An adverb clause is a group of words that functions as an adverb. This means they can modify a verb, a verb phrase, an adjective, or another adverb. Without modifiers, sentences would be much less interesting.
Typically, an adverb clause answers the question of when, where, how, to what extent, or under what conditions.
They’re very common in everyday speech and, after reviewing a few examples, you won’t be wondering how to find an adverb clause modifier any longer.
Defining an Adverb Clause
An adverb clause is a modifier that contains a noun and a verb but it can’t stand alone as its own sentence. Also, adverb clauses must always begin with a subordinating conjunction.
Examples of subordinating conjunctions include:
- as long as
- as soon as
- so that
Identifying an Adverb Clause Modifier
Finding the adverb clause that modifies a sentence isn’t terribly difficult. To sniff them out, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the sentence contain a subordinating conjunction?
- Does the phrase beginning with the subordinating conjunction have both a noun and a verb?
- Does the phrase answer one of those tell-tale questions (when, where, how, to what extent, or under what conditions)?
If so, circle, underline, or highlight the adverb clause so it stands out and congratulate yourself! You’ve just identified a type of modifier.
Examples of Adverb Clauses
Now that we know what an adverb clause is and how to spot one, you can see in the following phrases the ways these modifiers are used to convey information.
Remember, in every instance below, the clause is going to begin with a subordinating conjunction.
- After she set the table, she took the turkey out of the oven.
- Although he was tired, he stayed awake to finish his report.
- If she didn't wash the dishes, she would be punished.
- The family was not going to go on vacation this year, unless they scrapped together enough money.
- The dog ran around the house, while the cat took a nap.
You can test your newfound knowledge further with more examples of adverb clauses.
Add Flavor to the Action in Sentences
Adverb clause modifiers add flavor to our sentences in so many ways. They add specificity to otherwise vague and ambiguous phrases. In the example above, what if someone simply wrote, "She would be punished." Wouldn’t you wonder why she faced punishment? That’s where the adverb clause, "…if she didn't wash the dishes," comes in handy, offering specificity.
Adverb clauses can also add detail and set a scene. What if someone simply wrote, “The dog ran around the house." That’s fine. But, wouldn’t you wonder why the dog ran around the house? There must be further significance to that statement. That’s where the adverb clause, “…while the cat took a nap," comes in handy, elaborating the story.
As with most clauses, commas are the constant companion of an adverb clause. They signal a slight pause before we receive additional detail. Have some fun reviewing the significance of this little piece of punctuation be enjoying eight times commas were important.