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Adverbials: adjuncts, disjuncts and conjuncts

adverbials

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Adverbial forms Adverbial functions Syntactical homonymy Adjuncts (and subjuncts) Stative and dynamic forms
Subjuncts Disjuncts Viewpoint vs. style Conjuncts Errors with conjuncts
Summary diagram Syntax Theme Teaching ideas Implications


define

Defining adverbial forms

As the graphic is intended to show, adverbials give us extra information about the verb.  Specifically, they answer the four questions above.
Adverbs, as you will know if you have followed the guide to adverbs, linked at the end in the list of related guides, also tell us about the verb (and are, therefore, a special type of adverbial).  Specifically, adverbs tell us about

Some of what follows will cover some adverbs but in the context of different types of adverbial rather than as a distinct and discrete word class.

The point to remember is: adverbs are all adverbials but adverbials are not all adverbs.
Very briefly:

  1. He went yesterday
    contains an adverb, yesterday, acting as an adverbial telling us when he left.  By some definitions, even this is really a noun acting as an adverb.
  2. He went by car
    contains a prepositional phrase, by car, acting as an adverbial telling us how he travelled.
  3. She spoke hurriedly
    contains an adverb, hurriedly, acting as an adverbial telling us something about her manner of speaking.
  4. She spoke because I prompted her
    contains a subordinate clause, because I prompted her, acting as an adverbial telling us why she spoke.

In only two of the sentences above (1 and 3), is the adverbial actually an adverb (and one of those is slightly questionable).

To be sure if you understand the distinction, try this mini-test.
If you couldn't do the test easily, follow the guide to adverbs (new tab) before you return to this page.

It is quite commonly assumed that adverbs are the most important class of adverbials and should be taught that way.
However, the facts do not bear this out.
Adverbs and adverb phrases, such as slowly or exceptionally quickly, only constitute around one fifth of adverbials.
By far the most frequent realisation of adverbials in English, over half, is via a prepositional phrase such as to the door, over the hill, before the meeting and so on.
The rest are divided up between non-finite to-infinitive clauses, noun phrases, non-finite -ing and -ed / -en clauses and finite clauses, none of which is very common.  We make no apology, therefore, for our focus below on adverb and prepositional phrases.

Here are some simple examples of the forms that adverbials take:

  1. Adverb phrases:
    1. They lost heavily
    2. Her mother fell very seriously
  2. Prepositional phrases:
    1. He worked in the garden
    2. Her brother visited after work
  3. Noun phrases:
    1. She arrived yesterday
    2. He stayed two weeks
    When a verb is transitive, the noun phrase is normally the object of the verb rather than acting as an adverbial.  For example, in:
        He read the story
    the story is not functioning as an adverbial.
  4. Finite clauses:
    1. They said what I had to do
    2. She arrived when the fun was over
  5. Non-finite clauses:
    1. Entering he found them together
    2. Broken the machine was useless
    3. I am dying to see her
    Expressions with the to-infinitive can sometimes be analysed in two ways:
    In the example here, the phrase to see her is an adverbial because the word to cannot be replaced with in order to but in, e.g.:
        She stopped to look in the window
    the phrase to look in the window can be replaced with in order to look in the window and this is an example of a prepositional phrase, sometimes called the infinitive of purpose and not a non-finite clause structure.  This is not usually a difference with which you want to trouble learners.

Here's a summary of the way that adverbials can be realised in the grammar of English.  The focus here is on form but functions are exemplified.

form

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types

Functions of adverbials

The diagram above focuses on the form of adverbials, here we focus on their function.

You will have noticed if you did the mini-test, that adverbials come in all sorts.  Any language which gives us information about the verb (where, when, why, how) can be classed as an adverbial and taught that way.
Just like adverbs proper, adverbials perform four major functions.  Here are some examples of them:

  1. To express how:
    1. They arrived by car
    2. She broke the glass using her fist
    3. They spent the money really quickly
  2. To express when:
    1. They sold the house before they moved to Canada
    2. Mary arrived after midnight
    3. She left it too late
    4. Her son was born that day
  3. To express why:
    1. As I was in London, I went to see her
    2. I came to see you
      (This, too, is a prepositional phrase rather than an non-finite form per se.)
    3. She left as a result of his call
    4. I stopped to listen
      (The preference is to consider this as another prepositional phrase (replaceable with in order to listen) but this is frequently referred to as an infinitive of purpose.)
  4. To express where:
    1. They walked down the road
    2. They stayed indoors
    3. She walked three miles

function

Now try this test to see if you can identify what's what with adverbials.

The list in the diagram above focuses only on four functions of adverbials – to express: manner, time, reason and place.  Adverbials fulfil a range of other functions, too, as we shall shortly see.

Elsewhere on this site is an alternative, functional way of looking at adverbials, and for that you need to go to the guide to circumstances, linked below.
Also on this site, there is a guide to prepositional phrases which is centrally relevant to this area.

There are some punctuation issues.  Adverbials, especially in the initial position are often separated in some way from the rest of the clause.  So, while:
    I explained it to him in Italian
    She arrives on Thursday
    I ate good food while I was there

etc.
are all correctly punctuated, when the adverbial takes the initial position we need:
    In Italian, I explained it to him
    On Thursday, she arrives
    While I was there, I ate good food
There's a bit more on adverbial positions in sentences and the punctuation below.
Writers and publishing houses differ in this regard and no punctuation after the adverbial is often encountered.


three types

adjuncts, disjuncts and conjuncts

Adverbials come in three flavours.  Consider the following sentences, focusing on the bit in black:

