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Quirk et al. (1985) distinguish four broad categories of syntactic functions for
adverbials: adjuncts, subjuncts, disjuncts, and conjuncts.
Although adverbial clauses function mainly as adjuncts and disjuncts, we may
also find examples of the other two types.
Conjuncts are peripheral to the clause to which they are attached. Only a few
adverbial clauses function as conjuncts and these ones are stereotyped or virtually
One finite clause type, the nominal relative clause, functions as a reinforcing
conjunct: what is more / what is most worrying / What interests me more…
A number of to-infinitive clauses function as listing or summative conjuncts: to
begin {with), to conclude, to continue, to recap <informal>, to recapitulate, to start (with), to
summarize, to sum up. These allow a direct object or prepositional complement, e.g.: to
summarize the argument so far; to begin our discussion. Two to-infinitive clauses require a
prepositional complement: to return to my earlier discussion and to turn to the next point.
All these to-infinitive clauses have corresponding -ing clauses, but most of them
require complementation of the verb. Only a few can be used without complementation:
continuing, recapitulating, recapping (informal), summarizing, summing up.
Subjuncts are generally not realized by clauses, the exception being viewpoint subjuncts.
Both finite and nonfinite (participle) clauses function as viewpoint subjuncts (e.g.
looking at it objectively, viewed objectively.
The -ing clause as viewpoint subjunct implies as subject the I of the speaker, whereas
the subject of the -ed clause is implicitly the matrix clause itself.
Adjuncts and disjuncts tend to differ semantically in that:
 adjuncts denote circumstances of the situation in the matrix clause, whereas
disjuncts comment on the style or form of what is said in the matrix clause (style
disjuncts) or on its content (content or attitudinal disjuncts).
 the primary difference is that they differ syntactically in that disjuncts are
peripheral to the clause to which they are attached.
The syntactic difference does not manifest itself in differences in form or position: finite
clauses that function as adjuncts and disjuncts may share the same subordinator, and in
both functions the clauses may be positioned initially or finally.
I have been relaxing since the children went away on vacation. [temporal since in
adjunct clause]
He took his coat, since it was raining [reason since in content disjunct clause]
He looked after my dog while I was on vacation. [temporal while in adjunct clause]
My brother lives in Manchester, while my sister lives in Glasgow [concessive while in
content disjunct clause]
The syntactic differences between the two types of clauses mainly involve focusing
 Only the adjunct clause can be the focus of a cleft sentence:
It's because they are always helpful that he likes them.
 Only the adjunct clause can be the focus of a variant of the pseudo-cleft sentence:
The reason he likes them is because they are always helpful.
 Only the adjunct clause can be the focus of a question:
Does he like them because they are always helpful or because they
never complain?
 Only the adjunct clause can be the focus of negation, as we can test with
alternative negation:
He didn't like them because they are always, helpful but because they
never complain.
 Only the adjunct clause can be focused by focusing subjuncts such as only,
just, simply, and mainly:
He likes them only because they are always helpful.
He likes them, only since they are always helpful.
 Only the adjunct clause can be the response to a wh-question formed from the
matrix clause:
Why does he like them? Because they are always helpful.
Here are some further examples of content disjunct clauses:
He brought me a cup of coffee although I had asked for tea.
William has poor eyesight, whereas Sharon has poor hearing.
You can return to a normal diet now that you have lost enough weight.
In final position, content disjunct clauses tend to be separated from their matrix clauses
by intonation or punctuation.
In initial position, all adverbial clauses, regardless of form or function, are separated by
intonation and by punctuation from their matrix clause.
For adjunct clauses, a major distinction can be made between PREDICATION ADJUNCTS and
 Predication adjunct clauses are normally positioned finally and they resemble
direct objects and subject complements in providing complementation to the verb.
 Sentence adjunct clauses are more mobile than predication adjunct clauses: they
may appear initially as well as finally, and occasionally even medially.
Predication adjunct clauses may provide complementation for the verb BE OR for other
verbs in the SVA type:
Your coat is where you left it. Dinner will be when everybody has arrived.
The traffic jam was because there was an accident. (informal)
Jane looks as if she doesn't know me.
Sentence adjunct clauses are not dependent on the predication and are therefore
more mobile.
Before I could sit down, she offered me a cup of tea. When he saw us, he smiled.
To emphasize her point, she invited me to visit her village.
Some linguists have attempted to apply the distinction between restrictive and
nonrestrictive modification in noun phrases to adverbials, thereby distinguishing
restrictive/nonrestrictive distinction overlaps with some of the distinctions made
 restrictive adverbials limit the situation in the matrix clause to the
circumstances described by the adverbial.
Obligatory adjunct clauses must be restrictive, since they are required to
complete the description of the situation in the matrix clause.
Raven didn't leave the party early because Carol was there. ['Raven left
the party early, not because Carol was there, but for some other
 The nonrestrictive adverbial makes a separate assertion, supplying additional
information. It is marked by intonation separation whether it follows or
precedes its matrix clause.
Raven didn't leave the party early, because Carol was there.
didn't leave the party early, and the reason he didn't was that Carol
was there.']
Because Carol was there, Raven didn't leave the party early.
