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Hello guys. I'm very glad to be here.

Please would someone here try to answer a query I have. This is the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of an 'adverbial':

a word or phrase functioning as a major clause constituent and typically expressing a place ('in the garden'), time ('in May'), or manner ('in a stange way').

Now, please note that I have put 'word or phrase' in bold. I did so because a 'sentence adverb' can also be both a word or phrase according to numerous grammar books I have looked over, eg 'actually' or 'on the contrary'.

My problem is in distinguishing the difference between an adverb (or a sentence adverb) and an adverbial. I know what and adverb is and I have a fair idea of what an sentence adverb is, however, I have no idea of what an adverbial is. For instance, I understand that an adverb phrase can be a group of words acting as an adverb, however, an adverbial can be but one word, in which case, doesn't it then become simply an adverb or possibly an sentence adverb?

Please would someone be so kind as to clear this up for me. Many Thanks.

Jussive
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The definition you quote seems to be using the terminology of transformational grammar, because it uses the term "constituent". This is in contrast to the terminology of so-called "traditional grammar" in many cases.

1. In transformational grammar, an adverb like certainly is an S-adverb, and an adverb like completely is a VP-adverb (sentence adverb, verb phrase adverb, respectively).
Radford uses the example The team can rely on my support. (Transformational Grammar, A First Course)

The S-adverb certainly "can only be attached to an S-node", so can only go in place of the asterisks below:

[S * The team * can * [VP rely on my support VP] * S]

The VP-adverb completely "can only be attached to a VP-node", so can only go as shown below:

[S The team can [VP * rely * [PP on my support ] * VP ] S ]

2. In transformational grammar, a word can be analyzed as a phrase and often is. In Dogs bark, dogs is a noun and, on the next higher level of analysis, it is a noun phrase (NP); bark is a verb and, on the next level, it is a verb phrase (VP). An adverb may likewise also be an adverb phrase.

Each author seems to have a particular way of approaching the definitions of all these terms, so you may find inconsistencies from one author to another. I find it helpful not to require a strict interpretation of terms like adverb, adverb phrase, adverbial, adverbial phrase, ..., except within the confines of one particular work where I would expect the author to explain in detail what he means by these terms if it is necessary to understanding some point he wishes to make.

That said, if I'm not mistaken, it seems to me that the definition of adverbial you are quoting is exactly the same as a sentence adverb. The two are identical according to my reading of the definition you provide.

CJ
Thanks for your response, CJ.

I don't know anything about transformational grammar and, I think, by going on your brief explanation, I can see why you would think that the Oxford Dictionary's definition of an adverbial would be the same as a sentence adverb. For instance, using the Oxford Dictionary's example 'in May', we can position these two words like an 'S-adverb': 'In May, we tried to...', 'We tried, in May, to...', etc.

However, from my understanding, there is still a difference between an adverbial and a sentence adverb. It's not just a matter of positioning. A sentence adverb, by it's very name, qualifies a sentence rather than modifies a particular word or group of words within a sentence:

'In May, we tried to get everything done.' ('In May' modifies 'tried'.)

'Certainly, we tried to get everything done.' ('Certainly' qualifies the whole sentence.)

So, CJ, considering the above, I can't agree with you that the Oxford Dictionary's definition of an adverbial is exactly the same as a sentence adverb.

I would accept that an adverbial was simply another term for an 'adverb phrase' if the Oxford Dictionary hadn't stated that an adverbial can be either one or more words. The reason is because, if an adverbial can be but one word then what would distinguish that word from simply being an adverb. Can you see why I have trouble with the definition of these terms?

Thanks again for your response.

Btw, I like your signature. Are you a fan of Nietzsche?
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It seems I forgot to sign in before posting the above. I've never known a forum where you don't have to sign in before posting. It seems as though you can here.
Adverbial refers to a function which adverb (a word class) can have in a sentence. Sentence adverb and adverbial are two different names for the same functional constituent.
AnonymousAdverbial refers to a function which adverb (a word class) can have in a sentence. Sentence adverb and adverbial are two different names for the same functional constituent.

Sorry, I don't understand your definition. Would you please elaborate.

Btw, I'm referring too an adverbial as a noun rather than an adjective.

If you are saying that a sentence adverb and an adverbial are the same then what of my examples of one qualifying the the whole sentence and the other modifying a particular word or group of words within a sentence, respectively.

Could it be that you are saying that an adverb, a sentence adverb and an adverb phrase are all adverbials?
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Can you see why I have trouble with the definition of these terms?
Yes! It is a troublesome topic!
And yes, I'm more or less a minor fan of Nietzsche, especially the aphorisms. I certainly haven't read all his works, and I probably will never get around to it, but many of his ideas are certainly intriguing.
Emotion: headbang the difference between adverbials and adverbs is terribly hard 2 find out! However, I am doing a grammar assignment and my friend has a pretty accurate definition if you would like me to request it from her
I don't get it at all this adverbial and adverb difference. I'm about to do the DELTA module one and I had better get comfortable with being able to spot the adverbial as oppossed to the adverb. Is it as simple as this: An adverbial is (no I simply can't put my finger on how to define it). Any clear simple explanation would be hugely appreciated.
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