  1. I saw him yesterday afternoon.
  2. Obviously, he didn't seem happy.
  3. He isn't happy yet he gets on with life.
In sentence 1, we have an adjunct
Adjuncts are integrated into the sentence but their removal leaves a well-formed and understandable sentence although we lose some information.
The definition of what qualifies as an adjunct is a fraught area, much discussed.
Technically, some analysts see an adjunct as anything in a clause which can be removed to leave a well-formed sentence.  So, for example, in:
    Last week she went on holiday
we have two adjuncts: last week and on holiday, which can be removed to leave:
    She went
Others will include adjectives and other items as adjuncts because they, too, can often be removed without the result being a malformed sentence.
Here, because we are concerned with adverbials which, by definition modify verb phrases, we will mostly confine the term adjunct to any adverbial which modifies the verb phrase in some way and which is an integral, though not obligatory, part of the clause.  We will also consider as adjuncts adverbials which modify adjectives and other adverbs but that is a lesser focus in what follows.
In sentence 2, we have a disjunct
Disjuncts are used to evaluate the form or the content of what is said.  They occur outside the clause structure itself.  Removing them leaves a well-formed sentence or clause but we lose the speaker's viewpoint.  In this case, compare:
    He didn't seem obviously happy
where we have an adjunct giving us some extra information about the adjective.  That is to say, it is the adverb acting to modify the adjective in the usual way.
However, in:
    He obviously didn't seem happy
we have a disjunct expressing the speaker's attitude to the proposition that he didn't seem happy.  The speaker is implying that he or she believes the proposition to be true.
Disjuncts frequently come in the initial position before the clause to which they refer but, as we see above, they don't have to.
For effect, in speaking, we insert a pause after a disjunct and that can be represented by punctuation in writing.  For example:
    Patently, John was not interested.
In sentence 3, we have a conjunct
Conjuncts are also outside the clause structure and connect ideas in sentences or between sentences.  We can rephrase Sentence 3 as
    He isn't happy. 
However, he gets on with life
The word However is still a conjunct.  Some conjuncts are conjunctions (like yet in example sentence 3) and there is a separate guide to conjunction on this site linked in the list of related guides at the end.

The relationship can be seen like this:

adverbial summary
Based on Quirk et al p421

This all seems rather technical – does it really matter?
Yes, quite a lot.  A good deal of functional language such as expressing a viewpoint, saying how, when, where, why something occurs or connecting ideas logically depends for its success on realisation through adverbials of one kind or another.

ambiguity

Adjunct or adverbial
PP complement verbs

We should pause for a moment to consider another slightly technical distinction: the difference between an obligatory adverbial and an adverbial adjunct.  Both are adverbials but they differ in how they are used.

  1. By definition (adjunct means a non-essential extra), adjuncts provide optional data and removing them does not affect the central meaning of the clause.
    For example:
        He ran to the door
        He ran off
    contain the prepositional phrase adjunct, to the door or the adverb adjunct off, but the clause can stand alone and still maintain its meaning as
        He ran
  2. However, in:
        I put my laptop on my desk
        I put my laptop away
    we have a non-adjunct adverbial prepositional phrase, on my desk and the non-adjunct adverb away, and we cannot omit either and leave a comprehensible clause:
        *I put my laptop

What we are dealing with here is a semantic rather than grammatical distinction because some verbs in some of their senses require adverbial complementation.  These verbs are often called PP complement transitive verbs because they are usually transitive and require a prepositional phrase or other adverbial complement.  The verbs are usually those referring to causing something to be somewhere and they include:
    keep, lay, place, plonk, position, put, rest, set, site, situate, stick, stuff, treat.
In none of these cases can we have a well-formed sentence which lacks a place adverbial although the polysemous nature of some of them make it possible in certain senses.  For example, we cannot have:
    *John laid the book
    *I placed the vase
    *I stuck the suitcase
    *She positioned the car
    *She plonked herself
    *The woman rested her head
    *They set the chair

and so on although, of course, the following with other senses of the verb are possible:
    The chicken laid an egg
    I placed my bet
    I rested my case
    Mary set the clock

    We ventured a question
and so on.
The verb treat, in the sense of behave towards rather than the medical sense, is unusual because it requires an adverbial referring to manner rather than place so, for example:
    *He treated her
is not acceptable except in a medical sense or if the verb means indulge but
    He treated her very well
is fine.

There are some verbs, normally intransitive, including stay, live, lie and venture which can be included in the list of PP complement verbs when they mean live temporarily, reside, place oneself horizontally and move oneself into danger, respectively, so
    I stayed in a hotel
is possible but, in the same sense of the verb,
    *I stayed
is not and
    I lived in a small cottage
is acceptable, but, in the same sense of resided,
    *I lived
is not because it means survived or existed.
    I lay on the bed
is acceptable but
    I lay
is not.
    We ventured into the castle
is acceptable, but in the same sense of the verb
    *We ventured
is not.
When stay simply means remain, it requires no complementing adverbial so
    John left but I stayed
is acceptable and when venture means dare the same applies but the verb is transitive in this sense, so:
    We ventured a question
is acceptable without an adverbial but must retain a direct object.

2

Syntactical homonymy

This horrible expression refers to the fact that words and phrases can slide between classes because they can perform different functions depending on the intended meaning.

Some words and phrases exhibit this phenomenon and can act as adjuncts in the normal way, modifying verbs, verb phrases, other adverbs and adjectives.  For example, in:
    The train eventually arrived at the station
    Mary clearly believed him
    She was happily drunk
    The argued rather aggressively
all the adverbs are adverbial adjuncts acting to modify a verb phrase, a verb, an adjective and an adverb respectively.
However, in:
    Obviously, she was trying to be helpful
    Happily, the train arrived on time
    There was a good deal of argument. 
Eventually, a decision was made
    She wasn't coming. 
Rather, she actually came but very late.
we have the adverbs acting as disjuncts (the first two examples) and conjuncts (the second two examples).

Some words can perform all three functions and their meaning differs slightly in each role.  For example:
    I try to eat naturally
    Naturally, she was very unhappy
    There is a huge amount of work needed.  Naturally, it will be expensive.