Nonfinite and verbless adverbial clauses that have an overt subject but are not
introduced by a subordinator are ABSOLUTE clauses, so termed because they are not
explicitly bound to the matrix clause syntactically. Absolute clauses may be -ing, -ed,
or verbless clauses:
No further discussion arising, the meeting was brought to a close.
Lunch finished, the guests retired to the lounge.
Apart from a few stereotyped phrases (eg: present company excepted,
weather permitting, God willing), absolute clauses are formal and infrequent.
When a subject is not present in a nonfinite or verbless clause, the normal
“attachment rule” for identifying the subject is that it is assumed to be identical in
reference to the subject of the superordinate clause:
The oranges, when (they are) ripe, are picked and sorted mechanically.
The attachment rule is commonly given for participle clauses, but it applies
equally to infinitive and verbless clauses:
ED- Participle clause: Persuaded by our optimism, he gladly contributed money
to the cause. ['Since he was persuaded .. .']
ING- Clause: Driving home after work, I saw my friend in the bus station.
['While I was driving home after work . . .']
Verbless clause: Confident of the justice of their cause, they did not give up
fighting for it. ['Since they were confident. . .']
To-Infinitive clause: To prevent contamination, we had to take various
precautions. ['So that we could prevent...']
The attachment rule does not apply, or at least is relaxed, in certain cases. The
result is the category of UNATTACHED clauses.
Putting it mildly, you have caused us some inconvenience.
When dining in the restaurant, a jacket and tie are required. ['When one
dines ...']
While in a hospital near the school, her teachers visited her regularly.
To see the procession, I put the child on my shoulders.
Being the eldest, the responsibility fell particularly on my shoulders.
DeCapua, Andreea (2008): Grammar for Teachers. A Guide to American English for
Native and Non-native Speakers, New York: Springer
Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S, Leech, G, Svartvik, J. (1985): A Comprehensive Grammar of
the English Language, London, New York: Longman
The semantic roles of adverbial clauses may be related to those for adverbials in
general and for prepositional phrases in particular.
The semantic analysis of adverbial clauses is complicated by the fact that many
subordinators introduce clauses with different or combined meanings.
For each semantic set, we first discuss finite clauses and then turn to nonfinite and
verbless clauses introduced by a subordinator or (in some instances) a preposition.
We then consider separately nonfinite and verbless adverbial clauses that do not
begin with a subordinator or preposition.
Finite adverbial clauses of time are introduced by such subordinators as
after, as, once, since, until, when, while:
Buy your ticket as soon as you reach the station.
My family, once they saw the mood J was in, left me completely alone.
Drop by whenever you get the chance.
We came in just as it started to rain.
Wait until you're called.
The -ing clauses are introduced by once, till, until, when, whenever, while, and <esp
BrE> whilst.
The -ed and verbless clauses are introduced by as soon as, once, till, until, when,
whenever, while, and <esp BrE> whilst:
Once having made a promise, you should keep it.
The dog stayed at the entrance until told to come in.
Complete your work as soon as possible.
To-infinitive clauses without a subordinator or a subject may have temporal function,
expressing the outcome of the situation:
I rushed to the door, only to discover that it was locked and barred.
An adverbial clause of time relates the time of the situation in its clause to
the time of the situation in the matrix clause.
The time of the matrix clause may be previous to that of the adverbial clause
(e.g. until), simultaneous with it (e.g. while), or subsequent to it (e.g. after).
The time relationship may also convey duration (e.g. as long as), recurrence
(e.g. whenever), and relative proximity (e.g. just after).
The subordinators may then be paraphrased by such prepositional phrases as 'in
cases when' or 'in circumstances where":
When(ever) there's smoke, there's fire.
Adverbial clauses of place are introduced mainly by where (specific) or wherever
(nonspecific). The clause may indicate
 position: Where the fire had been, we saw nothing but blackened ruins.
 direction: They went wherever they could find work.
Several temporal subordinators may have primarily a place meaning in descriptions
of scenes, when the scenes are described dynamically in terms of movement from
one place to another:
Take the right fork when the road splits into two.
The river continues winding until it reaches a large lake.
The building becomes narrower as it rises higher.
The road stops just after it goes under a bridge.
Once the mountains rise above the snow line, vegetation is sparse.
There is considerable overlap in adverbial clauses that express condition,
concession, and contrast.
The overlap between the three roles is highlighted by the overlapping use of
subordinators: for example, introduces all three types of clauses and whereas both
contrast and concessive clauses. Furthermore, even if expresses both the contingent
dependence of one situation upon another and the unexpected nature of this
Even if they offered to pay, I wouldn't accept any money from them.
All three types of clauses tend to assume initial position in the superordinate clause.
8.4.1. In general, conditional clauses convey a DIRECT CONDITION in that the
situation in the matrix clause is directly contingent on the situation in the
conditional clause.
If you put the baby down, she'll scream. [the truth of the prediction 'she'll
scream' depends on the fulfilment of the condition]
The most common subordinators for conditional clauses are if and unless, which
are also used with nonfinite and verbless clauses. Other conditional subordinators
are restricted to finite clauses: given (that) (formal), on condition (that), provided
(that), providing (that), supposing (that).
