Adverbial Clauses

Adverbial Clauses are type of Embedded Clauses that typically serve as adverbs within the main clause of the sentence. There are multiple types of Adverbial Clauses; each serves its own function as prescribed by the conjunction (like a preposition) they start with.

What to Expect

The various types of Adverbial Clauses (Time Clauses, Condition Clauses, Clauses of Purpose and Result, Concession Clauses, etc.) are generally taught separately. It’s good to know each of them, but sometimes it’s more valuable to know what they all have in common.

While Adverbial Clauses seem like a more advanced topic, they are actually almost the same as Prepositional Phrases, which are certainly not that advanced. If learners know how Prepositional Phrases work, they can use Adverbial Clauses as well.


Learners should already be familiar with the following:

Parts of Speech: nouns, adjectives, determiners, pronouns, verbs, and adverbs. For the finer points, they should know prepositions as well. Students should also know what subjects and objects are.

Adverbial Clauses modify verb phrases or noun phrases within main clauses, just like single-word adverbs and adjectives do. Students should know adverbs and adjectives since Adverbial Clauses are an extension of those.

Prepositional Phrases are groups of words that together modify a noun or a verb. They begin with prepositions.

Subordinating Conjunctions, or at least Prepositions since they are almost the same. Students should know how the different categories of prepositions/conjunctions are used (for time, for location, for comparison, etc.)

Clauses are sets of properly-ordered words which include or are connected to a subject and a verb phrase that are in agreement with one another.

Go to the Intro to Clauses page.

Proficiency Level

Knowing Adverbial Clauses as a topic itself isn’t generally expected of students at any level, but various types of Adverbial Clauses are taught from a Pre-Intermediate level (or 3rd out of 6),* through the Advanced level *or 6th out of 6).*

*actual starting level varies from one course-book series to the next

Adverbial Clauses are like Prepositional Phrases.

They modify verb phrases (or sometimes noun phrases).

Their function is determined by their conjunction (preposition).

They may be essential to the main clause, or they might just add some extra information.

Bonus Notes

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Condition Clauses

Condition Clauses are a type of Adverbial Clauses. Because they are unreal, they need a little extra attention.
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Relative Clauses

While Adverbial Clauses usually act like adverbs, Relative Clauses usually act like adjectives.
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