Here we’ll practice building sentences with adverb clauses. Like an adjective clause, an adverb clause is always dependent on (or subordinate to) an independent clause. Consider how we might combine these two sentences:
Like an ordinary adverb, an adverb clause usually modifies a verb, though it can also modify an adjective, an adverb, or even the rest of the sentence in which it appears. Adverb clauses show the relationship and relative importance of ideas in our sentences
From Coordination to Subordination
The national speed limit was repealed.
Road accidents have increased sharply.
Consider how we might combine these two sentences:
One option is to coordinate the two sentences:
The national speed limit was repealed, and road accidents have increased sharply.
Coordination with and allows us to connect the two main clauses, but it doesn’t clearly identify the relationship between the ideas in those clauses. To clarify that relationship, we may choose to change the first main clause into an adverb clause:
Since the national speed limit was repealed, road accidents have increased sharply.
In this version the time relationship is emphasized. By changing the first word in the adverb clause (a word called a subordinating conjunction), we can establish a different relationship–one of cause:
Because the national speed limit was repealed, road accidents have increased sharply.
Notice that an adverb clause, like an adjective clause, contains its own subject and predicate, but it must be subordinated to a main clause to make sense.
Common Subordinating Conjunctions
An adverb clause begins with a subordinating conjunction–an adverb that connects the subordinate clause to the main clause. The subordinating conjunction may indicate a relationship of cause, concession, comparison, condition, place, or time. Here’s a list of the common subordinating conjunctions:
in order that
“I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants.”
(A. Whitney Brown)
Concession and Comparison
“You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too.”
(John Kenneth Galbraith)
“It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won’t go.”
“If you have ever lain awake at night and repeated one word over and over, thousands and millions and hundreds of thousands of millions of times, you know the disturbing mental state you can get into.”
“Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”
as soon as
as long as
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Practice in Building Sentences with Adverb Clauses
These five short exercises in sentence combining will give you practice in developing sentences with adverb clauses. Follow the instructions that precede each set of sentences. After you have completed the exercise, compare your new sentences with the sample combinations on page two.
- Combine these two sentences by turning the second sentence into an adverb clause beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of time:
- In a Junction City diner, a sunburned farmer comforts his squirming son.
- His wife sips coffee and recalls the high school prom.
- Combine these two sentences by turning the second sentence into an adverb clause beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of place:
- Diane wants to live somewhere.
- The sun shines every day there.
- Combine these two sentences by turning the first sentence into an adverb clause beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of concession or comparison:
- Work stops.
- Expenses run on.
- Combine these two sentences by turning the first sentence into an adverb clause beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of condition:
- You’re on the right track.
- You’ll get run over if you just sit there.
- Combine these two sentences by turning the first sentence into an adverb clause beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of cause:
- Satchel Paige was black.
- He was not allowed to pitch in the major leagues until he was in his forties.
- “In a Junction City diner, a sunburned farmer comforts his squirming son while his wife sips coffee and recalls the high school prom.”
(Richard Rhodes, The Inland Ground)
- Diane wants to live where the sun shines every day.
- Even though work stops, expenses run on.
- “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
- Because Satchel Paige was black, he was not allowed to pitch in the major leagues until he was in his forties.
Here are sample answers to the exercise on page one: Practice in Building Sentences with Adverb Clauses
Arranging Adverb Clauses
An adverb clause, like an ordinary adverb, can be shifted to different positions in a sentence. It may be placed at the beginning, at the end, or occasionally even in the middle of a sentence.
An adverb clause commonly appears after the main clause:
Jill and I waited inside the Cup-A-Cabana Diner until the rain stopped.
However, if the action described in the adverb clause precedes the action in the main clause, it is logical to place the adverb clause at the beginning:
When Gus asked Merdine for a light, she set fire to his toupee.
Placing an adverb clause at the beginning can help to create suspense as the sentence builds toward a main point:
As I shuffled humbly out the door and down the front steps, my eyes to the ground, I felt that my pants were baggy, my shoes several sizes too large, and the tears were coursing down either side of a huge putty nose.
(Peter DeVries, Let Me Count the Ways)
When working with two adverb clauses, you may want to place one in front of the main clause and the other behind it:
When a bus skidded into a river just outside of New Delhi, all 78 passengers drowned because they belonged to two separate castes and refused to share the same rope to climb to safety.
- When an adverb clause appears at the beginning of a sentence, it is usually separated from the main clause by a comma.
- A comma is usually not necessary when the adverb clause follows the main clause.
An adverb clause can also be placed inside a main clause, usually between the subject and verb:
The best thing to do, when you’ve got a dead body on the kitchen floor and you don’t know what to do about it, is to make yourself a good strong cup of tea.
(Anthony Burgess, One Hand Clapping)
This middle position, though not a particularly common one, can be effective as long as the reader doesn’t lose track of the idea in the main clause.
- An adverb clause that interrupts a main clause, as show in the example above, is usually set off by a pair of commas.
Reducing Adverb Clauses
Adverb clauses, like adjective clauses, can sometimes be shortened to phrases:
- If your luggage is lost or destroyed, it should be replaced by the airline.
- If lost or destroyed, your luggage should be replaced by the airline.
The second sentence has been shortened by omitting the subject and the verb is from the adverb clause. It is just as clear as the first sentence and more concise. Adverb clauses can be shortened in this way only when the subject of the adverb clause is the same as the subject of the main clause.
- To cut the clutter from your writing, try reducing adverb clauses to phrases when the subject of the adverb clause is the same as the subject of the main clause.
Practice in Revising Sentences with Adverb Clauses
Rewrite each set below according to the instructions in parentheses. When you are done, compare your revised sentences with those on page two. Keep in mind that more than one correct response is possible.
- (Shift the adverb clause–in bold–to the beginning of the sentence, making it the subject of the adverb clause.)
The forest supports incessant warfare, most of which is hidden and silent, although the forest looks peaceful.
- (Shift the adverb clause to a position between the subject and verb in the main clause and set it off with a pair of commas.)
While he was on maneuvers in South Carolina, Billy Pilgrim played hymns he knew from childhood.
- (Reduce the adverb clause to a phrase by dropping the subject and verb from the adverb clause.)
While he was on maneuvers in South Carolina, Billy Pilgrim played hymns he knew from childhood.
- (Turn the first main clause into an adverb clause beginning with the subordinating conjunction whenever.)
The sea builds a new coast, and waves of living creatures surge against it.
- (Make this sentence more concise by dropping the subject and the verb was from the adverb clause.)
Although she was exhausted after the long drive home, Pinky insisted on going to work.
- (Move the adverb clause to the beginning of the sentence, and make the sentence more concise by reducing the adverb clause to a phrase.)
Clutching his teddy bear, the boy hid under the bed because he was frightened by the lightning and thunder.
- (Emphasize the contrast in this sentence by converting the first main clause into an adverb clause beginning with although.)
Teachers who contend with blank or hostile minds deserve our sympathy, and those who teach without sensitivity and imagination deserve our criticism.
- (Omit the semicolon and convert the first two main clauses into an adverb clause beginning with after.)
The storm has passed, and the flash floods dump their loads of silt into the Colorado River; water still remains in certain places on rimrock, canyon beach, and mesa top.