Unless the strike has been called off, there will be no trains tomorrow.
He doesn't mind inconveniencing others just so he's comfortable. (informal)
In case you want me, I'll be in my office till lunchtime.
Unless otherwise instructed, you should leave by the back exit.
Marion wants me to type the letter if possible.
If not, I can discuss the matter with you now.
8.4.2. Some conditional clauses express an INDIRECT CONDITION, in that the condition is not
related to the situation in the matrix clause.
His style is florid, if that's the right word.
If you're going my way, I need a lift.
She's far too considerate, if I may say so.
Nonfinite and verbless clauses with with or without as subordinator may express a
conditional relationship:
Without me to supplement your income, you wouldn't be able to manage.
With them on our side, we are secure.
8.4.3. Open and hypothetical condition
A direct condition may be either
 an OPEN CONDITION IS NEUTRAL; it leaves unresolved the question of the fulfilment
or nonfulfilment of the condition, and hence also the truth of the proposition
expressed by the matrix clause:
If Colin is in London, he is undoubtedly staying at the Hilton.
 a HYPOTHETICAL CONDITION is neutral; it leaves unresolved the question of the
fulfilment or nonfulfilment of the condition, and hence also the truth of the
proposition expressed by the matrix clause:
If Colin is in London, he is undoubtedly staying at the Hilton.
A hypothetical condition, on the other hand, conveys the speaker's belief that
the condition will not be fulfilled (for future conditions), is not fulfilled (for
present conditions), or was not fulfilled (for past conditions) and hence the
probable or certain falsity of the proposition expressed by the matrix clause:
If he changed his options, he'd be a more likeable person.
They would be here with us if they had the time.
If you had listened to me, you wouldn't have made so many mistakes.
Conditional clauses are like questions in that they are generally either neutral in their
expectations of an answer or biased towards a negative response, and they therefore
tend to admit nonassertive items:
If you ever touch me again, I'll scream.
8.4.4. Rhetorical conditional clauses
Rhetorical conditional clauses give the appearance of expressing an open
condition, but (like rhetorical questions) they actually make a strong assertion.
There are two types:
 If the proposition in the matrix clause is patently absurd, the
proposition in the conditional clause is shown to be false:
If they're Irish, I'm the Pope. ['Since I'm obviously not the Pope, they're
certainly not Irish.']
 If the proposition in the conditional clause (which contains measure
expressions) is patently true, the proposition in the matrix clause is shown
to be true.
The package weighed ten pounds if it weighed an ounce. [The package
certainly weighed ten pounds.']
8.4.5. Concessive clauses
Concessive clauses are introduced chiefly by although or its more informal
variant though. Other subordinators include while, whereas (formal), and
even if:
Although he had just joined, he was treated exactly like all the others.
No goals were scored, though it was an exciting game.
Except for whereas, these subordinators may introduce -ing, -ed, and verbless
clauses, eg: Though well over eighty, she can walk faster than I can.
Concessive clauses indicate that the situation in the matrix clause is contrary to
what one might expect in view of the situation in the concessive clause. It is often
possible to view each situation as unexpected in the light of the other and therefore
to choose which should be made subordinate:
It was an exciting game, although no goals were scored.
8.4.6. Alternative conditional-concessive clauses
The correlative sequence whether … or (whether) combines the conditional meaning
of if with the disjunctive meaning of either ... or.
He's getting married, whether or not he finds a fob.
Whether right or wrong, your son needs all the support you can give him.
The concessive meaning comes from the implication that it is unexpected for the
same situation to apply under two contrasting conditions.
8.4.7. Universal conditional-concessive clauses
It indicates a free choice from any number of conditions. It is introduced by the whwords that combine with -ever:
Whatever I say to them, I can't keep them quiet.
8.4.8. Clauses of contrast
Clauses of contrast are introduced by several of the subordinators that introduce
concessive clauses: whereas, while, and (esp. BrE) whilst. The contrastive meaning
may be emphasized by correlative antithetic conjuncts such as in contrast and by
contrast when the contrastive clause is initial:
Mr. Larson teaches physics, while Mr. Corby teaches chemistry.
I ignore them, whereas my husband is always worried about what they think
of us.
Clauses of exception are introduced by but that (formal), except
(informal), except that, only (informal), and less frequently excepting
(that), save (rare and formal), and save that (formal):
I would pay you now, except that I don't have any money on me.
Nothing would satisfy the child hut that I place her on my lap. (formal)
I would've asked you, only my mother told me not to. (informal)
The subordinator but without that is used in infinitive clauses, where it is more
common than but that in finite clauses:
Nothing would satisfy the child but for me to place her on my lap.
Reason clauses convey a direct relationship with the matrix clause. The relationship
may be that of:
 cause and effect (the perception of an inherent objective connection),
He's thin because he hasn't eaten enough.
 reason and consequence (the speaker's inference of a connection),
She watered the flowers because they were dry.
 motivation and result (the intention of an animate being that has a
subsequent result) You'll help me because you're my friend.
 circumstance and consequence (a combination of reason with a condition that
is assumed to be filled or about to be filled):
Since the weather has improved, the game will be held as planned.
