How to Identify & Use Adjectival & Adverbial Phrases

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  • 0:04 Adjective and Adverb Review
  • 1:02 Prepositional Phrases
  • 1:58 Adjectival Phrases
  • 3:46 Adverbial Phrases
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Adjectives and adverbs are just the first step to describing other words. More often our descriptions come in the form of phrases. This lesson discusses identifying and using adjectival and adverbial phrases.

Adjectives and Adverbs

We use adjectival and adverbial phrases constantly. Each one helps us to be more clear and specific in verbal and written communication. Before we dive into these phrases and how to use them correctly, we need to first review adjectives and adverbs.

An adjective is a word that modifies or describes a noun. An adverb is a word that modifies or describes a verb, adjective or another adverb. Try to find the adjective and adverb in this sentence:

  • The Avengers quickly defeated the evil Loki.

In this example, Loki, a proper noun, is being described by the adjective 'evil'. In addition, the verb 'defeated' is described as 'quickly', which is an adverb.

Don't forget that adverbs can also describe adjectives or other adverbs. Phrases like 'very evil' and 'very much' are examples of an adverb describing something other than a verb. The first 'very' is describing the adjective 'evil' and the second is describing the adverb 'much'.

Prepositional Phrases

Now that we have reviewed adjectives and adverbs, we can look at adjectival and adverbial phrases. Both are often classified as prepositional phrases. Remember, a preposition is a word that shows a relationship between a noun or pronoun and some other word in the sentence. Examples include 'on', 'in', 'over', and 'through'. A prepositional phrase, then, is a phrase that begins with a preposition, has an object, or a noun, and any modifiers of that object. Modifiers include the articles 'a', 'an' and 'the', or any adjective that describes the noun. Look at this sentence:

  • Thor smashed Loki with his hammer.

In this sentence, the phrase 'with his hammer' is a prepositional phrase. The preposition is 'with', the object is 'hammer' and 'his' is a modifier of that object. There are two kinds of prepositional phrases: adjectival and adverbial. Let's look at adjectival phrases first.

Adjectival Phrases

An adjectival phrase is a prepositional phrase that modifies a noun. This sentence contains an adjectival phrase:

  • Thor and Loki are residents of the planet Asgard.

The phrase 'of the planet Asgard' is a prepositional phrase, with the preposition 'of' and 'the planet' as modifying words for the object 'Asgard'. In addition, this whole phrase is adjectival because it is describing the noun 'residents'. This adjectival phrase explains what type of residents to which the sentence refers.

It's important to note that sometimes an adjectival phrase does not need to begin with a preposition. Sometimes we use adjectival phrases with only a qualifier attached to an adjective. Remember, a qualifier is a word that attributes a certain quality to another word. This means that some adjectival phrases are not prepositional phrases. Let's look at this example:

  • Asgard is an extremely beautiful planet.

In this sentence, 'extremely beautiful' is an adjectival phrase modifying the noun 'planet'. There is no preposition. Instead, 'extremely' is the qualifier attributing the quality of extreme to the adjective 'beautiful'.

When using adjectival phrases, the phrase needs to be right next to the noun it is modifying. Note how 'extremely beautiful' comes right before the noun 'planet'. This phrase cannot be moved to another spot in the sentence.

The same is true with the previous example. 'Of the planet Asgard' must come right after the noun 'residents'. It also cannot be moved to another spot. Be sure to have your adjectival phrases come either right before or right after the noun that they modify. If it is a phrase with a preposition, it must come after the noun. If it has a qualifier, it must come before the noun.

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