The Types Of Adverbial Clauses And Their General Grammatical Characteristics


Clauses of adverbial positions constitute a vast domain of syntax which falls into many subdivisions each distinguishing its own field of specifications, complications, and difficulties of analysis. The structural peculiarities and idiosyncrasies characterising the numerous particular clause models making up the domain are treated at length in grammatical manuals of various practical purposes; here my concern will be to make theoretical and practical research of some principal issues of their functional semantics and classification. In my work will be mentioned the investigations of adverbial subordinate clauses of such prominent grammatists as Blokh M.Y., Ganshyna М.N., Vasilevskaya N.I., Gordon E.M., Krylova I.P., Rayevska N.M., Kharitonov I.K., Ilyish B.A. and some others. These scientists contributed much into the highlighting of the most significant information about the types of the clauses which will be observed in my research.

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Speaking of the semantics of these clauses, it should be stressed that the most of the scientists mentioned above are sure that as far as the level of generalized clausal meanings is concerned, semantics in question is of absolute syntactic relevance; accordingly, the traditional identification of major adverbial clause models based on “semantic considerations” is linguistically rational, practically helpful, and the many attempts to refute it in the light of the “newly advanced, objective, consistently scientific” criteria have not resulted in creating a comprehensive system capable of competing with the traditional one in its application to textual materials.

On the other hand, the grammatists, such as professor Blokh, mention that it would be a mistake to call in question the usefulness of the data obtained by the latest investigations. Indeed, if their original negative purpose has failed, the very positive contribution of the said research efforts to theoretical linguistics is not to be overlooked: it consists in having studied the actual properties of the complicated clausal system of the sentence, above all the many-sided correlation between structural forms and functional meanings in the making of the systemic status of each clausal entity that admits of a description as a separate unit.

Adverbial clauses refer to a verb, an adjective or an adverb of the principal clause in the function of an adverbial modifier. For example:

As the days went past, Johnathan found himself thinking of the Earth from which he had come. [2,p. 63]

Then, as though this sort of thing happened every day, Johnathan Seagull began his critique of the flight. [2, p.67]

Adverbial clauses are connected with the principal clause by means of conjunctions: when, after, because, if, than, that, before, though, since, while, etc.

The conjunctions introducing adverbial subordinate clauses are numerous and differ from each other in the degree of definiteness of meaning. While some of them have a narrow meaning, so that, seeing the conjunction, we may be certain that the adverbial clause belongs to a certain type (for example, if the conjunction is because, there is no doubt that the adverbial clause is of cause), other conjunctions have so wide a meaning that we cannot determine the type of adverbial clause by having a look at the conjunction alone: thus, the conjunction as may introduce different types of clauses, and so can the conjunction while. With these conjunctions, other words in the sentence prove decisive in determining the type of adverbial clause introduced by the conjunction. [4, p. 356]

In professor Ilyish`s opinion , with reference to adverbial clauses a question arises that is not always easy to answer, namely: whether they modify some part of the main clause or the main clause as a whole. The answer may prove to be different for different types of adverbial clauses and the question will have to be considered for each type separately. The criteria to be applied in settling this question have, however, to be stated in advance. [6, p. 298]

In accordance with their relations to the principal clause, mostly expressed by the conjunction or connective pronoun they are introduced by, adverbial clauses are classified into those of place, time, cause, purpose, condition, concession, manner and comparison.

Some adverbial clauses, according to professors` Gordon and Krylova`s opinion, can be easily grouped under types more or less corresponding to the types of adverbial modifiers in a simple sentence. Others are more specific for the complex sentence and do not fit into “pigeonholes” arranged in accordance with the analysis of the simple sentence. Among those that will easily fit into such “pigeonholes” are clauses denoting place, those denoting time (or temporal clauses), clauses of cause, purpose, and concession, and also those of result. There are also clauses of comparison and of degree. [ 5 , p. 299]

Of the three types of adverbial complements – qualitative, quantitative and circumstantial – adverbial clauses mostly function as the last mentioned, as adverbials of situation or external conditions, as mentioned in the investigations of professor Illyish.

Adverbial clauses are optional, meaning they can be introduced and removed without changing the kernel semantics or grammaticality of the main clause.

Moreover, by modifying the entire main clause, adverbial subordinate clauses form close grammatical relationships not with any one word or phrase in the main clause but with the main clause itself. Subordinate clauses can therefore occupy any number of positions adjacent to phrases within the sentence.


Adverbial Clauses of Cause

An adverbial clause of cause indicates the cause for which the action of the verb is taken. Professor Rayevskaya mentions that introduced by the conjunction because sub-clauses of cause indicate purely causal relations. Examples:

And when she got to the edge she uttered a bewildered little laugh because the drop was hardly there at all anymore. [7, p.52]

Greta always refused to buy French fries because they were so fattening. [8, p.46]

Clauses introduced by as and since have sometimes overlapping relationships of cause and time. The necessary meaning is signaled by the context. For example:

The hard part was deciding which two Beatles to go out with, since all four of them were so far out. [8, p.4]

Causal relations may find their expression in clauses introduced by the conjunction for. Patterns of this kind are on the borderline between co-ordination and subordination. Only in some contexts of their use for-clauses come to be synonymous and go quite parallel with causal clauses included by because. [4, Internet sources] For example:

Husbands and wives were too familiar with each other`s nuances of speech for that not to happen. [3, p.128]

In most cases clause-patterns with for differ essentially from clauses introduced by because, as emphasized in the investigations of professor Rayevskaya. They generally give an additional thought to the completed part of sentence to extend the meaning of the utterance; they often come after a full stop and seem to function as separate sentences having much in common with clauses introduced by the conjunctions. [8, p.267]

Subordinate clauses of cause have their synonymic alternatives:

  1. a) Infinitival nominals:

Obviously, to get the forty-seven dollars, D.O. had pawned the ring. [3, p.86]

  1. b) Gerundive nominals:

The owl dropped its letter onto Harry`s seat and began zooming around their compartment, apparently very pleased with itself for accomplishing its task. [5, p.158]

  1. c) Participial nominals:

The night being cold, we did not go anywhere. [8, p.45]

  1. d) Reduced sub-clauses of cause (verbless predicatives):

Will they like her? They will not – too wild, too secretive. [8, p.76]