Explanation – Where To Put Adverb Phrases

Where To Put Adverb Phrases

The Mistake English Learners Make

Adverbial phrases are PHRASES  (groups of words rather than individual words) that say how, where, when, and why verbs happen. “on the top shelf” in the sentence “On the top shelf there’s a box with the key in it” is an adverbial phrase. So is “with courage and determination” in the sentence “He with courage and determination took control of the group and led it to greatness” and “In the morning” in “I wrote her in the morning“.
The mistake that most learners make with these is to put them in the wrong parts of sentences relative to where the sentences’ subjects, verbs, and objects are.

What To Understand To Avoid This Mistake

Three Places Where Adverbial Phrases Can Go

There are three places that you can put adverbial phrases. These are 1) before the subject, 2) between the subject and the verb, and 3) after the object, or after the verb if there is no object.

There are examples of each of these in the three sentences above: “On the top shelf there’s a box with the key in it”; “He with courage and determination took control of the group and led it to greatness”; and “I wrote her in the morning“.

Where Not To Put Adverbial Phrases

The one place where it is practically always wrong and VERY BAD to put adverbial phrases and that is between the verb and the object if there is an object.

For example, “I ate for lunch a sandwich” sounds very very bad and horrible to a “native listeners” because “for lunch” is between the verb and the object and we hate this! You could even say we can’t stand it! Don’t do this. Big fluency killer.

In this case,”for lunch” would be ok in any one of the other three allowed places that you read about before. Not all adverbial phrases will fit in any and all of these places though. It depends.

A Safe Place To Put Your Adverbial Phrases

Adverbial phrases are usually put “at the end”: after the object if there is one or after the verb if there is no object. It is also almost always correct to put them in this place, which makes it a “safe place” and it a good strategy to get into the habit of putting them there just always.

Adverbial Phrases Pep Talk

Try to develop a “gut feeling” for what adverbial phrases are and when you’re using them. You can do this. After that, where you feel an adverbial phrase “coming on” and about find its way into one of your sentences, PUT IT AT THE END – after the object, or after the verb if there is no object. And do this always, unless you feel very confident about whether you can put it in either of the other two OK places (before the subject and between the subject and verb) because it’s easy to get this wrong – there are a lot of times when putting them in these places won’t work. Finally and even more importantly, develop a stylistic psychological loathing and HATRED for putting these between the verb and the object. This really sounds terrible to us. Maybe the worst of everything. Really.