Reason clauses are most commonly introduced by the subordinators because and
since. Other subordinators include as, for (somewhat formal), and (with
circumstantial clauses) seeing (that):
I lent him the money because he needed it.
As Jane was the eldest, she looked after the others.
Since we live near the sea, we often go sailing.
Reason clauses may express an INDIRECT REASON. The reason is not related to the
situation in the matrix clause but is a motivation for the implicit speech act of the
As you're in charge, where are the files on the new project?
Since you seem to know them, why don't you introduce mc to them?
Purpose clauses are usually infinitival, and may be introduced by in order
to (formal) and so as to:
Students should take notes so as to make revision easier.
They left the door open (in order) for me to hear the baby.
Finite clauses of purpose are introduced by so that or less commonly and more
informally) by so, and (more formally) by in order that:
The school closes earlier so (that) the children can get home before dark.
Negative purpose is expressed in the infinitive clauses by so as not to and in order not
to, and in finite clauses by in order that...not: for fear (that), in case (BrE>, or lest
(archaic and very formal) convey an implied negative purpose:
Turn the volume down so as not to wake the baby.
They left early for fear (that) they would meet him.
They evacuated the building in case the wall collapsed. (BrE)
Result clauses are introduced by the subordinators so that and so:
We paid him immediately, so (than he left contented.
I took no notice of him, so (that/ he flew into a rage.
The same subordinators are used for purpose clauses but, because they are putative
rather than factual, purpose clauses require a modal auxiliary.
We paid him immediately, so (that) he would leave contented.
For both similarity clauses and comparison clauses, there is a semantic blend with
manner if the verb is dynamic.
Clauses of similarity are introduced by as and <esp informal AmE> like. These
subordinators are commonly premodified by just and exactly:
Please do (exactly) as I said.
Clauses of comparison are introduced by as if, as though, and <esp informal AmE>
like: She looks as if she's getting better.
The subordinators as, as if, and as though can introduce nonfinite and verbless
Fill in the application form as instructed.
She winked at me as if to say that I shouldn't say anything.
Proportional clauses express a proportionality or equivalence of tendency or degree
between two situations. They may be introduced by as (with or without correlative
so) (formal), or by the fronted correlative the … the followed by comparative forms:
As he grew disheartened, (so) his work deteriorated.
The more she thought about it, the less she liked it.
Clauses of preference are usually nonfinite. They may be introduced by
the subordinators rather than and sooner than, with the bare infinitive as
the verb of the clause:
Rather than go there by air, I'd take the slowest train.
They'll fight to the finish sooner than surrender.
The same subordinators may introduce finite clauses:
Rather than (that) she should miss her train, I'll get the car over.
Comment clauses are either content disjuncts that express the speakers' comments
on the content of the matrix clause, or style disjuncts that convey the speakers' views
on the way they are speaking).
Comment clauses, many of which are characteristic of spoken English, are generally
marked prosodically by increased speed and lowered volume and may occur initially,
finally, or medially.
We distinguish the following types:
 like the matrix clause of a main clause:
There were no other applicants, I believe, for that job.
 like an adverbial finite clause (introduced by as):
I'm working the night shift, as you know.
 like a nominal relative clause:
What was more upsetting, we lost all our luggage.
 to-infinitive clause as style disjunct:
I'm not sure what to do, to be honest.
 -ing clause as style disjunct:
I doubt, speaking as a layman, whether television is the right medium for
that story.
 -ed clause as style disjunct:
Stated bluntly, he had no chance of winning.
In each category, there are idiomatic or clichéd expressions: you see, as I say, what's
more to the point, to be fair, generally speaking, put bluntly.
TYPE 1 COMMENT CLAUSES generally contain a transitive verb or adjective. We can
therefore see a correspondence between sentences containing such clauses and
sentences containing indirect statements:
There were no other applicants, / believe, for that job.
I believe that there were no other applicants for that job.
Comment clauses resemble main clauses in that they contain at least a subject and a
verb and are not introduced by a subordinator. However, they are not independent
clauses, since the verb or adjective lacks its normally obligatory complementation. Many
type (1) clauses are stereotyped, eg: I believe, you know.
Type (1) comment clauses that are stereotyped may have various semantic
a) They express the speaker's tentativeness over the truth
value of the matrix clause: I believe, I guess, I think, I expect, I feel, I hear, I
presume, I assume, I understand, I suppose, I consider, I suspect, Tm told, I have read,
I have heard, I have heard tell, I can see, I may assume, I daresay, I venture to say,
one hears, they tell me, they allege, they say, it is said, it is reported, it is claimed, it is
rumoured, it has been claimed, it seems, it appears
b) They express the speaker's certainty: I know, I claim, I see, I remember, I agree, I
admit, I'm sure, I'm convinced; I have no doubt; it's true, it transpires; there's no
doubt; I must say, I must admit, I must tell you, I have to say
c) They express the speaker's emotional attitude towards the content of
the matrix clause. Some are followed by a to-infinitive verb of speaking: I'm glad to
say, I'm happy to say, I'm pleased to say, I'm delighted to say, I'm happy to tell you; I
hope, I wish, I fear, I regret, I'm afraid; I regret to say, I'm sorry to say; it pains me to
tell you, it grieves me to say.