In the first case, the word naturally is acting as an adjunct to modify the verb eat.  It means:
    I try to eat natural rather than synthetic or processed food.
In the second case, the word naturally is acting as a disjunct, expressing how the speaker feels about the content of what is being said.  It means:
    I was not surprised that she was very unhappy.
In the third case, the word naturally is acting as a conjunct, connecting the two sentences.  It means:
    There is a huge amount of work needed.  It logically follows that it will be expensive.

What this means is that we have examples of categorical indeterminacy: we do not know, just by looking at it, whether the item in question is an adjunct, a conjunct or a disjunct.  We need to see what it is doing to assign it to a category.

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adjunct

Adjuncts

Adjuncts are integral to the clause but may be omitted.

By far the most common and flexible adverbials are adjuncts because they perform a wide range of functions in English.

viewpoint (sometimes called angle)
in expressions such as
    Politically
, the man was inept
or
    Economically
, the country is in trouble
the speaker is fronting the adverbial to draw attention to the view of the situation which is important.  Often, this means putting the adverbial first.  Another, non-adverb, example is
    As far as studying is concerned
, I'm really lazy.
Note that these are not examples of disjuncts (see below) because the adverbial will not necessarily apply to the whole following text or express the speaker's view of how a statement is to be understood:
    The man was politically inept
    The country is in trouble economically

In both these case, the adjunct is modifying only part of the clause, the adjective in the first case and the prepositional phrase in the second example.
In effect, we are saying that it is only in political matters that the man was inept and only so far as the economy is concerned that the country is in trouble.
Disjuncts, on the other hand, apply to the whole of a clause (which is why they are sometimes referred to as sentence adverbs or adverbials).
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between a viewpoint adjunct and a style disjunct because style disjuncts also refer to how the speaker wants to be understood rather than commenting directly on the statement itself.  If you have this confusion, it helps to think of viewpoint adjuncts as expressing the speaker's angle or 'take' on the statement.
Modification:
Viewpoint adjuncts allow very limited modification so, for example:
    Purely economically ...
is possible but:
    *Very economically ...
    *Rather socially ...
    *Quite chemically ...
are not available.
Viewpoint adjuncts may also be realised by non-finite verb forms in, for example:
    Seen organisationally, ...
    Considered socially, ...

but this is quite rare.
process
these adjuncts refer to how something is done.
Manner:
    She spoke impressively
   
They walked hand in hand
etc.
Means:
    They got here by bus
   
He got in without paying
Instrument:
    Cut it with a saw
   
The parcel was delivered by hand
Usually, these adjuncts come at the end of clauses.
In some languages, these kinds of processes may demand alternative case structures.
Modification:
Process adjuncts of manner when they are adverbs allow extensive modification:
    She spoke very / extremely / exceptionally etc. impressively
Prepositional phrases (including those used for manner, means and instruments) cannot be easily modified so we do not allow:
    *They walked very arm in arm
    *She arrived much by taxi

although a few expressions such as
    He travels only / a lot by train
are possible.  In such cases, there is a strong argument that we are modifying the verb, not the adjunct.
subject
these adjuncts refer to the subject of the verb and are nearly always adverbs or prepositional phrases of manner.
Examples are:
    He is being wilfully dim
    I did it on purpose

In both cases, the adjunct refers directly to the subject of the verb, not to the verb itself.  For this reason, they can often be replaced by an expression using a copular verb and an adjective such as
    He appeared wilful
or
    It was intentional
Commonly, these will appear directly before or after the main verb phrase and any complement or object but can be fronted for emphasis.  For example:
    He intentionally insulted her
    He left her alone deliberately
    Stupidly, I forgot my keys
Modification:
Depending on the meaning of the adjuncts, modification is possible so we can have:
    Very stupidly, I forgot to ask
    It was wholly intentionally
said
    He left her alone quite / very deliberately
etc. but, as usual, prepositional phrases allow fewer modifications:
    They did it clearly on purpose
    They did it wholly / completely on purpose
are allowable but
    *They did it very on purpose
is not because very can only modify adverbs when it functions itself as an adverb.
place
as you might imagine, these refer to where things happen.  There are two sorts and they are often prepositional (although clauses can be used as well as adverbs):
Place:
    She stayed in a bed and breakfast place
   
She slept where she had always slept
    They stayed there
Direction:
    They climbed over the hill
   
They went where no one had gone before
   
They marched onwards
Again, these usually come at the end of a clause.
Modification:
Because most place adjuncts are prepositional phrases, modification is rare and limited:
    They went clear over the hill
    She went right down the road
Place adjuncts have their own guide linked in the list of related guides at the end.
Not all place adverbials, in particular, qualify as adjuncts because they are sometimes an obligatory rather than optional part of the clause.  For example in:
    My pajamas lay on the bed
    The car stayed in the garage
    I laid the book down
we have prepositional phrases or an adverb acting as adverbials and in no case can we omit the adverbial and leave a well-formed clause.
time
again, no prizes for guessing that these refer to time but there are some different sorts, realised by clauses, adverbs and prepositional phrases:
When:
    I decided to stay after the wedding was finished
    We spoke after the meeting
    She left
yesterday
Duration:
    They watched television while I did all the cooking
    They chatted throughout the performance
    She hesitated briefly
    He stayed
for a week
Frequency:
    She goes
often, every fourth Saturday
Relationship:
    They are already in the house
    They are not yet in the house

