Grammar in the curriculum - What's the difference between an adverb and an adverbial?

Key Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Terminology

Created by Shareen Wilkinson 

N.B. Some of these words may also be other word classes

Watch Shareen Wilkinson unpick some of the tricky aspects of grammar in the video blog below.


Further information and examples


Subordinate clauses and relative clauses

Whilst teachers seem to be competent at teaching subordinate and relative clauses, it is important to note that pupils need to be aware of defining and non-defining relative clauses. It is not until year 5, in the English programmes of study, that pupils are expected to learn about relative clauses and relative pronouns. According to the national curriculum glossary, a relative clause is a special type of subordinate clause that contains a relative pronoun (e.g. who, which, that, etc). Therefore, the subordinate clause is an umbrella term.

Defining and non-defining relative clauses (pupils do not need to know the terms ‘defining’ and ‘non-defining.’)


My sister, who lives in Scotland, is a primary school teacher.

The commas denote that this is additional information (parenthesis) or a non-defining relative clause.

My sister who lives in Scotland is a primary school teacher.


This is about a specific sister who lives in Scotland and is known as a defining relative clause.

Pupils and teachers do need to have this depth of subject knowledge because it changes the meaning of the two sentences and supports reading comprehension.



Expanded noun phrases

It seems that expanded noun phrases are primarily taught as two adjectives and a noun, especially at Key Stage 1. A noun can be modified by adding words such as adjectives, adverbs or determiners before them and prepositions and relative clauses after them. ‘It is possible to expand a noun phrase by adding words appropriately before and/or after the noun. There is no requirement for an expanded noun phrase to include a specific number of adjectives.’


• one cold night

• yellowish fur with black spots

• the grasslands of the burning Africa

• the biggest midnight feast in their life

• eyes like fire

• a fluffy green pencil case with a gold zip

• The new paintbrushes are in the box.


Source: 2017 KS1 Standards and Testing Agency national moderator training.

(The words highlighted are the main nouns.)


Do we explicitly model our thought process when demonstrating an understanding of word classes?

E.g. ‘This must be an expanded noun phrase because it has a noun at the head of the sentence and a preposition adds further description etc.’


Further reading:

  • Grammar Survival for Primary Teachers by Jo Shackleton
  • UCL English Knowledge Organiser

Resources to support schools:

Achieve grammar, punctuation and spelling by Madeleine Barnes and Marie Lallaway.,-spelling-and-punctuation-sats-question-workbook-the-expected-standard-year-1



Achieve, Achieve 100 at Key Stage 2, Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation, Grammar

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