Arrow icon
Chevron icon

What Is An Adverbial Phrase?

What Is An Adverbial Phrase?


Adverbial phrases are a type of sentence or group of words that has the same ultimate meaning as an adverb. Therefore, adverbial phrases are often used as replacements for adverbs themselves. It’s important to understand when to appropriately use each form of adverbial unit, as there are a number of ways these can greatly improve your language skills.


What is an adverb?

An adverb is a classification of word that is used to modify the surrounding words. Examples of these include: silently, happily, quickly, and truthfully. 


Generally, adverbs describe how, when, or what took place at any given moment. As a result, they usually tend to answer the questions of who, what, where, and why. 


By incorporating adverbs into your speech and writing, your English skills will become more detailed and interesting. Adverbs are crucial to communicating relevant information in an interesting way. 


What is the difference between an adverb and an adverbial phrase?

Adverbial phrases can be used as a replacement for the single-worded adverbs mentioned above. For example:


Steve will visit later vs Steve will visit in the morning


The first sentence includes a normal adverb: ‘later’. In this example, we can tell ‘later’ is an adverb because it gives us more information about when the visit will be taking place. 


Likewise, in the latter sentence, our adverbial phrase is ‘in the morning’. The adverbial phrase provides the same function that the single adverb does (giving us some more context regarding the time, place, or manner of the event) however does so with a group of words. 


Why learn about adverbial phrases?

Adverbial phrases, if improperly applied, can cause a number of issues and ambiguities in your communication. For example, since adverbs serve to modify an aspect of a sentence, misplaced adverbial phrases can accidentally modify the wrong thing. For example:


Break the pinata with the stick vs use the stick to break the pinata


In the first sentence, while to some it might be clear that the stick should be used to break the pinata, the sentence is left ambiguous- there is a chance that the pinata might be wielding a stick, and the adverbial phrase takes on more of a descriptive quality. The second sentence removes all ambiguity by rephrasing the sentence altogether. 


In addition to this, adverbial clauses should be handled with care when it comes to the use of commas. When an adverbial phrase is utilised at the start of a sentence, a comma should be used to introduce everything that follows from there (eg: ‘In the morning, we’ll go.’). Meanwhile, if the same adverbial phrase is used at the end of the same sentence, the comma should be omitted (eg: ‘We’ll go in the morning’). 


Developing this understanding of where and how to effectively utilise adverbial phrases will help to give you an extra level of technical proficiency, as well as add some extra descriptive depth to your communication. By understanding the differences between adverbs and adverbial phrases, your English communicative skills will greatly increase.