Difference between adverb and adverbial in English

(Special characteristics of English adverbs and adverbials)

Table of contents – difference adverbial & adverb

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Distinction
  2. Adverbs
  3. Adverbials
  4. Further explanations and exercises

What exactly is the difference between adverb and adverbial?

A typical difficulty in language learning lies in the difference between adverb and adverbial. This distinction also exists in English grammar. It is important and helpful for understanding recurring grammatical rules and for being able to apply them subsequently. Note the following:

  • A fundamental characteristic of both is:
    • Adverbs are mostly single words and belong to the word categories or parts of speech (just as nouns, pronouns, verbs, etc. do). They often refer to verbs but can also modify other types of words or adverbs themselves. An adverb may also be part of an object.
    • Adverbials are parts of a sentence (such as subject, predicate, object) and can, therefore, consist of several words (including adverbs), groups of words, or even entire sentences. They also refer to the verb or the complete sentence.

Adverb as part of an adverbial or an object

According to the above principle, an adverb is a subordinate part and not an independent part of a sentence – but it can belong to one. Such parts of the sentence then include, among other things, objects and adverbials. Compare the examples:

  Adverb as part of an object Adverb as adverbial
Example sentence: “They ate very much ice cream.” “She smiled happily.”
Information: very’ belongs to the object ‘very much ice cream’ here. happily’ occurs alone.

Adverbials with and without adverb

Adverbials may include just one adverb or more. However, they can also occur completely without one, which means only with words belonging to other parts of speech. Compare the examples:

Remaining sentence Adverbial consisting of one word (with adverb) Adverbial consisting of several words (with adverb) Adverbial consisting of several words (without adverb)
“She was speaking … clearly.” clearly and loudly.” … with a clear voice.”
“He ran … fast.” very fast.” … at a fast pace.”

Further explanations relating to the ‘Difference of adverbial and adverb’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Difference and characteristics of English adverbs and adverbials’ and may also be interesting:

  • The subject in English grammar
  • The predicate in English grammar
  • The object in English grammar
  • Exercise 1: difference of adverb & adverbial
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