Grammar What Is an Adverbial Phrase? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

What Is an Adverbial Phrase?

An adverb is a part of speech that modifies other sentence elements such as verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. It may also describe infinitives, gerunds, participles, phrases, clauses, or even the rest of the sentence in which it appears.

Adverbs address information such as when (she is leaving now), where (she stops here), how (she drove slowly), frequency (she runs often), and degree (she almost tripped).

An adverbial phrase (also referred to as an adverb phrase) is any group of two or more words acting adverbially. Note also that unlike clauses, phrases do not have a subject and a verb.

Examples

less quickly

after the show

as a unified team

to promote the new product

Examples in Sentences

Try stirring the batter less quickly.

Let’s have dinner after the show.

They achieved the goal as a unified team.

The marketing team traveled the country to promote the new product.

Adverbial phrases often serve communication by providing greater specificity. Compare the following two sentences:

Jason lives there.

Jason lives across the street in the house with the red door.

Expressing that Jason lives there might not always be useful for identification. To be more precise, the second sentence uses two adverbial phrases (across the street, in the house) in describing his location.

Let’s look at a couple more examples that further differentiate adverbial phrases from single-word adverbs.

Run quickly.

Run as fast as you can. (The phrase is more specific.)

Catherine lives humbly.

Catherine lives in a one-bedroom house on a one-lane road in a small town. (The three phrases are more specific.)

Now that we’ve discussed what adverbial phrases are, we’ll get even more familiar with some of the common forms that they take.

Adverb Plus Intensifier as Adverbial Phrase

An intensifier is a word—typically an adverb—that conveys the degree of emphasis to be given to the word it describes: extremely, incredibly, somewhat. Together, the intensifier and the word it modifies create an adverbial phrase.

Examples

Sarah skates extremely skillfully. (The intensifier gives the degree of how skillfully; the adverbs combine to form an adverbial phrase modifying skates.)

Paul plays piano incredibly well. (The intensifier gives the degree of how well; the adverbs combine to form an adverbial phrase modifying plays.)

It looks like Ronnie Jr. is running through that patch of mud somewhat gleefully. (The intensifier gives the degree of how gleefully; the adverbs combine to form an adverbial phrase modifying is running.)

Prepositional Phrase as Adverbial Phrase

A prepositional phrase is a phrase including a preposition, its object, and any modifiers of the object: in the far corner, without a sound, during the starry night.

Examples of Adverbial Use

Use the bucket that I set in the far corner. (The prepositional phrase is an adverbial describing where the bucket was set.)

Without a sound, the cat entered the room. (The prepositional phrase is an adverbial describing how the cat entered the room.)

We will dance outside during the starry night. (The prepositional phrase is an adverbial describing when we will dance.)

Infinitive Phrase as Adverbial Phrase

An infinitive phrase is one consisting of the particle to and the base form of a verb. It might also include other modifiers, complements, or objects: to remain competitive, to draw the best conclusion, to improve consistently at chess.

As an adverbial, it usually explains the why of an action.

Examples

To remain competitive, the pro athlete trains daily and maintains a proper diet. (The infinitive phrase is an adverbial describing why the athlete trains and maintains.)

The investigator reviewed all of the facts to draw the best conclusion. (The infinitive phrase is an adverbial describing why the investigator reviewed the facts.)

To improve consistently at chess, Marvin reads books and engages in games with better players. (The infinitive phrase is an adverbial describing why he reads and engages.)

Related Topics

Can the Versatile Adverb Modify a Noun?
Linking Verbs: What Is a Linking Verb?
Prepositions

Pop Quiz

Now that you’re more aware of what adverbial phrases are, identify any that appear in the following sentences.

1. Think fast, because we need an answer now.

2. It appears that Natalie is progressing somewhat slowly in cleaning her room.

3. To earn a promotion, you will first need to show mastery of your current position.

4. The Lone Ranger rode away into the night.

5. Walter is gradually improving his speed-reading skills.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Think fast, because we need an answer now. no adverbial phrase

2. It appears that Natalie is progressing somewhat slowly in cleaning her room.

3. To earn a promotion, you will first need to show mastery of your current position.

4. The Lone Ranger rode away into the night.

5. Walter is gradually improving his speed-reading skills. no adverbial phrase

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