Adverbial complement in English

This lesson will help you understand what an adverbial complement is and what it does in a sentence.

What is an adverbial complement?

An adverbial complement is an adverb or an adverbial that completes the meaning of a verb. It helps the sentence renders the meaning it intends to give. Taking an adverbial complement out of a sentence changes the core meaning of the sentence; it takes an essential part of the sentence, unlike an adjunct.

It is a type of verb complement as it helps to complete the meaning of the verb.

Adverbial complement infographic
Adverbial complement infographic


  • Don’t put me in his group.

In this example, the prepositional phrase ‘in his group’ is a complement to the verb (verb complement). It completes the meaning of the verb. Removing it makes the sentence incomplete and takes away its meaning. You put something somewhere; not mentioning the place will make the sentence lose its meaning and make it incomplete.

  • I love coming here.

Here, the adverb ‘here’ is a complement to the verb ‘coming’. You don’t just come; you come to a place. So, mentioning the place is important. The place has to be combined with the verb. Taking the verb complement makes it sound incomplete (I love coming). When you look at this sentence without the adverb, the question ‘where’ organically comes to your mind.

  • Don’t aim for a money fight.

‘For a money fight’ is the adverbial complement here. It is a prepositional phrase that is complementing the verb and helping it complete the correct meaning of the sentence. When used as an intransitive verb, it is followed by a prepositional phrase starting with either ‘for’ or ‘at’.

  • We are aiming at the manager’s post.

When you aim at something; you plan to achieve it. Without using the prepositional phrase starting (at + object), this meaning can’t be delivered. Without the verb complement (We are aiming), the sentence is incomplete and does not render the intended meaning.

  • Please behave like a professional.

Behave, as a transitive verb, is always followed by an adverbial of manner. It is essential to talk about how someone behaves. Not adding the adverbial complement to the sentence makes the sentence change its meaning. Look at this example: Please behave. Looking at the sentence, you feel like asking ‘how’. Behave how.

Some examples using the verb ‘behave‘:

  • I can’t behave like you.
  • You are behaving properly.
  • He was behaving like a child at the stage.

Phrasal verbs and adverbial complements

A phrasal verb is a combination of an action verb and a preposition. The preposition in the phrasal verbs changes the meaning of the verb. The phrasal verb often has a different meaning from the verb alone.

Here are some common phrasal verbs in English:

  • Pass out
  • Break up
  • Look up to
  • Get through
  • Go after

Notice that the first word in these phrases is an action and the next word/s is a preposition. Let’s look at some examples using these phrasal verbs:

  • You will pass out before the test.
  • I can’t break up with her.
  • We look up to your father.
  • You will get through this problem.
  • The police are going after you.

The preposition in these phrasal verbs is the adverbial complement. Try reading these sentences without the preposition. The sentences stop making sense or give a completely different meaning without the preposition.

Adverbial complement vs Adjunct

An adjunct is completely opposite to an adverbial complement. An adjunct is often an adverbial that is optional and does not change the meaning of the sentence or make it ungrammatical. One needs to be careful before calling a part adjunct or adverbial complement. One needs to look at how an adverb is affecting a verb. If it is essential to the meaning of the verb, call it a complement, if it’s not, it is just an adjunct.

Adverbial complement vs Adjunct study table

Sentences with adverbialswithout adverbialsIs the adverbial essential? Does the meaning change?
Put me on this program. Put me. Yes. The sentence looks incomplete without it. It is an adverbial complement.
I was playing in the garden. I was playing. No. It is not essential. It is an adjunct to the sentence.
Call me now. Call me. No. It is not essential. It is an adjunct to the sentence.
Don’t look into the mirror. Don’t look. Yes. It is essential to complete the meaning of the sentence. (adverbial complement)
Adverbial complement vs adjunct difference table

Practice set!

Study the following sentences and identify the adverbial complements:

  • Don’t look at me.
  • I live in a village.
  • They were partying on your terrace.
  • You should go to bed now.
  • The kids were shouting in the classroom.
  • They quickly changed their game plan.
  • You should not put this in his tea.
  • Will you look after my kids?


  1. at me
  2. in a village
  3. No adverbial complement
  4. to bed
  5. No adverbial complement
  6. No adverbial complement
  7. in his tea
  8. after

Hope you enjoyed the post and feel comfortable with the topic. Feel free to share your doubts and questions in the comment section. And do share the post with your people.

Adverbial complement in English
Sharing Is Caring:

Ashish found his first love—the English language—a few years back. Since then, he has been immersed in the language, breaking down the language and teaching it to passionate English learners. He has a flair for listening to the English language (podcasts, sitcoms, stories), observing the nuances, and making it easy for English learners. He is known for breaking down complex English topics and making them easy to be understood.

Leave a Comment