I was thinking of giving this post the title: ‘All you didn’t need to know about fronted adverbials‘. Let’s face it, it’s a bit of grammatical over-thinking to bring yet another lump of terminology on board an already crowded vessel in the hope that it will inspire young writers to create better prose. But it’s there, that is, it is now in the ‘grammarsphere‘, so I better get on and deal with it.
And there isn’t a better place to start than Michael Rosen’s quietly indignant piece in the Guardian on the subject of this grammatical oddity has been called an ‘afterthought on the grammar pile’.
Michael points out that for all of us over about ten years old recognising (let alone defining) a fronted adverbial is about as easy as recognising Babylonian cuneiform. And there’s more than one professional writer (see C.J Cooke’s tweet below) who would agree with him.
Anyone struggling with homeschooling should know that, despite having a PhD in Literature and having published 12 books, I only learned what a fronted adverbial was when my 8 year old’s teacher said he doesn’t use enough of them in his written work.
— Dr. Carolyn Jess-Cooke/C.J. Cooke (@CJessCooke) January 13, 2021
Why do we need to split another taxonomical hair by further isolating what has been in the language for generations as a simple ‘adverb’ or an ‘adverbial clause’? It seems that the answer is that new generations need this type of hyper-granular dissection of language structure to be better writers.
Fronted adverbials are a technique used in sentence structure to lay emphasis on the adverb – for example: ‘Painfully, I struggled with the need for more grammar terminology.’ As Michael Rosen points out, creating ‘mechanical’ building blocks for young writers doesn’t make for great writers.
However, the fronted adverbial has not only crept into grammar but is, as so many frustrated home-schooling parents now know, being taught in the school curriculum. As that is the case, English4Today has added a section for the fronted adverbial in the Online English Grammar. You can take it from there!