Adverbial clause

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As adverbial clause (also Circumstantial , ratio set ) is a subordinate clause refers to the role of for its immediate parent sentence adverbial plays. An adverbial sentence can often be proven by the fact that it can be replaced by a simple adverb .

  • When evening came the chimpanzees left. Cf .: Because the chimps broke up.
  • Beates letter came back because the address was incomplete . See: Beates letter came back because of this .

An adverbial clause is often introduced by a special subordinate conjunction (like the above examples as, because) , but adverbial relative clauses are also possible, which are then so-called free relative clauses . More rarely, adverbial clauses also take the form of an “uninitiated subordinate clause” (ie a subordinate clause with a preceding verb).

According to its name, an adverbial clause is an adverbial definition in the form of a (sub) clause . Since an adverbial determination is a clause , it would by definition result that an adverbial clause would have to be a clause, i.e. a subordinate clause that is part of its associated main clause. In practice, however, this strict sense of the designation is deviated from in some cases, and some sentence types are also traditionally counted among the adverbial clauses that are syntactically not part of a sentence, and insofar as they would not be adverbials (this applies especially to consecutive clauses ). This problem occurs because subordinate clauses can differ in how they are attached to the main clause. In particular, there is also the type of advanced subordinate clause , i.e. a subordinate clause that only follows the main clause in a relatively loose connection; this phenomenon has no counterpart in other types of adverbials. In Duden grammar, a narrower version of the term is used, which restricts the term adverbial clause to clauses. In addition, a broader category of ratio clauses is defined there, which summarizes adverbial clauses (in this narrow sense) and related subordinate clauses. In other grammars, however , the term ratio clause is used as synonymous with adverbial clause .

Meaning types

Just like adverbial terms in general, adverbial clauses are traditionally classified mainly according to types of meaning. The following overview (in alphabetical order) is used to quickly determine the main types, for more detailed explanations see the main article.

Adversative clause (comparison)

  • Question: Instead of what? In contrast to what?
  • Information about: contrast
  • Conjunctions: while, where (against) instead of (that), meanwhile
  • Examples:
    • Instead of doing her housework , she plays soccer in the garden.
    • Instead of investing the money sensibly , John Doe buys a car.

Final movement (intention, purpose)

  • Question: What for? With what intent? Why?
  • Information about: goal, purpose
  • Conjunctions: so that, to that (obsolete), in order to (with infinitive)
  • Examples:
    • The chimpanzee hid so he could eat in peace.
    • You are to honor your father and mother, so that you live long and that things go well for you on earth .

Causal clause (justification clause)

  • Question: why? How so? Why? For what reason or occasion?
  • Information about: reason, reason for something
  • Conjunctions: because, there, especially
  • Example:
    • It got really cold because the heating had to be turned off .

Conditional sentence (conditional sentence)

  • Question: Under what condition? Under which circumstances? (no simple question word available)
  • Information on: condition
  • Conjunctions: if, if, provided
  • Examples:
    • If it rains , we'll postpone the trip.
    • If it snows , I wear a fur jacket.
    • If we don't find the broken pipe soon, we'll have to freeze.

Consecutive Clause (Subsequent Clause)

  • Question: With what consequence? (No simple question word available)
  • Information about: episode
  • Conjunctions: so; so that; as that
  • Example:
    • The installer came at 9 a.m. the next morning, so we could hope .

Concession rate (grant rate, opposing principle)

  • Question: Despite whose / whom / what? (no simple question word available)
  • Information about: restriction, insufficient counter reason
  • Conjunctions: although, although, although, although, if, if, anyway
  • Examples:
    • Even though my leg hurts , I go to exercise.
    • Art historians have repeatedly confirmed its outstanding importance, even if his work is hardly known.

Local rate (local information)

  • Question: where? Where? Where from?
  • Information about: places
  • Marking mainly through relative adverbs
  • Example:
    • He lives where the fox and the rabbit say goodnight .

Modal set (manner)

  • Question: How? In which way?
  • Information about: manner, accompanying circumstances
  • Conjunctions: by; without; [(...) as a result of that
  • The modal clauses also include information about an instrument and usually also the comparative clause (comparative clause).
  • Example:
    • You get stronger by doing weight training .
    • By winning , they moved up in the table.
    • She wanted to appease him by making him his favorite food .

Temporal clause (time)

  • Question: when? Since when? How long? By when?
  • Information about: time
  • Conjunctions: during, as, after, since, before, until, as often, as long, since, before ...
    • After I went fishing there were no fish.
    • When the rain was over , the chimpanzees set out.
    • Since the chimpanzees left , more and more gorillas have come.

