What Are Adverb Clauses? Examples and Exercise

Adverb Clauses

Some subordinate clauses are called adverb clauses because they work like adverbs in the sentences. For example,study the following sentences:

1a. It always rains after I have watered the plants in the garden.
1b. They arrived where nobody had set foot before.
1c. Do it as your teacher showed you.
1d. I wrote in the diary so that I wouldn’t forget.
1e. I couldn’t go to the fair because I was busy.

The clauses in italics are adverbs and they tell us respectively about the time, the place, the manner, the purpose and the reason of the verb found in the main clause. Ask questions like when, where, how, to what purpose and why respectively after the verbs rains, arrived, do, wrote, and couldn’t go respectively. You will get the adverb clauses as your answers. Similarly, in the following sentences :

2a, The pupils worked harder than we had thought.
2b. They studied hard although they were tired.
2c.If you study hard, you will be successful.

The clauses in italics are adverbs of comparison, concession and condition respectively.

Different adverb clauses start with the words as given below:

  • Time: after, before, when, whenever, while, as,as soon as, by (the time), since, till, until, once, etc.
  • Place: where, wherever, everywhere, etc.
  • Manner: as, as (adj/adv) as, as if, as though, how, etc.
  • Purpose: so that, in order that, etc.
  • Reason: because, as, since, etc.
  • Comparison:than, as (adj/adv) as,
  • Concession: although, though, even though, however, no matter how, whether, etc.
  • Condition:if, unless, provided, supposing,etc

Let us consider the following sentences:

3a.If you heat ice, it melts. Ice melts if you heat it.
3b. If you work hard, you will get a first division.
You will get a first division if you work hard.
3c.If wishes were horses, beggars would ride them.
Were wishes horses, beggars would ride them.
3d.If he had arrived in time, he could have witnessed the match.
Had he arrived in time, he could have witnessed the match.

Pay attention to the commas in 3a-d. They are there if the adverb clauses are in the beginning of the sentences. Mark the alternative sentences without commas . Now, let us look at the verbs used in the main clauses as well as in the adverb clauses.

Tense in the adverb clauseTense in the main clause
3a. present simplepresent simple
3b. present simplemodal present with will / shall
3c. past simplemodal past with would /could / might
3d. past perfectmodal past with would /could / might + perfect marker

All these adverb clauses suggest conditions. We have already discussed that clauses of condition begin with if, unless, provided, supposing,etc. Most of the sentences with adverb clauses of condition follow the tense pattern as given above. These clauses of condition suggest different meanings also.

3a. (zero conditional – facts)– General statements like universal or scientific truth. If can be replaced by when(ever),everytime (that)

3b. (first conditional with 50 -50 chance)– Open real condition that may or may not be fulfilled. The present tense in the adverb clause of condition has a future meaning. Other present tense forms can also be used in the conditional clause.

3c. (second conditional – imaginary condition)- Hypothetical condition that is never possible.

3d. (third conditional – unfulfilled condition)- Possible in the past but impossible at present. The past condition was not fulfilled. So the result was not achieved.

Sentence types

We learnt that a simple sentence must have only one clause. If there are more than one clause, the sentence may be complex or compound. Let us consider these sentences:

1a. I came (there) (early in the morning).
1b. I came, I saw, (and) I conquered.
1c. I came early so that I would not miss the first part of the film.
1d. He promised that he would come and help me.
1e. He sealed the letter as soon as he had written it and dropped it in the post-box which was nearest to his house

1a is a simple sentence with one verb: came. So, it has only one clause.

1b is a compound sentence containing three independent clauses. The first of them is the main clause (I came.) and the other two are coordinate clauses (I saw. And I conquered.)

1c is a complex sentence because it has only one main clause (I came early.) and a subordinate adverb clause of reason (so that I would not miss the first part of the film.). Ask,’ Why did I come early?’

1d is another complex sentence because it has only one main clause (He promised (it)).

He promised (what?) – Two things: He would come. And he would help me. That means the verb promised has two noun clause objects coordinate to each other but in a combined way subordinate to the main clause. [Main Cl.- Noun1 + Noun2]

1e. is a compound sentence containing two independent clauses (He sealed the letter. He dropped it in the post-box.) That both the main clause and the coordinate clause have subordinate clauses is another matter. The main clause has a subordinate adverb clause of time (As soon as he had written it.) The coordinate clause has a subordinate relative clause (Which was nearest to his house.) [Main Cl – Adv of time + Coordinate Cl – Relative Cl]


In these two chapters, you learnt about the following types of clauses:
Independent clauses including the main clause and the coordinate main clause.
Dependent or subordinate clauses including the noun clause, relative or adjective clause, and the adverb clauses including the conditional ones.
You have also learnt about two dependent clauses being coordinate to each other and together being subordinate to another independent clause.
You haven’t been told anything about the parenthetic clause. You will learn about it afterwards.
In this chapter, you also learnt about simple, complex and compound sentences. You needn’t know about the double or multiple compound sentences now. The main thing is that you should write correct sentences, not long sentences.

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