to the Assistant Registrar, to check that they are eligible for consideration.
  • By April eighty-seven, Dr. Reeves noticed that the floor of the eye socket was sinking. Nevertheless, on the eighteenth of May she resumed work as a nursing auxiliary in the out-patients department of Pembury Hospital.

A fronted Adverbial is an Adverbial that is placed at the start of a sentence or clause. The National Curriculum demands that a comma is placed after fronted adverbials. Here are some examples:

  • Reluctantly , we left the theatre.
  • In the evening, we had a party on the beach.

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