Interjections such as God knows and Heaven knows, which express the speaker's
lack of comprehension, perhaps belong here because they also imply an emotive
d) They are used to claim the hearer's attention. Some also call for the hearer's
agreement. At the same time, they express the speaker's informality and warmth
toward the hearer. The subject is usually you or the implied you of the
imperative. Here are some examples: you know, you see, you realize; you can
see, you may know, you may have heard, you must admit; mind you, mark you; it
may interest you to know.
Negative questions generally call for the hearer's agreement, e.g.: wouldn't you say
?, don't you think?, don't you agree?, can't you see?, don't you know? They are
attached to declarative sentences:
It's ethically wrong, wouldn't you say!
The reporting clauses for direct speech are related to the semantic roles (a) and (b) of
type (1) comment clauses:
'It's time we went,' I said.
Tag questions are related to the semantic role of type (1) comment clauses, and may
also be considered comment clauses: They're in a great hurry, aren't they. They may
alternatively be analysed as related to the matrix clause by parataxis rather than by
TYPE 2 COMMENT CLAUSES, which are next in importance, are introduced by as which
one of two syntactic functions in these clauses:
 relative
In its relative function, as introduces a type of sentential relative clause that may
precede or be inserted in its antecedent.
She is extremely popular among students, as is common knowledge.
Other examples of clauses with relative as: as everybody knows, as you may
remember, as you say, as I can see, as I have said, as I'm told, as you may have heard.
 subordinator
Examples of clauses with subordinator as: as it appears, as it happens, as it
transpired, as it may interest you to know, as I see it, as I interpret it.
The two types of construction often merge, providing a choice whether or not to insert
it: as (it) seems likely, as (it) often happens, as (it) was pointed out, as (it) was said earlier,
as I remember (it), as I understand (it).
The clausal pro-form so may be used in parenthetical clauses that correspond
to type (1) in their meaning, although they resemble type (2) in their form: so he says,
so I understand, so it seems, so I believe.
TYPE 3 COMMENT CLAUSES are nominal relative clauses introduced by what and are
always initial: what's more serious, what's most significant of all, what's very strange,
what annoys me
What's more surprising, he didn't inform his parents.
It corresponds to a sentential relative clause, except that a sentential relative clause
must be final:
He didn't inform his parents, which is more surprising.
TYPES 4, 5, and 6 of the comment clauses are style disjuncts. They are nonfinite
clauses, differentiated by form. We give some examples of stereotyped clauses for
each type.
 Examples of type 4 comment clauses, which have a to-infinitive: to be honest, to
be fair, to be frank, to be precise, to be truthful, to be serious for a moment, to
speak candidly, to put it briefly.
 Examples of type 5 comment clauses, which have an -ing clause: broadly speaking,
loosely speaking, roughly speaking, figuratively speaking, speaking frankly, speaking
generally, speaking personally, putting it mildly, putting it crudely.
 Examples of type 6 comment clauses, which have an -ed clause: put in another
way, rephrased, worded plainly, stated quite simply.
Closely related to comment clauses of type (2) (as you know) and type (3) (what's more
surprising) are SENTENTIAL RELATIVE CLAUSES. Unlike adnominal relative clauses, which have a
noun phrase as antecedent, the sentential relative clause refers back to the predicate or
predication of a clause, or to a whole clause or sentence, or even to a series of
They say he plays truant, which he doesn't.
He walks for an hour each morning, which would bore me.
Relative clauses are used to affirm (if positive) or deny (if negative) an assertion or
thought ascribed to others.
Things then improved, which surprises me.
Colin married my sister and I married his brother, which makes
Colin and me double in-laws.
Sentential relative clauses parallel nonrestrictive postmodifying clauses in noun phrases in
that they are separated by intonation or punctuation from their antecedent.
They are commonly introduced by the relative word which used as a pronoun or as a
relative determiner of general abstract nouns such as fact, case, event, or situation, or more
specific verbal nouns such as failure or claim.
Look at the excerpts, circle the subordinator and label each type of adverbial clause.
 Things were so simple at the start, before grammar came along and ruined
 As you read this, criminals ... are destroying portions of mankind’s past... As you
continue to read, other people across the globe are purchasing some of
mankind’s oldest and most exquisite creations...
 He sets up a bank account and feeds money in, transferring funds until he has
what he needs. Then he can go on merrily cheating ’til someone’s onto him.
 In the United States ... people seem to assume that time is a given ... that it is
the same wherever one goes in the world.
 Publishers are not responsible for things getting lost in the mail, and although
postal insurance may cover photocopying, it will not cover retyping...
 While some of the admiration expressed was undoubtedly for stoicism in the
face of personal tragedy, most seem to have their places through their satellite
position vis-a-vis a “worthy” man whose fame puts them in the limelight.
 ... the little man was much more favourable to me than to any of the others,
and he closed the door so that he might have a private word with me.
 She was never happy at home, Miss Alice wasn’t, from the time that her father
married again... As well as I could learn, Miss Alice had rights of her own by will,
but she was so quiet and patient, she was, that she never said a word about
them, but just left everything in Mr. Rucastle’s hands... He wanted her to sign a
paper so that whether she married or not, he could use her money.
