2 April 2012

Adverbs and Adverbials

Adverbs are the most complicated part of speech to understand. All adverbs and adverbials modify other elements in sentences.

Adverbs and adverbials

Adverbs and adverbials are essentially the same thing. We use the term adverbial when referring to a group of words and adverb when talking about a single word. E.g.,

Yesterday, we saw Helen. ADVERB
The day before, we saw Helen. ADVERBIAL

In this text I shall use adverbial to cover both adverbs and adverbials.

Defining an adverbial

In grammar an adverbial is word or group of words (phrase, clause) which modifies or tells us something about the sentence, the verb, adjectives, prepositions or other adverbials. Look at the examples below:

Danny speaks well. (telling us more about the verb)
She is quite stupid. (telling us more about the adjective stupid)

Two levels of adverbials

Adverbials operate at two levels: those that are a sentence element, as in the example below:

Lorna ate breakfast yesterday. (SUBJECT + VERB + OBJECT + ADVERBIAL)

and those that are contained within sentence elements, as in the following example,

A very tall man entered the shop. (SUBJECT + VERB + OBJECT)

In the above example the adverbial is contained within the subject.

Types of adverbials which form sentence elements

Adverbials which form a sentence element in their own right fall into four classes

(i) adverbial complements: these are adverbials that render a sentence ungrammatical and meaningless if removed, e.g.

John is in the park.

(ii) adverbial adjuncts: these are part of the core meaning of the sentence, but if omitted still leave a meaningful sentence, e.g.

John helped me with my homework.

(iii) adverbial conjuncts: these link two sentences together.

John helped me. I was, therefore, able to do my homework.

(iv) adverbial disjuncts: these make comments on the of the meaning of the rest of the sentence.

Surprisingly, he passed all of his exams.

Types of adverbials which are within sentence elements

Adverbials within sentence elements fall into four classes:

(i) verb modifying:

He jumped up. (within the verb phrase)

(ii) adjective modifying:

A very heavy bag. (within a noun phrase)
He is rather ill. (within a predicate)

(iii) adverb modifying:

She ate her food exceedingly quickly. (within a sentence adverbial)

(iv) preposition modifying:

She sat very near the door. (within a sentence adverbial)


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