What Is an Adverbial Phrase? | Definition & Examples

Adverbs updated on  March 14, 2024 3 min read

An adverb phrase (or adverbial phrase) is two or more words that function as an adverb in a sentence by modifying a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or an entire clause.

Adverbial phrases, like all adverbs, often explain when (e.g., “in two weeks”), where (e.g., “across from the library”), why (e.g., “to save money”), or how (e.g., “very carefully”).

Adverbial phrase examples
Stella is attending the meeting to protest the new policy.
After the movie, let’s go out to eat.
Put that book on the top shelf.

What is an adverbial phrase?

An adverbial phrase (or adverb phrase) is a group of words that functions as an adverb to give more information about the main clause of a sentence.

Adverbial phrases are formed in different ways. Sometimes, they consist of two adverbs: an intensifier or qualifier (e.g., “very,” “quite,” “somewhat”) followed by another adverb.

Adverbial phrases with two adverbs examples
Adam walked to the bus stop very slowly.
Somewhat regretfully, I sold my concert tickets.

Prepositional phrases (e.g., “under the counter”) and infinitive phrases (e.g., “to avoid the crowds”) can also act as adverbial phrases. Even though they are not formed with an adverb, these phrases can function as adverbs in a sentence.

Prepositional and infinitive phrases as adverbs examples
We are meeting in the conference room at 3 p.m.
Dev is saving money to buy a house.

Just like adverbs, adverb phrases can have different functions in a sentence, as shown in this table.

Type

Function

Example

Place Describe where something happens We walked in the park.
Time Describe when something happens The principal will come before lunch.
Purpose Describe why something happens Sofia is studying to become an engineer.
Manner Describe how something happens I played the song almost perfectly.

Adverbial phrase placement

Adverbial phrases can appear at the beginning or end of a sentence. The choice of where to place them often depends on what you want to emphasize.

When used at the beginning of a sentence, an adverbial phrase is called a fronted adverbial and is usually followed by a comma. When an adverbial phrase appears at the end of a sentence, no comma is required.

Adverbial phrase placement examples
At the end of the performance, the audience gave a standing ovation.
The audience gave a standing ovation at the end of the performance.


When adverbial phrases at the beginning of a sentence are very short (i.e., fewer than four words), some writers will omit the comma. This is acceptable, but it is also acceptable to include a comma. Longer adverbial phrases at the beginning of a sentence should always be followed by a comma.

Fronted adverbial examples
On Tuesday we’re flying to London.
On Tuesday, we’re flying to London.

On the last Tuesday of the month we meet for coffee.
On the last Tuesday of the month, we meet for coffee.

Sometimes, the location of the adverb phrase can change the meaning of the sentence. It is important to consider your intended meaning and watch out for misplaced modifiers (i.e., modifiers that are not clearly connected to what they are supposed to modify).

Modifier placement examples
I’ll tell Theo I’ll work on the project after the meeting. [the adverbial phrase modifies “work”]

After the meeting, I’ll tell Theo I’ll work on the project. [the adverbial phrase modifies “tell”]

Adverbial phrases vs adverbial clauses

Both adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses are groups of words that function as adverbs in sentences. The difference is that adverb clauses have a subject and a verb.

Adverbial phrase vs adverbial clause examples
After lunch, I took a nap.
After I ate lunch, I took a nap.
We will start the hike at sunrise.
We will start the hike when Cade arrives.
Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Idioms

Parts of speech

Fallacies

Diamond in the rough

Irregular verb

Slippery slope fallacy

Idioms

Gerund

Sunk cost fallacy

Piece of cake

Infinitive phrase

Red herring fallacy

Better late than never

Infinitive

Appeal to authority fallacy

Salt of the earth

Adverb

Circular reasoning fallacy


What are the different types of adverbials?

Adverbials are words or groups of words that modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or entire clauses.

There are three types of adverbials. Adverbs (e.g., slowly) are one-word adverbials. Adverbial phrases (e.g., “before breakfast”) and adverbial clauses (e.g., “until I come home”) are adverbials made up of multiple words.

Adverbial clauses have both a subject and verb, while adverbial phrases do not.

Can you end a sentence with an adverb?

Yes, sentences can end with adverbs, which are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs (e.g., “I run slowly”).

Sentences can also end with an adverbial phrase (e.g., “after dinner”) or adverbial clause (e.g., “after she eats lunch”).

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

An adjective phrase is a group of words that acts as an adjective in a sentence by modifying a noun (e.g., “the weathered gray house”).

An adverbial phrase (or adverb phrase) is a group of words that acts as an adverb in a sentence by modifying a verb, adjective, adverb, or entire clause (e.g., “He ran very quickly”).

Adjective phrases can contain adverbs (e.g., “the exceptionally smart dog”). To distinguish between adjective phrases and adverb phrases, think about what the phrase modifies in the sentence.

Tags

Kayla Anderson Hewitt

Kayla has a master's degree in teaching English as a second language. She has taught university-level ESL and first-year composition courses. She also has 15 years of experience as an editor.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.