 Reading and writing grow out of the students’ own experiences and interests...
As they attempt to express their thoughts to another person in writing, the
students are pushed to attempt structures they have not yet mastered...
Although they are not composing autonomous text, they are developing
abilities essential for writing...
Look at the excerpt below. Find the compound clauses (CC) and the adverbial clauses
(AC). Explain what type of adverbial clause each one is.
 Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages, but
he jumped up and ran after Peter, waving a rake and calling out, “Stop thief!”
Peter was most dreadfully frightened; he rushed all over the garden, for he
had forgotten the way back to the gate. He lost one of his shoes among the
cabbages, and the other shoe amongst the potatoes. After losing them, he ran
on four legs and went faster, so that I think he might have gotten away
altogether if he had not unfortunately run into a gooseberry net, and got
All tasks are adapted from DeCapua, 2008.
caught by the large buttons on his jacket.
Look at the following excerpts, underline the conditional clauses and decide which
type of conditional clause each one is. Describe the time referred to in each
conditional clause.
 Had Bianca an adult eye, she might have guessed from its mismatched roofs
and inconsistent architectural details that many owners had lived here before
her family arrived...
 If I wanted to get the kind of Level II quotes and market executions I was used
to, I’d have to spend more money than I was currently willing to part with. I
opted instead to use a reliable discount broker.
Underline the different conditional clauses and explain which type of conditional
clause each one is.
It would be great to be president of the United States! If I were president, that
means after a big campaign with speeches and posters and TV ads, the people
would have chosen me as their leader. Years of planning and hard work would
have prepared me for that day. If I were president, I’d promise to “preserve,
protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” because that would be
my job... If I were president, I could go bowling or visit a movie theater without
every leaving my house. I’d have my own chef and could eat whatever I wanted. . .
If I were president, each year I’d give a speech to Congress. . . All over the country,
people would be watching and listening. . . Congress would present bills. . . If I
didn’t like an idea, I’d say no. . . But if I agreed, I’d sign the bill and make it a law. . .
If I were president, I’d comfort families that had been in an earthquake, hurricane,
or flood. Then I’d help them rebuild their towns. . . If I were president, the people
could only elect me twice. . . Then I’d have to find a new job and a new house. . . If
I were president, they might someday make a statue of me. . . Or someday my
face might show up on the country’s money.
Biber Douglas; Johansson, S.; Leech, George, Conrad, S. (2002): Longman Student
Grammar of Written and Spoken English Workbook, London: Longman
(Pearson Education Ltd)
DeCapua, Andreea (2008): Grammar for Teachers. A Guide to American English for
Native and Non-native Speakers, New York: Springer
Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S, Leech, G, Svartvik, J. (1985): A Comprehensive Grammar of
the English Language, London, New York: Longman
Descriptive syntax categories
A complex sentence contains a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses. By
analogy with the Romanian syntactic system, Bantas (1977) and Cmeciu (2007)
distinguished the following types of subordinate clauses:
a. Direct Object Clause (a clause which functions as a direct object)
b. Prepositional Object Clause a clause functioning as a prepositional
c. Subject Clause (when the subject of a main clause is expressed by a
clausal element, we speak of a subject clause)
d. Predicative Clause (the predicative/complement is expressed by finite
or non-finite a clause)
e. Relative Clause (a clause functioning fulfilling the function of a
f. Adverbial Clauses of Time/ Place/ Manner/ Comparison/ Reason/
g. Adverbial Clauses of Condition/Purpose/Result/Concession
a. Direct Object Clauses
There are several grammar rules to be followed related to the sequence of tenses in
direct object clauses.
1. There is no tense limitation in the direct object clause when the main verb
is in the Present Tense or Present Perfect Tense:
I know Paul has sent the book.
Susan knows that you led a rifle platoon during the Second World War.
We all know that the Prime Minister will appoint a civilian as defence
2. When the main verb is in the Future Tense the speaker can use all tenses in
direct object clauses apart from the future tenses:
Trevor will let them know that they are safe.
3. When the main verb is in the past the verb in the direct object clause ought
to be in the past too.
Subordinate clause action versus main clause action
Tense in main clause
Tense in subordinate
Past Tense/Past Perfect
Past Perfect
Past Tense/Past Perfect
Past Tense
Past Tense/Past Perfect
He told me he had spent his early life in Sri Lanka before moving to England.
Peter thought he was right.
Walter said himself he would be satisfied with whatever he could get.
This rule does not apply for statements which are still valid in the moment of
speaking ‘now’; they have the verb in the present tense although it is also
correct to change the verb into the past or with verbs such as know, realise,
believe, think, hope, regret etc.
He explained that the population of London is around 9 millions.
I realised he is a South- American.
4. The subjunctive is used in direct object clauses after verbs like ask,
demand, require, order, urge, suggest, propose, arrange, recommend. The
subjunctive can be used alternatively.
Mr. Hill suggested that their candidate should be supported/be supported by
the Socialist too.
