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Adverbials and adjuncts
An adverbial is a word (an adverb), phrase, or clause which modifies (changes, restricts or adds to the meaning of) a verb. An adverbial can be a noun phrase (we met that afternoon), a prepositional phrase (we met in the cafe), or a clause (we met because we needed to talk) as well as an adverb, but always functions to modify the meaning of a verb. A sentence can contain just one adverbial or several.
We typically use adverbials to talk about:
where something happens (place):
I put my bag on the floor.
Don’t just sit there!
Could you let the cat out?
when something happens (time):
We’re in Paris today, but where will we be tomorrow?
The rain lasted all night.
She’d been travelling for three days.
the way in which someone does something or something happens or exists (manner):
The abbey now lies in ruins.
You’re acting as if you were still a teenager.
These shirts come in three sizes.
An adverbial adjunct is a type of adverbial which adds more information to a sentence. It differs from other adverbials because if it is left out of a sentence, the rest of the sentence still makes sense. Adverbial adjuncts provide extra but optional information, whereas adverbials offer information that is integral to the meaning of the sentence. Compare these two examples:
I put my bag on the floor.
✗ I put my bag
[on the floor is an adverbial: the sentence isn't meaningful without it]
I dropped my bag next to my seat and sat down.
I dropped my bag and sat down.
[next to my seat is an adverbial adjunct; the sentence makes sense without it]
Adverbial adjuncts can provide extra information about:
where things happen:
At low tide you can cross the bays on the beach.
The children were playing upstairs.
when things happen:
I can’t sleep at night.
She visited her family yesterday.
how things happen:
I found out how to do this by accident.
why things happen or are done:
No one is turned away because of a lack of means.
I still send her a Christmas card each year for old times' sake.
condition (i.e. if this happens, then that happens):
Leslie had left no letter for me to read in the event of his death.
concession (i.e. even if this happens, still that happens):
Despite all their efforts, the dishwasher is still broken.
degree (i.e. answering the question ‘how much?’):
I wouldn’t worry at all.
Back to word classes (or parts of speech).
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