Your students have come beyond the basics and are ready to tackle some more challenging aspects of adverbs in English.
Part two of All about Adverbs: Every Level Review with Exercises will walk you and your students through changing adverb clauses to adverbial phrases and when and why to use (and not use) adverbs in English.
Get Deeper into Adverbial Structures Expertly
High Intermediate/Advanced: Reducing Adverb Clauses to Adverbial Phrases
Once your students are competent using adverb clauses, you will want to teach them how to modify those clauses into adverbial phrases. An adverbial phrase is simply a reduction of an adverb clause in a sentence. Look at the following pairs of sentences as examples. In each pair, the first sentence contains an adverb clause, the second an adverbial phrase.
- While she was studying for the exam, she fell asleep.
- While studying for the exam, she fell asleep.
- Before I played video games, I finished my homework.
- Before playing video games, I finished my homework.
Adverbial phrases can only be used when the subject of the adverb clause and the subject of the independent clause are the same, and the resulting phrase modifies the subject of the main clause. If someone uses an adverbial phrase in a sentence which does not have the same subject as the main clause, such as the following example, it is called a dangling modifier (or participle) and is incorrect.
- While studying last night, the power went out.
Practice: Give students several sentences which include an adverb clause. Have them decide if each adverb clause can be reduced to an adverbial phrase. If they think it can, have them circle the subject of both the adverb clause and the main clause in the sentence.
Then give students several sentences which have adverbial phrases or dangling modifiers. Have students decide which sentences are correct and which are incorrect.
To reduce an adverb clause to an adverbial phrase, take out the subject of the adverb clause as well as the “be” verb. If the phrase does not contain a “be” verb, take out the subject and change the verb to its –ing form.
Practice: Give your students several sentences that contain adverb phrases. (You can use the same sentences as the previous exercise.) Have students work with a partner or on their own to change each adverb clause into an adverbial phrase.
Advanced/Post Advanced: Avoiding Adverbs in Favor of More Descriptive Verbs
Once your students are fluent or near to it, your expectations about their use of adverbs should change. While adverbs do give the listener and reader more information when they are used, they are not the most efficient way to give that information. In fact, using adverbs might actually decrease your students’ vocabularies once they reach this level of language studies. Why, you ask? Because adverbs, while encouraged with lower level students, are an inefficient means of communication. They are “lazy” in a manner of speaking. Speakers can use generic verbs and slap on an adverb to be a little more specific. Vivid verbs, on the other hand, paint a more powerful picture for the receiver of language. They are one-word carriers of emotion and imagery. Students who use vivid verbs have more powerful impact in their use of English. Consider the following two sentences. The boy ate his lunch quickly. The boy devoured his lunch. While the second sentence uses fewer words, it paints a more detailed picture. And using the right verb can make all the difference in a sentence. In the second example sentence, we can picture a boy who is starving, or at least feels like he is. But in the following sentence, which could also be described as him eating quickly, we get a different image, that of a boy who is in a hurry to be somewhere else. The boy inhaled his lunch. Though each of the verbs could be described as eating quickly, each has a different nuance of meaning and therefore communicates more information to the listener.
Practice: One of the best tools for teaching students to use precise language is a thesaurus. By this point in their English studies, students should know what a thesaurus is and should be able to use the reference book easily. To practice using precise language, have students write several sentences using a common adverb with a common verb. Then have students switch papers with a partner and rewrite their classmates’ sentences using precise verbs. They should use the thesaurus for help in finding the best verbs for their sentences. Then, challenge students to rewrite each sentence using a different precise verb but still keeping the same general meaning of the original sentence. Ask volunteers to share their sentences and explain the difference between each of the precise verbs they used for their rewrites.
When it comes to adverbs in English, they run the gamut. Beginning students learn to use adverbs to communicate more thorough information in their sentences. Intermediate and advanced students learn even more complicated patterns of language by using adverb clauses and adverbial phrases. And just when it seems they have accomplished all they need to accomplish in relation to adverbs, they should opt for verbs that are more precise over using adverbs in their speech and writing. With each step along the road, students learn a different use for adverbs that will bring them closer to their goal of fluency in English. No matter where your students are on their English learning journeys, take some time to review adverbs with them and try one or more of the exercises mentioned in this article. In so doing, your students will have a better command of the English language and become more accomplished speakers and writers.
What are your favorite exercises for reviewing adjectives at the English level you teach?
Share with us in the comments below.