5. The use of the tenses in direct object clauses after the main verb ‘wish’
- wish + past tense (=past subjunctive) when the regret is related to the
present reality
I wish(ed) John were/was here with us on this wonderful trip.
- wish + past perfect (=past perfect subjunctive) when the regret is related to
the past reality.
They wish(ed) she had joined their company two years ago.
- wish + would + bare infinitive to express a future action the speaker wants to
happen but which has less chances to fulfill.
Catherine wishes he would become a reliable person. (but she doesn’t think
he will).
The above pattern is also used in polite requests:
I wish you would be quiet.
- wish + present tense/future tense when ‘wish’ means ‘hope’.
Helen wishes he will finish his work soon. (=Susan hopes he will finish his work
- the subjunctive (past or past perfect) is also used indirect object clauses after
would sooner/rather when the person who expresses the preference is not
the subject of the action to follow.
I would rather he talked less.
I’d sooner Boris had improved his knowledge of English.
Note that the pattern wish + that-clause is translated in Romanian by the
pattern ‘conditional + subjunctive’.
I wish he worked harder.
I wished he had worked harder.
and the same for the pattern subject1 + would rather/sooner + subject2 +
subjunctive (past or past perfect).
I’d rather he went to Spain.
I’d rather he had visited the Prado Museum in Madrid.
b. Prepositional Object Clause
The rules of the sequence of tenses applies in the prepositional direct object clause,
The two parties agreed upon it that it had been an unfortunate
misunderstanding. (anteriority)
The two parties agreed that Mr. Brown was right. (simultaneity)
The two parties agreed that the competition would apologise. (posteriority)
When the main verb is formed by one of the idiomatic expressions be sorry, be
surprised, be astonished, be amazed, be disappointed in a present tense the verb in
the prepositional object clause will be formed by the following patterns:
 present tense/should + bare infinitive to express simultaneous
Rupert is surprised that they spend/ should spend their holidays in the
little village.
 present perfect/past tense or should + perfect infinitive
express an anterior action.
Mr. Hill is glad that our German partner has accepted/should have
accepted the goods.
When the main verb is in the past the speaker has to apply the corresponding
sequence of tenses
 Simultaneity: past tense or should + infinitive
Our boss was disappointed we were/should be so late.
 Anteriority: past perfect or should + perfect infinitive
Daniel was sorry his father had sold/should have sold his car.
c. Subject Clause
The speaker can use the indicative or the subjunctive mood. The indicative mood
shows the subject clause action is seen as being fulfilled while the subjunctive
indicates an assumption.
It is strange that Tim arrived at the office so early.
It is strange that Tim should arrive at the office so early.
There is no tense limitation in the subject clause when the main verb is in the
present tense.
It is unlikely that Ralph has signed/will sign the contract.
When the main verb is in the past the verb in the subject clause ought to be in the
past too.
It was a surprise that they had delivered the goods on time (anteriority)
It was a surprise that Ann behaved like that (simultaneity)
It was a surprise that the Prime Minister would deliver a speech. (posteriority)
After idiomatic expressions like it is strange/ alarming/surprising/ annoying
gratifying/splendid (the main verb is in the Present Tense) the subject clause verb
will be used in the following patterns.
a. Simultaneity: present tense or should + infinitive
It is strange that they buy/should have bought such expensive goods.
b. Anteriority: present perfect/past tense or should + perfect infinitive
It is gratifying that he waited/should have waited until the plane landed.
When the main verb is in the Past Tense the following patterns ought to be used.
a. Simultaneity: past tense or should + infinitive
It was surprising that they worked/should work until midnight.
Anteriority: past perfect or should + perfect infinitive
It was splendid that they had cooked/should have cooked dinner before our
Note that the indicative mood relates to a fulfilled action while the subjunctive
relates to an assumption.
 The analytical subjunctive pattern should + bare infinitive is used after
idiomatic expressions like it is/was advisable, desirable, essential,
imperative, important, inevitable , necessary, right, vital.
It is/was necessary that he should earn more money.
 The analytical subjunctive pattern may/might + bare infinitive is used
after idiomatic expressions like it is possible, it is probable (see also
‘The Subjunctive’ and ‘Modals and Semi-Modals’)
It is possible that Jane may arrive tonight.
d. Predicative Clause
There is no tense limitation in the predicative clause when the main verb is in the
Present Tense.
The important fact is that he was sent abroad.
that Mr. Pitt has talked about it.
that the contract will be soon concluded.
When the main verb is in the past the verb in the predicative clause ought to be in
the past too.
The problem was that they had talked to him before.
that we were very busy.
that Sean would leave the next day.
e. Relative Clause
There is no tense limitation in the relative clause.
I showed John the dress I’ll wear at our next party.
My new watch, which I bought a month ago, is very good.
f. Adverbial Clause of Time
When I have some days off, I go to the seaside.
While you are cooking dinner, I’ll write a letter to Sean.
After the show is over, we’ll have supper at the Lido.
Tom will join us as soon as he has finished his work.
When they left for University this morning, it was terribly cold.
They left the company as soon as they had finished their negotiations..)
I would try to contact Mr. Blake before he left the town.
g. Adverbial Clause of Place
There is no tense limitation in the adverbial clause of place.
