English Adverbial Phrases


This unit covers adverbial phrases. Adverbial phrases modify a verb, adjective or adverb by specifying how, when, where, or why an action takes place.

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An adverbial phrase is a group of words that function as an adverb – they modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Adverbial phrases can be grouped according to whether they deal with time, manner, place or cause/reason. Here are some examples:

She will call back in a little while.

Superman can fly like a bird.

Aaron shoots the arrow at the target.

They went on vacation in order to relax.

Adverbial phrases can occur in three different forms: as an infinitive phrase, a prepositional phrase, or an adverb with an intensifier.

I walked very quickly down the street. (adverb + intensifier)
They signed up to get special offers. (infinitive phrase)
Susan is sitting near the window. (prepositional phrase)

Just like adverbs, adverbial phrases can be placed at the beginning of a sentence to place emphasis on the phrase. Compare the following two sentences:

I will fly next week to Chicago.
Next week, I will fly to Chicago.

In the second example, the element of time represented by the adverbial phrase, “next week,” is highlighted and given extra weight or importance in the sentence.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.