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Concourse 2

Adverbials: adjuncts, disjuncts and conjuncts


If you feel you know enough about adverbials you can skip to the bit on adjuncts, disjuncts and conjuncts.


Defining adverbials

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, 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 before you return to this page.


Types of non-adverb adverbials

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.  Here's an overview of the most common types of adverbials which are not adverbs (the adverbials are in bold, italic type).

summary of non-adverb adverbials 

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

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.
Also on this site, there is a guide to prepositional phrases which is relevant to this area.
These guides are also linked at the end.

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

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.

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.
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
    He obviously didn't seem happy
where we have a disjunct expressing the speaker's attitude to the proposition that he didn't seem happy.
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:

adjuncts conjuncts disjuncts
Based on Quirk et al p421 (as is much of what follows)

This all seems rather technical – does it really matter?
Yes, quite a lot.  A good deal of functional language such as expressing a viewpoint or connecting ideas logically depends for its success on realisation through adverbials.


Adjuncts are integral to the clause

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

in expressions such as
, the man was inept
, 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).
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 modified by non-finite verb forms in, for example:
    Seen organisationally, ...
    Considered socially, ...

but this is quite rare.
these adjuncts refer to how something is done.
    She spoke impressively
They walked hand in hand
    They got here by bus
He got in without paying
    Cut it with a saw
Delivered by hand
Usually, these adjuncts come at the end of clauses.
In some languages, these kinds of processes may demand alternative case structures.
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.
these adjuncts refer to the subject of the verb and are nearly always adverbs or prepositional phrases.
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
    it was intentional
Commonly, these will appear directly before or after the main verb phrase but can be fronted for emphasis.  For example:
    He intentionally insulted her
    He left her alone deliberately
    Stupidly, I forgot my keys
Depending on the meaning of the adjuncts, modification is possible so we can have:
    Very stupidly, I forgot to ask
    It was wholly intentional

    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.
as you might imagine, these refer to where things happen.  There are two sorts and they are usually prepositional (although clauses can be used):
    She stayed in a bed and breakfast place
She slept where she had always slept
    They climbed over the hill
They went where no one had gone before
Again, these usually come at the end of a clause.
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.
again, no prizes for guessing that these refer to time but there are some different sorts:
    She left
yesterday / after the meeting
    He stayed
for a week, for hours on end, briefly
    She goes
often, every fourth Saturday
    They are already in the house
    They are not yet in the house
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.
these are mostly adverbs.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
these come in different sorts but are nearly all adverbs with a few prepositional phrases:
definitely, certainly
etc.  For example:
    That's definitely the wrong way to talk to her
completely, very much, absolutely, entirely, deeply, heartily
etc.  For example:
    I heartily agree
partly, hardly, quite, nearly, somewhat
etc.  For example:
    He is somewhat rude to most people, I'm afraid
approximately, roughly, more or less, in the region of etc.  For example:
    I can more or less see the point
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.
these often come at the beginning of a clause and include, e.g.:
originally, first, thirdly, in the first place, then, subsequently
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:
    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, above) to the second by anaphoric reference.
Another example of an adjunct sequencer appears in:
    He comes from London originally
Sequencer adjuncts are not modified so:
    *Very thirdly we took the dog for a walk
    *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.

Disjuncts disjunct
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, if you want an honest opinion).
There are two main sorts:

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 mistake, that's incorrect
    If you ask me, that's just what we need
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 speaker thinks something is clear to see and of course implies that he / she thinks 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
Non-finite verbs forms:
    Playing devil's advocate, I'd say that's the problem with her idea
Prepositional phrases:
    On the face of it, we need to spend more money

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, ...

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, ...


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 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.

Conjuncts conjunct
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
    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.
  2. Conjuncts exist outside the clauses which they connect but relate the second idea anaphorically (back) to the first.  There is no sense of coordination or subordination but there is 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.
    She took the car without permission but, consequently, broke the law
where the word but is a conjunction and the word consequently is a conjunct.

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


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:

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
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
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.
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.
to 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
to 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.
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 re-phrased 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 conjuncts for simplicity's sake.


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 re-phrased 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 re-phrased 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
    The work was done on time although it was more expensive than I expected
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.

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



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
    *Here your money is
    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

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 mid 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 mid-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
          *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 mid 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:
        From my point of view, this is a bit of a mess
        In theory, this is doable
    Disjuncts can be placed elsewhere.
    In mid 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 mid 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.


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 is interpersonal and the point of departure is what the speaker believes to be the case.

Another example is a comparison between:
    In addition, the work will be expensive
    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.


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:

adverbial story 1 adverbial 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.


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 groups 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.

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
adverb modifiers for a guide to intensifiers: amplifiers, emphasisers, downtoners and approximators
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
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.

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