Adverbial Clauses Ielts

In this lesson we will look in more detail at adverbial clauses.These clauses are a type of complex sentence, so it is essential that you are able to use them in your writing and speaking if you want to achieve a good band score. The examiner will be monitoring your speaking and writing closely to assess how well you know them. In the table below you can see the most common types of adverbs used to make adverbial clauses.You can also see what they are used for and some example sentences.

Types of Adverbial Clause

Time Clauses

In reference to a period of time or another event

He arrived before I did.

After I have finished studying, I intend to work abroad.

As the climate gets hotter, sea levels will rise.

I will keep learning English for as long as it is necessary.

While I am studying, I usually listen to the radio.

Rates of obesity increase when too much junk food is eaten.

Since I started going to fitness, I have lost 5 kilos.

I will keep learning English until I am upper intermediate.

Conditional Clauses

Expressing a hypothesis or condition, real or imagined

If we clone humans, it may have terrible consequences.

What would you buy if you won the lottery?

Our food will not be safe unless GM crops are banned.

Reason Clauses

To explain why

My English is not improving because I am not studying enough.

Since the govenment cut spending, poverty has increased.

Pollution is increasing as there are too many cars.

Purpose Clauses

To show the purpose of doing something

I am studying IELTS in order to attend university abroad.

He went to the gym so that he could lose weight.

Concession Clauses

To show contrast between two statements, or surprise.

Although e-readers are popular, most people still prefer books.

The Minister wants to incease taxes though his party disagrees.

Even though I studied every day, I didn’t get the score I needed (surprising)

Internet usage increased, while phone usage decreased.*

Whereas you have a lot of time to study, I do not.*


To talk about location of position

Wherever he goes, I will go.

I am not sure where I put my pen.

Rules for Adverbial Clauses

Remember that adverbial clauses are made up of two clauses – an independent clause and a dependent clause (look at these lessons on sentence clauses and complex sentences again if you are not sure what clauses are).

1) Switching the Clauses

The first thing to note is that the independent and dependent clauses can be switched around:

After I have finished studyingI intend to work abroad.
(Dependent Clause + Independent Clause)

I intend to work abroad after I have finished studying.
(Independent Clause + Dependent Clause)

In all of the sentences in the table above, the clauses can be switched around.

2) Commas

Note though that if you switch them around and put the dependent clause first, a comma must come at the end of the dependent clause:

After I have finished studyingI intend to work abroad.

I intend to work abroad after I have finished studying.
(No Comma)

This might seem like a minor point but it is quite important in your writing. Complex sentences can sometimes get confusing if commas are missing as it can become unclear where one clause ends and the other begins.

If any of your sentences are confusing, this will definitely reduce your score.

*’While’ and ‘Whereas’ are execptions to this rule because they do have commas even when they appear in the middle of the sentence.

3) Meanings

Even though certain adverbs have been grouped together in the adverbial clauses table, this does not mean that they are all synomyms for each other.

Some you can interchange with each other without changing the meaning. For instance, ‘since’, ‘as’ and ‘because’ all have the same meaning and you can choose which one you want to use. But some you cannot.

For example, look at these conditional adverbs:

I will go if you go.

I will go unless you go.

The word ‘unless’ does not work in the second sentence. It has to be changed:

I won’t go unless you go.

Now it has the same meaning.

Similarly, ‘although’, ‘even though’, and ‘though’ are all synonyms of each other and can be interchanged, but ‘while’ and ‘whereas’ canot always be swapped with them.

So you need to practice each individual word and check how it is used.

A Common Mistake

A common mistake with adverbial clauses (and other complex sentences) is to write fragments.

A fragment is an incomplete sentence:

My English is not improving. Because I am not studying enough.

A dependent clause (the second one in this case) cannot be a sentence on its own. By placing a full-stop after “improving”, this has turned the second clause into a sentence fragment.

A dependent clause must have an independent clause attached to it:

My English is not improving because I am not studying enough.

When you check your work, you should check your complex sentences and check that you have not written any fragments.

Examples in Context

Look at this sample essay. The adverbial clauses are coloured, with the independent clauses in green (and italics) and the dependent clauses in red (and underlined). The adverbs are shaded in yellow.

Some people believe the aim of university education is to help graduates get better jobs. Others believe there are much wider benefits of university education for both individuals and society.

Discuss both views and give your opinion