Many students fear the TOEFL writing exam because it requires them to have a wide range of abilities in terms of English language use, including a good grasp of grammar. While it is acceptable to have one or two small grammatical errors within the piece of writing, it is important to have as few of these as possible for a high score. As such, mastery of basic grammar is important and all TOEFL candidates would do well to strive for a better grammatical depth and accuracy.
One feature of writing that should not be overlooked is the adverb clause. This is something that can really enhance your writing skills, and so it should be a part of any good piece of writing. Knowing how to use these accurately can help bring your writing up to a higher level.
In this article, I will explain what an adverb clause is and how you can use it for success in your next TOEFL attempt.
What are Adverb Clauses?
To put it as simply as possible, an adverb clause is a group of words that functions as an adverb. An adverb typically modifies a verb, and this is basically what an adverb clause does.
In the English language, there are two kinds of clause – independent and dependent. An adverb clause is a dependent clause because it is adding information to something else, but it cannot really function on its own. Dependent clauses are often known as “subordinate clauses” because they begin with a subordinating conjunction, and that is precisely what an adverb clause begins with. In fact, for this reason they are quite easy to find in a piece of writing.
Let’s look at an example of an adverb clause, taken from a TOEFL writing test:
- People study so that they can have more opportunities in life.
In this sentence, the adverb clause begins with “so that” and modifies the verb “study.” The first clause (“people study”) is quite basic and gives little information, but it is a self-contained idea. The second clause contains much more information but it only makes sense in relation to the clause that it modifies, and therefore it cannot stand alone.
The above example is called an adverb clause of purpose. In other words, the point of the clause is to show the purpose of the verb in the independent clause. There are different kinds of adverb clauses in English, some of which include:
Adverbs of Place
- Whereverpeople and animals live in close contact, there will be conflict.
Adverbs of Cause
- Bilateral agreements are needed because unilateral action cannot work.
Adverbs of Condition
- If they are made to feel afraid, animals can pose a threat to humans.
Adverbs of Time
- When people are made unemployed, they usually need to sign on for unemployment payments.
As you can see, there are various purposes that these clauses can fulfill, and it is useful to learn many of them in your English practice so that you can be equipped to use them confidently in the actual TOEFL test.
Why are Adverb Clauses Important?
In TOEFL, as with other writing tests, it is important to have a variety of sentence structures used with a degree of accuracy. Being able to convey information effectively is important, and adverb clauses allow you to do this.
Adverb clauses typically answer questions about a verb (or adjective) and thus they are very helpful for adding additional layers of meaning to a sentence. Take the following independent clause for an example:
- One of the best ways to do deal with anxiety, when you are suddenly confronted with a stressful and unexpected situation, is to stop and calmly assess the situation.
Here, the adverb clause has been inserted in the middle of the sentence. It is modifying the phrasal verb “deal with” and appears soon after it. The sentence would make perfect sense without this addition, but it is useful in answering the question: “What sort of situation may bring about a sense of anxiety?”
In doing this, it is possible to combine sentences together into one longer, complex sentence for the sake of efficiency. This makes writing more concise, informative, and effective.
Adverb clauses serve many functions in a sentence (including the ideas expressed above) and so they allow a great deal of flexibility from the writer. It is possible to use adverb clauses to insert many ideas into a text that would otherwise be expressed in a clumsy, awkward way. For example:
- People nowadays feel they cannot live without access to their cell phones. People in the 1950s were equally addicted to newspapers.
- Just as people nowadays feel they cannot live without access to their cell phones, people in the 1950s were equally addicted to newspapers.
In this case, we are able to make a comparison by inserting the subordinating conjunction, “just as.” This allows us to bring together two ideas into one sentence, making the relationship between them clearer. This sort of language is a feature of mature, intelligent writing.
Finally, it is important in the English language to be very precise when giving information, as sometimes that information can be very important and a misused word can convey the incorrect idea. As such, adverb clauses allow the transfer of delicate ideas. In the previous section, I mentioned that there are “adverbs of time” which allow the speaker or writer to express information about the time when the verb in the sentence took place. However, adverb clauses are more specific than that. There are multiple kinds of adverbial clauses of time, including simultaneous and sequential.
Simultaneous adverbclauses allow us to indicate that two events are happening at the same time:
- As the weather gets hotter, pollution from air conditioners worsens.
Sequential adverb clauses show the order of actions and are very useful when giving instructions or describing a series of events that occurred:
- Before the advent of the internet, television was the primary means of entertainment.
Adverb Clauses for TOEFL
You can see from the explanations above that adverb clauses are an important but quite challenging part of the English language. They take effort to learn, but becoming adept at using them is a good step in the direction of fluency.
Being able to freely use adverb clauses will allow you as a TOEFL candidate to write a more advanced essay or give a more fluent and developed speaking performance. This key aspect of grammar will help you to impress the examiners by using more diverse language with greater accuracy, compressing more meaning into your sentences. Furthermore, you will be better equipped to deal with the reading exam, which will certainly include many adverb clauses in the dense, academic reading passages that are provided.
In short, knowing how to use and understand adverb clauses will boost your English skills and give you a better chance at TOEFL success.