Clauses function as one of three parts of speech: adverb, adjective, or noun. This review is about adverbial clauses (also called “adverb clauses”).
Reminder: A clause is a group of words that contains a finite verb. A finite verb shows tense. For example: sing, walked, was thinking, is living, etc. Finite verbs are also called “complete verbs.”
If the group of words that contains a finite verb conveys a complete thought, the clause is a main or independent clause. For example:
The terrifying dragon reared its head above the warriors.
The curly-headed little girl lived to the age of 86.
If the group of words leaves the listener or reader requiring further information, the clause is a subordinate or dependent clause. For example:
when the train pulled into the station.
The reader is left to wonder what happened when the train pulled into the station. The word when signals a dependent clause.
because the gate was left open.
The reader is left to wonder what happened because the gate was left open. The word because signals a dependent clause.
An adverb clause can do anything an adverb can do:
1. modify a verb
2. modify an adjective
3. modify another adverb
Here are examples of these three uses:
1. He was standing where I left him.
Main clause: He was standing
Adverb clause: where I left him.
The adverb clause modifies the verb “was standing” in the main clause. The subordinate conjunction that introduces the clause is where.
2. He is as happy as he deserves to be.
Main clause: He is (as) happy
Adverb clause: as he deserves to be.
The adverb clause is introduced by the correlative conjunction as…as; it modifies the adjective happy. It functions as an adverb of degree.
3. He speaks French so quickly that I cannot understand him.
Main clause : He speaks French (so) quickly
Adverb clause: that I cannot understand him.
The adverb clause is introduced by the correlative conjunction so…that; it modifies the adverb quickly. It functions as an adverb of degree.
Note: Correlative conjunctions have two parts that sandwich the element being modified. Common correlatives are: both…and; not only…but also; either…or; neither…nor; and as…as.
Words that introduce subordinate clauses and link them to a main clause are called “subordinating conjunctions.” Here are a dozen common subordinating conjunctions that can be used to introduce adverb clauses:
in order that