Adverbs have more functions in English than any other part of speech. Aside from the seven common sentence positions, there are different types (such as adverbs of frequency and manner), adverbs with two forms, and adverbs that change meaning depending on the tense (such as still). Finally, once English language learners have practiced all that, they get introduced to adverb clauses and phrases. Let's look at some teaching tips to make adverb clauses a bit easier to learn!
Clause Vs. Phrase
Students should be aware of the difference between adverb clauses and adverb phrases. Point out that a clause is a complete sentence with a subject and verb (and possibly an object), while a phrase isn't a complete sentence.
|I came across some interesting information while I was studying.||adverb clause: subject I, verb was studying|
|I came across some interesting information while studying.||adverb phrase: no subject, incomplete verb studying|
An adverb clause is a dependent clause (meaning it cannot stand alone), and it can come before or after the independent (main) clause. If it comes before the main clause, use a comma.
- When I was young, I watched a lot of TV.
- I watched a lot of TV when I was young.
There are four common types of adverb clauses in English: time, contrast, cause and effect, and conditional.
Adverb clauses of time indicate when something took place. They start with adverbs such as when, until, as soon as, after, before, since, and while.
- Before she got the job, she had already graduated.
- She had already graduated before she got the job.
Adverb clauses of contrast show the opposite of what is expected. They start with adverbs such as though, even though, although, whereas, and while. See How to Explain Despite Vs. Although for more examples of adverb clauses of contrast.
- Although it was raining, we went to the beach.
- We went to the beach although it was raining.
3. Cause & Effect
Adverb clauses of cause and effect indicate why something happens. They start with adverbs such as because, since, as, and so (that).
- Because he asked me first, he got the extra ticket.
- He got the extra ticket because he asked me first.
Adverb clauses of time show a hypothetical situation (where something might take place only if a certain thing happens). They start with adverbs such as if, only if, even if, unless, and whether or not. See An Easy Way to Teach Conditionals for more examples of clauses with if.
- If I were rich, I would donate a million dollars to charity.
- I would donate a million dollars to charity if I were rich.
Tricky Adverb Clauses
1. Adverbs Clauses with Two Meanings
Watch out for adverbs like since and while. Point out that the verb tense of a sentence often indicates what the meaning is.
|I have been studying English since I was 11 years old.||adverb clause of time / since = past starting point / present progressive, present perfect progressive tenses|
|They remain on strike since they haven't reached a deal.||adverb clause of cause & effect / since = because / any tense|
|The fire alarm went off while he was sleeping.||adverb clause of time / while = during / past progressive, future progressive|
|She is a city girl while he prefers the country.||adverb clause of contrast / while = in contrast / any tense|
2. Since, Because, As, Due To
Can we begin a sentence with because? Can we replace because with as or since? Can we use due to instead of because of? Should we avoid due to the fact that and because of the fact that? Get up to speed on the latest in language decisions with this post: What's the Deal with Since, Because, As, and Due To?
For more practice with adverb clauses, try our Grammar Practice Worksheets lessons.