Modification:
Many time adjuncts which are adverbs can be modified and the range of modifiers is quite large:
    She very frequently arrives late
    They spoke extremely briefly

but other time adjuncts allow no or very limited modification:
    They spoke immediately / directly after the meeting
    She stayed exactly for a week

although modifying the noun is more natural:
    She stayed for exactly a week
Time adjuncts have their own guide linked in the list of related guides at the end.
focus
these are mostly adverbs.
Limiting:
chiefly, most importantly, in particular, only, purely
etc.  For example:
    There's a lot we can do to help, in particular with the new website
which implies that our help will probably be limited to the website.
Additive:
also, in addition to, as well as
etc.  For example:
    There's a lot to be done and we also have very little time
Again, we need to distinguish focusing adjuncts from attitudinal or content disjuncts (see below).
As adjuncts, these sorts of phrases and adverbs focus attention on part of the clause only.  As disjuncts, they modify the whole clause so, for example:
    I chiefly came to say goodbye
the word chiefly focuses the hearer on the verb and is an adjunct which could be replaced by only or just, for example, or left out altogether, of course.
However, in:
    Chiefly, this is a question of finding enough money
the word chiefly applies to the whole of the following text.  It is a disjunct and cannot be replaced with only or just.
Modification:
These adverbials cannot be modified so you can't say
    *very in particular
or
    *extremely only
etc.
They are also known as particularisers, by the way.
intensifiers
these come in different sorts but are nearly all adverbs with a few prepositional phrases:
Emphasisers (which add weight and usually modify noun phrases, adverbs or adjectives):
definitely, certainly
etc.  For example:
    That's definitely the wrong way to talk to her
    This is decidedly dull
    It is certainly beautifully drawn

Amplifiers (which scale upwards and can often modify verbs, adverbs and adjectives):
completely, very much, absolutely, entirely, deeply, heartily
etc.  For example:
    I heartily agree
    It was absolutely idiotically designed
    The story was deeply sad

Downtoners (which reduce the effect and modify verbs, adjectives, noun phrases and adverbs):
partly, hardly, quite, nearly, somewhat
etc.  For example:
    He is somewhat rude to most people, I'm afraid
    That is quite a mess
    I nearly got lost
    The work was barely competently done

Approximators (which express inexactitude and modify verbs, adjectives, noun phrases and adverbs):
approximately, roughly, more or less, in the region of etc.  For example:
    I can more or less see the point
    It was roughly level
    The cost is in the region of $1000
    It was done more or less perfectly

Modification:
Emphasisers can be modified with very and most:
    She will most certainly be here later
    That is very definitely the case
Amplifiers and downtoners are not modified or only allow very
    He is very deeply hurt
etc. and not always then because:
    *She is very entirely right
is not possible.
There is a guide to these adverb modifiers on this site linked in the list of related guides at the end.
limiters
these adverbials (which are almost always adverbs) limit the range of the verb in some way.  The usual list includes
    She only bought a shirt
    They even lied about it
    They just left it where they found it
    I merely asked
    She nearly succeeded
    I simply want an answer

They need careful handling in terms of word ordering to avoid ambiguity.  For example:
    Only he came to the meeting (nobody else came [determiner])
    He only came to the meeting
(and did not speak [adverb])
    He came only to the meeting
(and to nothing else [adverb])
    He came to the only meeting
(and there was only one meeting [adjective])
all mean something slightly different as do:
    She just washed the shirt
    She washed just the shirt

because the first implies that she did nothing else to the shirt and the second that she washed nothing except the shirt.
All these limiters need to be handled in the same way.  The rule of thumb is to place the limiter immediately before the item, it modifies.
This means, of course, that the terms migrate between word classes (see above).  To operate as adjuncts, the words need immediately to precede or follow the verb phrase.
sequencers
these often come at the beginning of a clause and include, e.g.:
originally, first, thirdly, in the first place, then, subsequently
etc.
There is a distinction again to be made between sequencers which act as adjuncts and those, analysed below, which act as conjuncts.
In, for example:
    He made lunch and then took it to the garden to eat
the adverb then is acting as a sequencer adjunct telling us the ordering of events, not linking the clauses (the coordinator and does the linking).
However, in:
    He made lunch and then took it to the garden to eat    Afterwards, he cleared up the kitchen and washed the crockery and cutlery
the adverb afterwards is a conjunct linking the first sentence (about making lunch) to the second by anaphoric reference.
Another example of an adjunct sequencer appears in:
    He comes from London originally
Modification:
Sequencer adjuncts are not modified so:
    *Very thirdly we took the dog for a walk
or
    *So originally he comes from France
are not acceptable.
cause and effect
There are four adverbs in particular which do this: hereby, herewith, thereby and therewith.
The first two refer to the here and now and occur in clauses such as:
    You are hereby informed that the transfer has been made according to your wishes
    The undersigned herewith agrees to pay the sum required

The second two refer to the there and then and occur in clauses such as:
    The children attended the concert and thereby learned some appreciation of Mozart
    He inherited his grandfather's estate and therewith became rich

All four are performative in the sense that the acts of informing, agreeing, attending and inheriting contain the sense of the results of the events.  They are all very formal and, in the case of therewith, arguably archaic, forms.
There is more in the guide to cause and effect, linked below.

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pianist

Stative and dynamic verb uses with adjuncts

He was then a pianist in the park  

Before we leave adjuncts alone, it is worth noting which sorts adverbials can be safely used with certain verb uses.  The issue here is stative vs. dynamic verb use and one of what is semantically allowable.

If we take the example sentence here:
    He was then a pianist in the park
it is simple to see that there are two adjunct adverbials: in the park and then.

However, if we break the statement down, we can allow:
    He was a pianist
    He was a pianist in the park
    He was then a pianist
    He was in the park

all of which are perfectly acceptable grammatically.
However, we cannot have:
    *He was then

We are dealing with temporal vs. locative adverbials and they have different characteristics:

  1. Temporal adjunct adverbials cannot be used alone if the verb is stative so we would also not allow:
        *She was yesterday
        *They seemed then
        *He became last week

    and so on.
    But we do allow dynamic verb use as in:
        She was staying there yesterday
        They were being difficult at that time
        He was becoming angrier as the argument went on
  2. Locative adjuncts can be used alone with a stative verb use and their presence allows the use of temporal adjuncts in addition so we can have:
        She was here
        She was here yesterday
        They seemed at work
        They seemed at work then
        He got home last week

    and so on.

When we have a dynamic verb in use, we can allow the temporal adjunct to appear alone so we also allow:
    She found it last week
    They arrived in tandem
    She came immediately

When we have a subject or object complement, we can allow temporal adverbials with stative verb uses so we allow:
    She became angry last year
    She was the manager for a while
    He made her angry eventually

and so on.

