Adverbs and adverbials

VOCABULARY

Adverb refers to “dictionary adverbs”: single words such as slowly or very that are identified as “adverbs” in the dictionary.
Adverbial refers to the adverb function inside a sentence or a phrase. An adverbial can be a single word, a phrase, or a clause:

Rex barked loudly. [SINGLE-WORD ADVERB OR SINGLE-WORD ADVERBIAL]
Rex is barking at the cat. [ADVERBIAL PHRASE]
Rex barks when the postman comes. [ADVERBIAL CLAUSE]

WHAT ADVERBIALS DO INSIDE A SENTENCE

Adverbs (single words) and adverbials (single words, phrases, and clauses) modify everything but nouns, it seems. Adverbs and adverbials modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, even entire sentences. John Seely calls adverbs “awkward customers,” and that’s certainly the way I feel about adverbials after reading numerous accounts of adverbs/adverbials and what they do inside a sentence or a phrase.

barks loudly [ADVERB MODIFYING A VERB]
very pretty [ADVERB MODIFYING AN ADJECTIVE]
probably not [ADVERB MODIFYING ANOTHER ADVERB]
Unfortunately, Rex is barking. [ADVERB MODIFYING AN ENTIRE SENTENCE]

Seely writes that “The bulk of [adverbs] provide answers to the questions, ‘When?’ ‘Where?’ and ‘How?’.” Adverbials can also answer the questions, “To what degree?” “How often?” and “Why?”:

Rex was barking this morning. [WHEN]
Rex is barking in the yard. [WHERE]
Rex is barking loudly. [HOW]
Rex is barking very loudly. [TO WHAT DEGREE]
Rex barks constantly. [HOW OFTEN]
Rex barks to tell us the postman has come. [WHY?]

WHERE ADVERBS GO

The great thing about adverbs/adverbials is that they’re relatively moveable:
Rex barked loudly. [AFTER THE VERB]
Rex loudly barked. [BEFORE THE VERB]
Loudly Rex barked. [BEGINNING OF SENTENCE]
Rex was loudly barking. [IN BETWEEN AUXILIARY VERB & LEXICAL VERB]

AND SEE:
Adverbs and other awkward customers – John Seely
Adverbs at CCC
John Seely on the 5+2 sentence patterns
5+2: the 7 canonical sentence patterns in English
Grammar for Teachers by John Seely

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s