Research into high-Reynolds-number turbulent boundary layers in recent years has brought about a renewed interest in the larger-scale structures. It is now known that these structures emerge more prominently in the outer region not only due to increased Reynolds number (Metzger & Klewicki, Phys. Fluids, vol. 13(3), 2001, pp. 692–701; Hutchins & Marusic, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 579, 2007, pp. 1–28), but also when a boundary layer is exposed to an adverse pressure gradient (Bradshaw, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 29, 1967, pp. 625–645; Lee & Sung, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 639, 2009, pp. 101–131). The latter case has not received as much attention in the literature. As such, this work investigates the modification of the large-scale features of boundary layers subjected to zero, adverse and favourable pressure gradients. It is first shown that the mean velocities, turbulence intensities and turbulence production are significantly different in the outer region across the three cases. Spectral and scale decomposition analyses confirm that the large scales are more energized throughout the entire adverse pressure gradient boundary layer, especially in the outer region. Although more energetic, there is a similar spectral distribution of energy in the wake region, implying the geometrical structure of the outer layer remains universal in all cases. Comparisons are also made of the amplitude modulation of small scales by the large-scale motions for the three pressure gradient cases. The wall-normal location of the zero-crossing of small-scale amplitude modulation is found to increase with increasing pressure gradient, yet this location continues to coincide with the large-scale energetic peak wall-normal location (as has been observed in zero pressure gradient boundary layers). The amplitude modulation effect is found to increase as pressure gradient is increased from favourable to adverse.