By the same token, all other forms of adjunct adverbials, viewpoint, subject, focus, intensifiers and limiters as well as and process adverbial adjuncts (which are usually of manner, means or instruments) cannot be used with stative verb uses.  We do not, therefore, encounter:
    *They are obviously
    *He is politically
    *She became chiefly
    *They were definitely
    *I was only
    *She is slowly
    *They were with a hammer
    *He became gradually
    *She was by bus
    *He knew carefully
    *She appeared stupidly

and so on.

The same considerations apply, however, so we can use these adverbial adjuncts freely with dynamic verb uses and have:
    They acted politically
    He worked carefully
    They definitely broke it
    She only paid for the drink
    They specifically complained
    He did it wilfully
    She broke it with the hammer
    They travelled by water

etc.

And when we have a subject or object complement of the verb these adjuncts are allowed even if the verb is stative in use, so we can allow:
    He became gradually the person to consult
    She is slowly growing old
    He is economically ignorant
    She is definitely very sad
    We were only in the audience
    He knew the answer immediately
    She appeared slowly more unhappy
etc.

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lane

A small diversion: subjuncts

The preceding analysis and what follows is based on what has been come to be called a Quirkian analysis (after Randolph Quirk), but excludes a type of adverbial known as a subjunct.
A subjunct is distinguishable from an adjunct in that it plays a decidedly subordinate role in the clause.
In the foregoing, adjuncts and subjuncts are both exemplified but there is a distinction in terms of how they behave syntactically and semantically.
For example, in:
    John willingly went to the concert
we have an adjunct, willingly, which modifies how we perceive the verb.  We can ask a question such as:
    Did John go willingly or reluctantly?
and it makes perfect sense.
We cannot, however, perform the same actions with subjuncts so, for example, in:
    He has already left
we have a subjunct, already, which modifies not just the verb but the entire clause.  If we ask a question such as:
    *Has he already or not yet left?
the result is not acceptable because subjuncts cannot be the subject of an either-or question.

For teaching purposes, the distinction between subjuncts and adjuncts is unlikely to be very helpful but subjuncts can perform a useful range of semantic functions:

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disjunct

Disjuncts

Disjuncts are outside the clause structure

These are often simple adverbs (such as honestly, candidly) but can be prepositional phrases (e.g., from my point of view), non-finite clauses (e.g., to be honest, speaking frankly) or finite clauses (e.g., if you ask me, should you want an honest opinion).
There are two main sorts:

style
style disjuncts indicate what the speaker / writer wishes the hearer / reader to understand in terms of the way in which something is said.  For example:
    Frankly, I don't think he's up to the job
where the speaker is using the disjunct to make it clear that this is an honest opinion.
The disjunct personally shows that the speaker is not being general and seriously refers to a lack of flippancy and so on.
Prepositional phrases are slightly less common but occur in, for example:
    From where I'm standing, this seems a crazy idea.
Non-finite clauses are also rarer than simple adverbs but occur in, for example:
    Being honest, I'm not really sure.
    To be honest, I don't know
Finite clauses are frequently conditional so we get, for example:
    Unless I am very much mistaken, that's incorrect
    If you ask me, that's just what we need
Style disjuncts refer to the speaker or writer, not to the content.
attitude
attitude disjuncts indicate how the speaker / writer feels about the content of what is being communicated.  For example, in:
Arguably, that is a false conclusion
the speaker is softening the proposition by making it clear that this is not an undeniable fact.
The disjunct obviously makes it clear that the truth of the content is clear to see and of course implies that it is a logical deduction and so on.
Attitude disjuncts also display a mix of forms and are not only adverbs.  For example:
Finite clauses:
    It seems arguable to me that this is the wrong approach
which indicates that the approach may be right.
Non-finite verbs forms:
    All things being equal, that's the best idea
which indicates that it is only the best idea if everything is balanced.
Prepositional phrases:
    On the face of it, we need to spend more money
which indicates that the need to spend money is superficially the case but may not be on closer consideration.
Attitude disjuncts refer to the information in the statement, not to the speaker or writer.
You may find attitude disjuncts described as content disjuncts because, obviously, they refer to the content, not the speaker.  If that is an easier term to remember and apply, use it because the terms are synonymous.

Modification of disjuncts
Because most disjuncts can be expressed through the use of -ly adverbs, modification is often possible so we can have, for example:
    Quite arguably, ...
    Perfectly frankly, ...
    Purely personally, ...

etc.
However, when they are expressed as prepositional phrases or finite or non-finite clauses, modification is not appropriate:
    *Quite in my opinion, ...
    *Perfectly to be frank, ...
    *Purely speaking personally, ...
    *Merely if you want my view, ...

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difference

A distinction

We need to differentiate between viewpoint and style or attitude because the former is expressed using adjuncts and the latter two using disjuncts.  Briefly:

For teaching purposes, incidentally, it is not usually necessary to distinguish overtly between style and attitude or content disjuncts but it is wise to focus on one type only at a time for conceptual ease.
You may see disjuncts referred to as sentential adverbs or sentence adverbs (because they modify the whole sentence).
There is a separate guide to disjuncts on this site linked in the list of related guides at the end.

If you would like a list of common disjunct adverbs in English, click here.

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conjunct

Conjuncts

Conjuncts connect ideas, clauses or sentences

Conjunct or conjunction?

There is a technical and slightly arguable distinction between conjuncts and conjunctions.  The usual analysis is that:

  1. Conjunctions act within sentences to coordinate two ideas or to subordinate one to the other.
    These are conjunctions in black:
        She called and I was delighted to see her
        The arrived late
    because they stopped to eat
        She had scarcely sat down to eat when the telephone rang
    In the first case, two clauses are being coordinated (one is not dependent on the other but additional to it).  In the second case, the reason following the subordinating conjunction because is dependent on the understanding of the main clause.
    In the last case, we have a subordinating correlative conjunction of time.
  2. Conjuncts exist outside the clauses which they connect but relate the second idea anaphorically (back) to the first.  There is some sense of coordination or subordination but there is always a strong sense of cohesion:
    These are conjuncts in black:
        I was out of the house at the time.  Otherwise, I'd have been delighted to see her.
        She did the work competently.  By contrast, his work was sloppy and the result shabby.

