Adverbial Complements  

What is an adverbial complement?

Adverbial complements are adverbs or other adverbial elements in a clause that are required to complete the meaning of the verb.
Like adverbial adjuncts, adverbial complements modify the meaning of the verb by providing additional information. However, unlike adjuncts, which can be removed without losing meaning, adverbial complements must be included because removing them would cause the sentence to be incomplete or fundamentally altered in its meaning.
For example:
  • “Please stand still.”
  • “I love living in New York.”
If the adverb still in the first sentence were removed, it would read, “Please stand,” which would be an instruction to stand up, not to stop moving. If the adverbial prepositional phrase in New York were removed from the second sentence, it would read, “I love living”—this would still make logical sense, but the original meaning would be completely lost.

Identifying adverbial complements

Adverbial complements always appear after the verb they complement. If the verb is intransitive, the complement will appear directly after the verb; if the verb is transitive, the complement will appear after the verb’s direct object.
The best way to identify whether an adverbial element is a complement or not is to remove it from the sentence. If the sentence no longer makes sense or has a very different meaning, then the adverbial element is a complement.
Example (with adverbial)
Example (without adverbial)
Does the meaning change?
“The teacher sent Tim home.”
“The teacher sent Tim.”
Yes—the adverbial is a complement.
“She told me the story quickly.”
“She told me the story.”
No—the adverbial is an adjunct.
“Please put the book on the shelf.”
“Please put the book.”
Yes—the adverbial is a complement.
“He wrote a book in his spare time.”
“He wrote a book.”
No—the adverbial is an adjunct.

1. Where does an adverbial complement of an intransitive verb appear in a sentence?

2. Where does an adverbial complement of an transitive verb appear in a sentence?

3. When can an adverbial complement be removed from the sentence?

Get all volumes of The Farlex Grammar Book in paperback or eBook.
Share Tweet