Adverbial phrase

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In linguistics, an adverbial phrase is a group of two or more words operating adverbially, meaning that their syntactic function is to modify a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. Adverbial phrases ("AdvP" in syntactic trees) are phrases that do the work of an adverb in a sentence.


Compare the following sentences:

  • I'll go to bed soon.
  • I'll go to bed in an hour.
  • I'll go to bed when I've finished my book.

In the first, soon is an adverb (as distinct from a noun or verb), and it is an adverbial (as distinct from a subject or object). Clearly, in the second sentence, in an hour has the same syntactic function, though it does not contain an adverb; therefore, a phrase consisting of a preposition and a noun (preceded by its article) can function as an adverbial and is called an adverbial phrase. In the third sentence, we see a whole clause functioning as an adverbial; it is termed an adverbial clause.

Like adverbs, complex adverbial can describe:

  1. Time (answers the question 'When?')
    She will be arriving in a short time.
  2. Place (answers the question Where?')
    She is waiting near the wall.
  3. Manner (answers the question 'How?')
    They are discussing the matter in a civilized way.


Adverbs modify the functional categories that occur in a sentence and may also be treated as predicates which are functionally open and require one or more arguments to be satisfied.[1] It has been argued that the distribution of adverbs is largely conditioned by their lexical nature or thematic properties.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ojea Lopez, Ana I. (1995). "The Distribution of Adverbial Phrases in English", Atlantis, 17 (1-2), p. 181-206.