Conjunctions and conjuncts can be used to express the same thoughts so, for example, one can have:
    She was late because her train broke down.
and express the same thought as:
    Her train broke down.  Consequently, she was late.
Stylistically and structurally, however, the forms are different and mistaking a conjunct for a conjunction or vice versa usually leads to error.

Conjuncts and conjunctions frequently co-occur so we get, for example:
    She came to the party and, moreover, brought her brother
where the word and is acting as a conjunction and the word moreover is a conjunct.
or:
    She took the car without permission but, consequently, broke the law
where the word but is an adversative  conjunction and the word consequently is a causal conjunct.

There is a guide to conjunction on this site linked in the list of related guides at the end.

Modification of disjuncts
Conjuncts, even when they are -ly adverbs, cannot usually be modified so we cannot allow:
    *Very firstly, ...
    *Extremely for instance, ...
    *More besides, ...
    *Absolutely likewise, ...
    *Very alternatively, ...
    *More meanwhile, ...
although a few take modification with only, purely, merely and just:
    Only for example, ...
    Just for instance, ...
    Merely incidentally, ...
    Purely by contrast.
but such modification is rare and unpredictably successful.

Conjuncts can:

enumerate or sequence
firstly, secondly, thirdly, a), b), in the first place etc.
For example:
    Primarily because I haven't the money.  Secondarily because it doesn't interest me
Other examples include:
finally, lastly, for a start, to begin with, at the outset
See above for the distinction between sequencing adjuncts and sequencing conjuncts.
explain or exemplify
i.e., e.g., for instance, for example etc.
For example:
    The cleverest two students, namely John and Adam, have secured their places at Oxford
This form of conjunct is frequently used to signal apposition, i.e., co-reference as in, for example:
    The new house, that is the house on the corner, has been sold

where The new house and the house on the corner refer to the same thing.
Other examples include:
in other words, viz., that is to say, by which is meant
There is some overlap between this class and the conjuncts used to rephrase (below) as the functions are contiguous.
There is also some overlap with conjuncts used to express an inference (see below).
add or reinforce
again, besides, to boot, moreover etc.
For example:
    This is the next problem.  Again, it is one of concern to us all
    It's expensive.  What's more, it is pretty poorly made.
Other examples include:
also, additionally, besides, moreover, too, what is more, further, furthermore
rephrase
better put, in other words etc.
For example:
    It's out of place.  In other words, you could simply say it's the wrong style
equate
equally, likewise etc.
For example:
    The similarity between the sisters is striking.  Likewise, between the two brothers.
Other examples include:
in the same way, by the same token
show a result
consequently, as a result etc.
For example:
    He lost his wallet at the station.  Therefore, I had to go and help him out.
Other examples include:
accordingly, hence, now, so, thus, as a result
For more on these, see the guide to expressing cause and effect linked in the list of related guides at the end.
replace
instead, alternatively, on the other hand etc.
For example:
    She didn't come with us to the pub.  Instead, she stayed in and worked on her essay.
sum up
so, then, in conclusion etc.
For example:
    All that means, to conclude, is that we need more time and more money
    Ok, then, we are happy we have a solution
concede and contrast
anyway, nevertheless, still etc.
For example:
    I think he's a bit arrogant.  Still, he is very talented, I suppose.
Other examples include:
Conceding: however, only, though, yet, in any case, in any event, at any rate, at all events, after all, all the same, on the other hand
    I'll get to you as soon as I can.  By seven, in any case.
Contrasting: alternatively, conversely, on the contrary, au contraire, by contrast, then again
    We can meet in the coffee shop.  Alternatively, you could come to me.
change the subject
incidentally, by the way etc.
For example:
    I bought this in town yesterday.  By the by(e), did you know they've made the High Street one way?
Other examples include:
now, well, meanwhile, parenthetically, as an aside
infer
in other words, then, in that case. else, otherwise
These conjuncts link a previous comment with a conclusion which may be inferred from what has been said or written.
For example:
    A: I can't help with that.
    B:
In other words, you can't be bothered.
    The government needs to act.  Otherwise, things will go from bad to worse.
    We need to leave. 
Else, we'll miss the last train.
    A: I am very busy right now.
    B: I take it,
then, that you can't help.
Both else and otherwise function as negative conditionals and the examples above can be rephrased as:
    If we don't leave, we'll miss the train.
    If the government doesn't act, things will go from bad to worse.

Other inferential conjuncts express the fact that the speaker / writer has drawn a logical conclusion from has preceded.  For example:
    You don't want any chocolate?  Well, in that case, I can have it.

You may, incidentally, see conjuncts called conjunctive adverbs, cohesive conjunctions or transitional conjunctions.  All these terms capture something of the flavour of what they do but we have stayed with the term conjuncts for simplicity's sake.

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alert

Error alert!

Much erroneous language or unnatural expression is caused by the failure to distinguish between conjuncts and conjunctions.  Here are some examples:
    *She came to the party moreover with her boyfriend
where the speaker has failed to realise that moreover is a conjunct, not a conjunction.  The sentence is better rephrased either with a conjunction:
    She came to the party and brought her brother
or as two clauses connected with a conjunct:
    She came to the party; moreover bringing her boyfriend.
    *They were happy with the work.  Although it cost more than they expected.
where the speaker has failed to realise that although is a conjunction, not a conjunct.
Again, the sentence is better rephrased with a conjunction:
    They were happy with the work but it cost more than they expected
or with a conjunct:
    They were happy with the work.  However, it cost more than they expected.

