Are you teaching advanced grammar?
Are you looking for a challenge for your students? Once your students have learned how to use adverb clauses in their writing and speech, move them on to this next step: reduction of adverb clauses to adverbial phrases. It’s easy if you follow this six step teaching process.
Help Your Advanced Students Sound More Natural Using Adverb Clauses
Review Adverb Clauses
Before you can teach your students how to reduce adverb clauses, they will need to be comfortable with using the clauses in a sentence. Adverb clauses are dependent clauses which answer the questions how, why, or when. They must contain a subject and a verb as well as a subordinating conjunction. The following sentences contain adverb clauses.
- Although it was early, we decided to go home.
- He is going to ask her out even though she already has a boyfriend.
- If it rains on Saturday, the party will be cancelled.
Note the punctuation patterns in these sentences; if the adverb clause come first in the sentence, it is followed by a comma. If it comes after the main clause, no comma is used.
Check to See If the Clause Can Be Reduced
Not all adverb clauses can be reduced to adverbial phrases. Point out to your students that the subject of the adverb clause and the subject of the sentence must be the same in order to reduce the adverb clause. If the subjects are not the same, the adverb clause cannot be reduced.
- While Sarah was studying, she fell asleep. (can be reduced)
- While Sara was talking, I fell asleep. (cannot be reduced)
Reducing Clauses with a “Be” Verb
If the adverb clause contains a “be” verb (am, is, are, was, were, been, being), students must follow two steps to reduce it to an adverbial phrase. First, students should omit the subject of the adverb clause. Then they should admit the be verb. They can then rewrite the adverb clause as an adverbial phrase.
- While she was studying, Sarah fell asleep.
- While studying, Sarah fell asleep.
- Although he was late, he was admitted to the movie.
- Although late, he was admitted to the movie.
Reducing Clauses Which Do Not Contain a “Be” Verb
Now that your students know how to do a simple reduction of an adverb clause, one that contains a “be” verb, it’s time to move on to more complicated reductions. If an adverb clause which can be reduced does not contain a be verb, students must follow these two steps. First, omit the subject of the adverb clause. Second, change the verb in the adverb clause to the –ing form of that verb. Then rewrite the adverb clause as an adverbial phrase.
- After he finished the book, Jack put it back on his shelf.
- After finishing the book, Jack put it back on his shelf.
- Before she goes to the train station, Maria will check the train schedule.
- Before going to the train station, Maria will check the train schedule.
Expressing Simultaneous Actions in Adverbial Phrases
Once your students are comfortable with reducing adverb clauses to adverbial phrases, it’s time to explain some of the more irregular reductions. The first of these irregular constructions is reducing an adverb clause that begins with “while”. When an adverb clause begins with “while”, it expresses the idea that the two actions in the sentence happened simultaneously. Adverb clauses beginning with “while” can be reduced following the regular pattern. However, when the clause comes at the beginning of a sentence, the subordinating conjunction “while” can also be omitted in the adverbial phrase and the verb appears in its –ing form. Starting a sentence with an adverbial phrase which begins with an –ing verb communicates the idea of simultaneous actions even without the use of “while”.
- While they were riding their bikes, the students saw a circus coming into town.
- While riding their bikes, the students saw a circus coming into town.
- Riding their bikes, the students saw a circus coming into town.
- The students saw a circus coming into town while riding their bikes.
- Wrong: The students saw a circus coming into town riding their bikes.
Cause and Effect Relationships in Adverbial Phrases
Sometimes an adverbial phrase at the beginning of a sentence which also starts with the –ing form of a verb communicates a cause and effect relationship between the adverbial phrase and the main clause of the sentence. These phrases originate from an adverb clause beginning with because.
- Because she forgot her phone, she didn’t get the message until it was too late.
- Forgetting her phone, she didn’t get the message until it was too late.
When an adverbial phrase begins with “having” plus a past participle, it communicates the idea of because in addition to the idea of before.
- Because she had eaten escargot on her trip to France, she knew she wouldn’t want any at the party.
- Having eaten escargot on her trip to France, she knew she wouldn’t want any at the party.
- Because he went to the police, he was afraid the mob would come after him.
- Having gone to the police, he was afraid the mob would come after him.
It is possible to leave a “be” verb in an adverbial phrase at the beginning of a sentence. The use of “being” at the beginning of a sentence and adverbial phrase stresses the cause and effect relationship between the adverbial phrase and the main clause. The following three sentences all have the same meaning.
- Because they were unable to find the theater, they missed their friend’s play.
- Being unable to find the theater, they missed their friend’s play.
- Unable to find the theater, they missed they friend’s play.
Reduction of adverb clauses to adverbial phrases isn’t grammar for the faint of heart. But if you take it step by step, you can be sure your students will be able to use and understand the grammar that it takes.
Do you have any pointers for teaching the reduction of adverb clauses to adverbial phrases?
Please share your experiences in the comments section below.
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