( previous lecturenext lecture )

Adverb vs. Adverbial

Read more about  adverbs in The Internet Grammar of English
You'll also find a short introduction to adverbials (adjuncts) here .
  1. I was terribly disappointed. (adverb: modifier of adjective)
  2. The book disappointed me terribly. (adverb: adverbial)
  3. It was a sadly romantic story. (adverb: modifier of adjective)
  4. The story ended sadly. (adverb: adverbial adjunct)
  5. Sadly, the story ended there. (adverb: adverbial disjunct)

The realization of Adverbials
  1. Joan often comes to visit.
  1. Joan comes to see us very often.
  1. Joan comes to see us every day.
  1. Joan will come to see us at Christmas.
  1. Joan comes to see us so often because she loves our children.
  1. Being curious about our new house, Joan came to see us at the weekend.



    Verbless clause:

  1. Joan stood very still, her body absolutely stiff with fear.
The Placement of Adverbials

End position:

  1. John was sitting in his favourite chair in his library.
  2. He was sitting comfortably, reading a book.
  3. He was almost dozing off, when suddenly something happened.
Initial position:
  1. Every day something new is happening.
  2. Since there was nothing else to do, everyone went home.
  3. Under no circumstances will they permit smoking in public areas.
  4. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give it a damn.
  5. On Monday 17 July, shortly after nine o'clock in the morning, Scase rang a number in the city which he had rung every three months for the last six years. But this time the information he requested wasn't given to him. Nor, as usually happened, was it promised for a few days' time. Instead Eli Watkin asked him to call in at the office as soon as was convenient to him. Within half an hour he was on his way to Hallelujah Passage off Ludgate Hill to see a man whom he had last seen six years ago. Then Mavis had been with him; this time he made his way past St Paul's churchyard and into the dark, narrow little alley on his own.
Medial position:
  1. The schoolmaster was already fastdisappearing.
  2. Peter is never/usually/always on time.
  3. It was nearly dinner-time when he reached Dijon.
  4. But that is simply untrue.
  5. There is, however, one exception to the rule.
  6. I honestly think she is in love with you.

Some Contrastive Observations
Dette har aldri/ofte hendt før.

Mary sa at dette aldri/ofte hadde hendt før.

Han har i en årrekke arbeidet som lærer.

This has never/often happened before. 

Mary said that this had never/often happened before.

For a number of years he has worked as a teacher.


ADJUNCTS can be obligatory or optional, i.e. they may be part of the basic clause pattern or come in addition to other clause elements. There may be several adjuncts in the same clause, but only one obligatory one. They generally answer the questions where, when, how, why.
DISJUNCTS are evaluative. They convey the speakers evaluation or judgement of something.
CONJUNCTS are text-organizers and connectors. They link the sentence to the context.
Disjuncts and conjuncts never form any grammatically obligatory part of the clause.
Semantic type Examples Comments
Place adjunct John works in Oslo. (location)
I’d like to go to New York. (direction)
Mary walked two miles. (distance)
Time adjunct Yesterday I worked for hours. (def. time +duration)
Tom frequently goes there. (frequency)
Specifies definite or indefinite time, duration or frequency.
Manner adjunct Mary attacked her husband furiously.
Peter looked at his work with satisfaction.
The way in which an action is performed
Instrument adjunct He built the cabin with his own hands.  
Means adjunct We went by train.  
Agent adjunct The novel was written by Doris Lessing. Only in passive sentences. Always by + NP
Degree adjunct Mary dislikes grammar terribly. Adds a degree specification of the verbal action 
Reason adjunct I couldn’t come because I was ill.  
Purpose adjunct They came (in order) to say good-bye.  
Condition adjunct If you’re interested you can read this book.  
Concession adjunct He always put on a clean shirt on Sunday mornings, though he never went to church  
Focusing adjunct She hates focusing adjuncts in particular. Focuses attention on some other constituent
Viewpoint adjunct Theoretically, pigs might fly. Can usually be rephrased: ‘from a ... point of view’
Respect adjunct We thanked them for a lovely evening. Other circumstances of the action – often abstract
Fact-evaluating disjunct She was, unfortunately, sentimental about Claude.
To my great relief the performance was well received.
Mary won’t co-operate, which makes things difficult.
Conveys the speaker’s view of / opinion about a fact
Modal disjunct Maybe he can do something.
They are obviously somewhere else.
Modifies/specifies the truth value of what is being said
Subject-evaluating disjunct Wisely, she spent the money. Adds a comment on the subject referent
Style-evaluating disjunct It was terrible, to put it mildly.
In other words, you told him to get out.
The speaker’s comment on his way of expressing himself
Typical meanings of conjuncts: contrast, similarity, enumeration, addition, exemplification, cause-effect However, that was not what I meant.
So you don’t want to join, then?
To conclude I will give a brief summary.
She was, moreover, a fatalist.
Similarly, when a reporter once questioned Lincoln in cryptic fashion, he refused to make any further statement.
Connects the sentence to the preceding text, or functions as a text organizer

‘Adjunct tests’

1: Negation (clause negation will affect the adjunct, but not disjuncts and conjuncts):

Anyway, they fortunately moved to Bergen. (They moved to Bergen, and that was fortunate.)
Anyway, they fortunately didn’t move to Bergen. (They didn't move to Bergen, and that was fortunate.)

2: Clefting (only adjuncts can be the focus of an it-cleft)

It was to Bergen that they moved.
*It was fortunately that they moved.
*It was anyway that they moved.

3: Prosody
Adjuncts tend to occur in the same tone unit as the subject and the verb (particularly if they are in end position), while disjunct and conjuncts are often separated from the rest of the clause by means of tone unit boundaries, matched by commas in writing.
conjunct                                          adjunct
However, they didn't want to go to the cinema.
They didn't, however, want to go to the cinema.

I want you to behave naturally. - adjunct
I want you to behave, naturally. - disjunct

 Here  is a different description of adverbs and adverbials; note that there is no fundamental distinction between the two concepts here.
Go to top of page
Go to the grammar home page
©  HH