The words though and although are often presented to learners as synonyms.  Conceptually, they are but syntactically they are not.  The word though can be a conjunct or a conjunction but although is only a conjunction.  We can accept, therefore:
    The work was done on time.  It was more expensive than I expected, though. (conjunct)
    The work was done on time though it was more expensive than I expected
(conjunction)
    The work was done on time although it was more expensive than I expected
(conjunction)
but not:
    *The work was done on time.  It was more expensive than I expected, although.

If you would like a list of common conjuncts in English, click here.

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Here's a summary of the three types of adverbial and what they do.

summary

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syntax

Syntax and word / phrase ordering

There are constraints concerning word ordering, phrasing and punctuation with adverbials.
A quirk of place adjuncts is that, in some circumstances, they require or conventionally allow the inversion of the subject and verb as in, for example:
    Here's your money
not
    *Here your money is
or
    In the hallway, stood an enormous grandfather clock
although, in this case,
   In the hallway, an enormous grandfather clock stood
is possible.
The usual insertion of the do operator in simple tenses is not required in this case.  So we do not find, e.g.:
    *In the garden did we eat lunch
but do find:
    In the garden we ate lunch
etc.

In writing, most adjuncts can, and sometimes must, be separated by commas from the rest of the clause.  We can have, therefore:
    He is frequently late
    Frequently, he is late
    I found my car keys under the sofa
    Under the sofa, I found my car keys

In spoken language, the comma is represented by a slight pause.
Disjuncts and conjuncts, because they are not integral to the clause, are usually separated by commas from the clause and, in speech, by a slight pause before, after or at both ends of the adverbial.

Some of what follows is also covered in separate guides (links below) but here is a summary of the most important issues.:

  1. Adjuncts:
    1. Viewpoint adjuncts often occur in initial position to signal the setting for what follows.  For example:
          Technically, this is known as a grommet strangler
      That is not always the case because they can, more rarely, come at the end of clauses, for example:
          The nation's in trouble, politically
      They can also come in medial position but are separated by commas in this case:
          That is, economically, a difficult issue
    2. Process adjuncts occur most frequently in end position (or immediately following the verb) to explain how something was done.  For example:
          He broke it with a stone
          They came by bus
          She sent the letter by courier

          They spoke persuasively
      Placing these adjuncts initially is sometimes doable but the adverbial is then strongly marked for special emphasis.  For example:
          By bus they came
          With a stone he broke it
          By courier she sent the letter
          Persuasively, she spoke

      but these forms are rare and medial position for these adjuncts is generally forbidden so we do not find:
          *He broke with a stone it
          *They by bus came
          *She sent by courier the letter
          *She persuasively spoke.
    3. Subject adjuncts refer to the subject of the verb and will often occur directly after it.  For example:
          She deliberately broke the vase
          They wilfully mismanaged the project
      They can also come in end position:
          She broke the vase deliberately
          They mismanaged the project wilfully

      Subject adjuncts are frequently adverbs of manner and can never come between the verb and its object so
          *She broke deliberately the vase
      is not allowable.
    4. Place adjuncts generally come in end position with direction before position.  For example:
          They took the car to the workshop near the station
      It is also the case that the smaller location precedes the larger
          They went to a house in London
      Again, prepositional-phrase place adjuncts cannot separate the verb from its object or complement so neither:
          *They took to the workshop the car
      or
          *They to a house went in London
      is allowable.
    5. Time adjuncts are much more complicated and syntax is a real issue for learners.  For more, see the guide to them, linked in the list at the end.
      Very briefly and incompletely:
      1. Those that refer to specific times and durations usually come in end position;
            He spoke very briefly
            They came yesterday around dinner time
      2. Those that refer to definite frequency also come at the end:
            I buy my groceries monthly
      3. Those that refer to indefinite frequency precede the main verb but follow any auxiliary verbs:
            She has often spoken of you
        However, if a frequency time adjunct is not a single-word adverb, it comes conventionally at the end of the clause as in, for example:
            I speak to her from time to time
      4. Those that relate two times also follow that pattern
            I have already finished the book
        but can (and sometimes must) occur terminally:
            I have done it already
            She hasn't arrived yet
    6. Focus adjuncts by their nature often occur initially:
          Chiefly, the issue is one of time
      but can appear terminally adding end weight:
          The issue is one of money, mostly
      and if they occur in medial position are separated by commas or pauses:
          The problem, centrally, is one of political will
    7. Intensifiers of all types usually occur directly before the item they modify:
          She is certainly not very bright
          They are definitely here
          He put it right at the top of his list
          That is somewhat peripheral to the argument
          That's roughly the same thing
    8. Sequencers, by their nature, usually take initial position:
          Firstly, we need to understand how the thing works
      and are unusual in any other position but can occur elsewhere as in
          We need to understand how the thing works, at the outset
          We need, before doing anything, to know how the thing works
  2. Disjuncts, most frequently, come in the initial position because they refer to the whole of the following text.  This is the same whether they refer to style or attitude:
        From my point of view, this is a bit of a mess
        In theory, this is doable
    Disjuncts of both kinds can be placed elsewhere.
    In medial position:
        This is, from where I am standing, a bit of a disaster
    or in end position:
        This is a bit of a disaster, unfortunately.
    In all positions, the convention is to separate them with commas.
  3. Conjuncts, for similar reasons, usually occur at the beginning of the clause to be connected and refer anaphorically to a preceding idea.  Many conjuncts are virtually confined to this position, including again, also, besides, furthermore, what's more, similarly, likewise and others:
        He is giving some lectures this term.  Well, a connected series, really.
        The train was badly delayed.  As a result, I got to work very late.

    but they can occur in other positions and, in the case of too, anyhow, anyway, to boot and though often come at the end:
        He's a bit grumpy.  It seems so to me, anyway
        John's coming to the party on Saturday.  He's bringing his brother, too.

