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(1) When he got to the bus stop, there were already many people there. They were standing in line.

(2) The students sat in groups.

Are they adverbials of means or adverbials of place? Can you describe the scenes for me?

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An adverbial of place will need a noun (place or location) after the preposition. For example, in the room (the room is where someone or something is in), on the table (the table is where someone or something is on). –  Damkerng T. Dec 16 '13 at 9:11

2 Answers 2

As for describing the scenes, sitting in groups means that groups of students were sitting together. Perhaps there are multiple tables in the classroom, and the students are grouped around the table, Or maybe the students are in a gymnasium, and they are sitting in small groups, dispersed around the gym floor. In the images below, the classrooms are empty now, but students in the top classroom sit in rows, while students in the bottom classroom sit in groups.

rows vs groups

Standing in line simply means there was a line (or queue) of people at the bus stop, presumably waiting to board the bus.

enter image description here

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You used all my bandwidth:) –  Noah Dec 16 '13 at 10:33
    
@Noah The pictures are worth it! I love'em! :) –  Damkerng T. Dec 16 '13 at 10:42
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@Noah - Actually, the original images are much bigger. I took the time to crop them to save bandwidth. –  J.R. Dec 16 '13 at 11:57

An adverbial phrase of place will need a noun (place or location) after the preposition.

For example,
in the room (the room is where someone or something is in),
on the table (the table is where someone or something is on).

Your case of in groups is quite clear, groups is not a place. (You can't walk to groups. If it's a place, you usually can walk there.) In groups here is an adverbial phrase of manner.

The case of in line is a little tricky, but try not to be confused. The phrase in line is idiomatic, meaning one behind another in a line or queue. So again, it's an adverbial phrase of manner. Saying "They were standing in line," is quite different from "They were standing in the line." (Only the latter--in the line--is an adverbial phrase of place.)

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If "in line" is an adverbial clause of manner, so it means "They were standing by forming a line". What about is an adverbial clause of result ? That means "They were standing and they are forming a line." –  user48070 Dec 16 '13 at 10:38
    
Here is one way put it as an adverbial clause of result, "They were standing such that a line was formed". Typical result clauses have either so ... that, such ... that, or sometimes just that. –  Damkerng T. Dec 16 '13 at 10:48

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