Would you please put those two dictionaries back where they belong.
Wherever they went, they met nice people.
h. Adverbial Clause of Manner
There is no tense limitation in the adverbial clause of manner.
Audrey will do just as you told her.
i. Adverbial Clause of Comparison
There is no tense limitation in the adverbial clause of comparison.
He was as busy as you had thought. /a man could be.
The harder he works, the better results he will get. (pattern: future
tense in the main clause + present tense in the adverbial clause of
The more frequently they travelled abroad the more they enjoyed it.
(pattern: past tense in the main clause + past tense in the adverbial clause of
The subjunctive can also be used in the adverbial clause of comparison
He behaves /behaved as if he were the company chairman. (but he
They talk/talked as if they had known him. (but they haven’t/hadn’t)
j. Adverbial Clause of Reason
There is no tense limitation in the adverbial clause of reason.
I stayed in bed longer this morning because I hadn’t been able to sleep all
night./ because today is Sunday.
k. Adverbial Clause of Result
There is no tense limitation in the adverbial clause of result.
He did his job so well that they promised him a pay rise /
that they’ll never forget him.
l. Adverbial Clause of Concession
Both present and past tenses in the indicative mood can be used.
Though he has never studied marketing
Although he is very young, he is a successful businessman.
Even though he did not study marketing
Whoever may/might phone, put him through.
I. Complete the following sentences, using a clause:
1. Almost as soon as I entered the company ….
2. … that they might come across our letter.
3. The old woman who confronted me in the street …
4. She was nicer than …
5. He said that many years ago …
6. They spoke English much better than …
7. We arranged to hire a coach that …
8. … , the more I liked him.
9. He declared that …
10. They announced that …
II. Select the correct word or expression in brackets in each of the following
sentences. Give the reason for your choice:
1. I learnt recently that Jupiter (is, was) the largest of the planets.
2. If I (had had, have had) more time, I would have done a better job of
cleaning the house.
3. After Einstein (had become, became) famous, his works were published
by many magazines.
4. It is a long time since I (read, have read, had read) a novel as absorbing
as this one.
5. Mr. Black asked me yesterday where I (have gone, went, had gone) the
day before.
6. She (has not bought, did not buy) her dress when she was in town last
7. He remained silent as soon as he (had heard, heard) that.
8. He walked so far that he (tired, had tired) himself.
9. His illnes showed him that all men (were, are) mortal.
10. I was glad to hear that her brother (was, is) industrious.
III. Supply the most logical form of the verb in the following:
I just (go) to bed after a very hard day when the phone rang. It (be) an
eccentric farmer. I never (meet) him before, although I often (hear) people
talk about him. He (seem) quite hysterical and he (talk) for a minute or so
before I (understand) anything. Even then all I (can) (make out) (be) that
someone called Milly (have) a very bad accident. I (have not) the slightest
idea who she (be) but I obviously (have) to go.
It (snow) heavily that day and I (not know) the way. I (drive) for at least
an hour when I finally (find) his place. He (stand) there, waiting for me. It
(seem) Milly already (die). “She (mean) more to me than anyone… even my
own wife!” he said. I (can) (see) that he (cry). I (assume) a terrible tragedy
(take place) with overtones of a possible scandal. I must (admit) I (be) even
more shocked when he (tell) me he (put) her in the barn. “I (will not)
(leave) her out in the cold!” he said.
Milly clearly (be) a secret sweetheart of his. I (be) about to tell him he
(cannot) (expect) me to cover anything up when he (open) the barn door
and (point) his torch at a motionless shape on the straw.
“She (be) such a good cow! I (will not) (let) anyone but a doctor touch
her!” he said, and (burst) into tears again.
IV. Translate into English:
1. Te voi suna când voi porni de acasă spre tine, ca să nu risc să fii plecat.
2. Ştiam că ai să vii la mine, dar m-am întrebat de ce ai făcut un secret din
3. I s-a spus în repetate rânduri că cinstea e cea mai bună dintre politici,
dar nu a vrut să creadă, şi am aflat că acum a păţit-o.
4. De îndată ce a văzut-o, a rămas tăcut, gândindu-se că este mult mai
frumoasă decât şi-o închipuise vreodată.
5. A venit să mă vadă, dar nu eram acasă, nefiind anunţat din timp, iar la
întoarcerea mea tocmai plecase să se întâlnească cu un alt prieten de al lui,
cu toate că i-ar fi plăcut să se sfătuiască cu mine, deoarece are mai multă
încredere în mine, decât în el.
6. Ori de câte ori treceam prin faţa şcolii mă întrebam ce or mai fi făcând
foştii mei profesori şi unde sunt oare colegii mei.
7. Ori de câte ori te întâlnesc, simt nevoia să-ţi spun cât de mult aş dori să
fim prieteni.
8. Îl admir mai puţin decât l-am admirat pe bunicul său care a fost un om
9. N-a fost un secret pentru nimeni că reuşita lui se datorează, în mare
parte, sârguinţei cu care a învăţat în tot timpul care a trecut de la sosirea
lui la facultate.
10. Am sosit aici doar de trei zile, dar mă simt de parcă aş fi venit de mult.