Forms of adverbial sentences

Conjunctional and relative clauses

There are many specialized conjunctions for the different types of meanings in adverbial sentences , as shown in the list of examples above. This is to be distinguished from the cases in which an adverbial clause has the form of a relative clause , i.e. is introduced by a relative adverb . Relative adverbs usually resemble question adverbs and can be referred to as "W-words" in German: how, where, why ... etc. In contrast to conjunctions, they are themselves parts of sentences, for example adverbials of place or manner. Adverbial clauses that are relative clauses are constructed as free relative clauses , but have the same form as as attributive relative clauses.

Examples of adverbial relative clauses
  • (Local phrase :) We meet where we stood last time = We meet there .
Compare the set of attributes: the place where we stood last time
  • (Modal sentence :) You prepare the red cabbage as it should be. = You prepare it like this .
See the attribute phrase: the way they prepare it .

Local and modal clauses are the most common types that can be expressed as free relative clauses. It is debatable whether some temporal clauses should also be understood as constructions of relative clauses. The words if and as are indeed conjunctions, but the temporal clauses formed with them show some similarities with relative clauses on closer analysis.

In Dudengrammatik (2009), relative clauses are always listed separately and excluded from the category of adverbial clauses as well as from the other category of relative clauses. This distinction is not made in other important German grammars; The IDS grammar lists form and function independently of one another and expressly allows sentences with W adverbs as adverbial clauses.

Unopened adverbial clause

Conditional clauses can be marked instead of by the conjunction, albeit by placing the verb in front ("V1 position"). They usually come before the main clause.

Examples of uninitiated conditional clauses
  • If the heating is not tight , the installer will come again.
    • Changed: If / If the heating is not tight, the installer will come again.

Conditional clauses are the most common case of adverbial clauses with verb priming (see the main article for some more cases).

Constructions without a finite verb

Some types of adverbial clauses can also be constructions (satzwertigem) to- be infinitive expressed, especially finales with order to ... and Modalsätze with no ... to :

  • He put the chocolate in the cupboard to give to the children later. (Final movement)
  • They ran into the street without paying attention to the traffic . (Modal rate)

Here's to a conjunction of infinitive; the status of without is debatable (as a conjunction or preposition).

Sentence-valued participle and adjective constructions can traditionally also be referred to as adverbial clauses, but syntactically they should be classified more as predicatives :

  • Already quite red from the sun , he finally pulled on a shirt.

Position in the sentence

Integrated subordinate clauses (constituent clauses)

Typical adverbial clauses (such as temporal clauses, causal clauses, modal clauses) as well as adverbials of other forms can occur as a component of the main clause (more precisely: the matrix clause ). They are then, in the terms of the field model , in the forefront, midfield or afterfield. (The middle field in (b) below is an option that is usually not available for subject or object clauses.)

  • (a) the run-up position in front of the finite verb
After the broken pipe was eliminated , the heating could be switched on again.
  • (b) Midfield position :
The heating could be switched on again after the broken pipe had been eliminated .
  • (c) Follow-up position
The heating could be switched on again after the broken pipe was repaired.

Subordinate clauses not integrated

Some types of subordinate clauses, which are traditionally included under adverbial clauses, can only follow at the end of the main clause , but cannot appear in the middle of the sentence and not in advance. In these cases there are usually no question words or other substitutions. These are obviously non-integrated subordinate clauses or further subordinate clauses . An example of this are consecutive clauses with such that :

  • They repaired the broken pipe so the heater can be turned on again.
  • NOT: * You have repaired the broken pipe so that the heating can be turned on again.

In conditional clauses with verb-initial position, it is also typical that they are outside of the main clause and a correlate to be resumed in advance of the main clause; these are also less integrated than other adverbial clauses:

  • Once the broken pipe has been eliminated (see above), the heating can be switched on again.


  • Duden - The grammar. 8th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2009.

Web links

Wiktionary: Adverbial clause  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Expressly as canoonet : "The adverbial sentence". Indirect: Dudengrammatik 2009, p. 1029; grammis 2.0 / IDS grammar: "Basic semantic types of subordinate clauses"
  2. Duden - The grammar. 8th edition. 2009, p. 1029.
  3. Die Dudengrammatik (2009), p. 1038 speaks of conjunctional clauses in this case, but signals uncertainty. For the thesis of a broad agreement with relative clauses see z. B. Liliane Haegeman: The internal syntax of adverbial clauses. In: Lingua 120, Vol. 3 (2010), pp. 628-648 (and literature cited therein). Note that the introduction by a conjunction and the status as a relative clause do not contradict each other; see relative clause # subtype: relative clause with conjunction .
  4. Dudengrammatik (2009), p. 1047: “The term ratio clauses are used to summarize adverbial subordinate clauses and some related subordinate clauses that are only loosely integrated into the sentence structure. The relative clauses discussed above are excluded from this "
  5. grammis 2.0: "Semantic basic types of subordinate clauses"
  6. Dudengrammatik (2009), p. 1049