        That's a slow way to do it.  It's not very effective, to boot
    If, unusually, they are placed in medial position, they are separated by commas:
        He is a respected authority.  He is, besides, the author of six books on the subject.
    The word though when acting as a conjunct, may occur terminally as in, e.g.:
        He knows what he's talking about.  He's a bit too sure of himself, though.

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theme

Theme

Adverbials of most sorts can be placed in the initial position of a clause.  However, doing so often raises them to the status of a theme which is, in Halliday's words,

what the message is concerned with: the point of departure for what the speaker is going to say
Halliday (1994: 38)

In functional linguistic analysis, marking an adverbial in this way makes it the theme of the utterance and all that follows it until another theme appears, is the rheme.

So, for example, stating:
    Mary believes, apparently, there is little point in continuing
is not at all the same at all as saying:
    Apparently, Mary believes there is little point in continuing
because in the first sentence, the theme (the point of departure) is Mary and the rest of the sentence concerns her as the topical theme whereas in the second example, the theme, apparently, is interpersonal and the point of departure is what the speaker believes to be the case.  The topical them of Mary remains in place.

Another example is a comparison between:
    In addition, the work will be expensive
and
    The work will, in addition, be expensive
In the first of these we have a textual theme (the conjunct phrase, In addition) and in the second, a topical theme (the work).
Communicatively, theme and rheme structures are important in terms of marking what message is being transmitted.
There is a guide linked in the list of related guides at the end to theme and rheme structures on this site.

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teaching

Teaching adverbials

Probably the simplest way is to take each category above in turn and plan a lesson around it.  To do that, we need to set the adverbials in a likely context.  You should also be aware that some of the structures here are quite simple and some a little more unusual and difficult to grasp.
The important thing for teachers is to know the various functions of adverbials and not try to present the area as a muddle of time, manner, place and reason adverbials.  Mixing the presentation to include adjuncts, disjuncts and conjuncts in the same text is especially confusing.  In other words, to use a rephrasing conjunct, don't make things harder than they already are.
One way is to start simply and work up to more complexity.  Here are two examples:

story 1 story 2

This kind of thing can be done with a focus on prepositional phrases, clauses or whatever you like.  Almost any simple sentence can be elaborated in this way.  The exercise can be quite tightly controlled by your asking only for certain sorts of adverbial elaboration, of course.

To provide some freer and consolidating practice, adverbials can be the focus of a process writing lesson with the learners progressively elaborating each clause or verb phrase in a text to make it richer and more informative (as well as easier to read).
Some text types will lend themselves to the production of certain adverbials.  For example, texts describing places will require place adverbials, those recounting a story will probably require time and reason adverbials and so on.  Suiting the text type to the target adverbial type is important.

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classroom

Other classroom implications and an idea

  1. All the above can be taught by focusing in two ways, separately or together:
    1. on the sort of grammar: prepositional phrases, noun phrases, clauses, adverbs etc.
    2. on the function: to concede, to reinforce, to show the speaker's feeling, to express when, why, where and how etc.
  2. What is taught will depend on the learners' levels and needs.  For example:
    1. some learners who need conversational or presentational strategies and skills will want to focus on conjuncts as a way of improving fluency and holding or giving up a turn
    2. some might need to focus carefully on clausal ways to show reasons for the purposes of academic writing
    3. some will need disjunct competence to express feelings and intentions and so on
  3. Our learners need not be troubled with terms like disjunct or conjunct but teachers need to be able to analyse the language they introduce and practise so that learners aren't presented with a jumble of different types of adverbials.
  4. Other languages
    To attempt a survey of how adverbial use and form varies across languages would take another website, even if the information were easily obtainable.  Of one thing you may be reasonably sure: it will be different in your learners' first languages.
    Raising your learners' awareness, before tackling any of the types of adverbial, of how their languages differ from English is not wasted time because the identification of differences and similarities often allows learners to focus on what they need to master.  Translation exercises can help considerably if the constituents of sentences are highlighted.  Here's an example:
    In English:
    Unfortunately, John forgot to lock the tools in the shed in the evening. Predictably, they were stolen from the garden that night
    How the speaker feels what he did where when What the speaker thinks what happened where when
    How does this work in your language?  Translate the sentences and then say what each part is doing.
                   
                   
    Learners work together to identify how the chunks of information are ordered and expressed in their first language(s).
    If you have a multi-lingual group, they can then talk to each other to explain the differences (because explaining something to someone else is often a good way to check you have understood it).
    The sentences to analyse can, naturally, be constructed to focus on the kinds of adverbials you feel are the most important for your group to master.
    The object of the exercise is to spot important differences, especially in terms of phrase ordering, phrase positioning and the fronting of adverbials so follow-up discussion and elicitation of patterns of similarity and difference is imperative.
    The theory is that noticing permits focusing and focusing enhances learning.
    It can be an informative, intriguing and entertaining procedure.

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Related guides
essentials of adverbials if you are teaching on or taking an initial training course and the above is too complex, try this
adverbs for more on how this form of adverbial functions
adverbial modifiers for a guide to intensifiers: amplifiers, emphasisers, downtoners and approximators (which are mostly adverbs, in fact)
expressing cause and effect for more on result conjuncts, adverb adjuncts and conjunctions
place adjuncts for consideration of a special class of adjunct
time adjuncts for consideration of a special class of adjunct
disjuncts for a guide to this area alone
conjuncts for a guide to this area alone
circumstances for an alternative functional view of this area
prepositional phrases for more on this form of adverbial modifier
conjunction for more on the distinction between conjunct and conjunction leading on to consider coordination and subordination
theme and rheme for more on how moving the adverbial to the leftmost theme position contributes to markedness


Most of the above is for your reference rather than something which people carry around in their heads.
However, you can take a test to see how much you recall.


References:
Chalker, S, 1984, Current English Grammar, London: Macmillan
Halliday, MAK, 1994, An introduction to functional grammar: 2nd edition, London: Edward Arnold
Quirk, R, Greenbaum, S, Leech, G & Svartvik, J, 1972, A Grammar of Contemporary English, Harlow: Longman