So you want to know more about French adverbs? You’ve come to the right place!
As a French coach, I know French grammar can be difficult to grasp. But this guide will help you and break everything down into easy-to-digest pieces of information.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Why adverbs are so useful
- How to form French adverbs
- The different types of adverbs
- Where to place a French adverb in a sentence
Let’s dive in!
What is an adverb exactly?
Simply put, an adverb is a word used to describe or give meaning to:
- a verb (an action or doing word)
- an adjective (a descriptor of a noun)
Adverbs allow us to add necessary details to a sentence and to express a greater depth of meaning.
Adjectives versus Adverbs
To understand French adverbs, we first need to talk about French adjectives.
Adjectives are words used to describe a noun.
Je cours à travers le grand parc. (I run through the large park)
Here, grand is the adjective as it is describing the noun – park.
Now let’s add an adverb to this phrase to describe the verb.
Je cours rapidement à travers le grand parc. (I run quickly through the large park)
Here, rapidement is the adverb used to describe the verb – run.
Already you can see how adding adverbs to your French enriches and brings your language to life!
The good news is that unlike adjectives, adverbs are invariable. They only have one form, so you don’t need to worry about masculine, feminine, singular or plural variations.
Now, let’s see how knowing French adjectives is going to help you with French adverbs.
How to form French adverbs using French adjectives?
Just as in English, French adverbs can be formed using adjectives.
For example, if we take the English adjective “slow”, to form the adverb we simply add -ly to make “slowly”.
Of course, this is French so there are exceptions! Some adverbs are not formed from adjectives, such as: aujourd’hui (today), beaucoup (a lot, much), ici (here), très (very). In these cases, you will need to learn them by heart.
Fortunately, most French adverbs can be formed from adjectives and follow these simple rules.
From a masculine adjective ending with a consonant
If a masculine adjective ends in a consonant, take the feminine form of this adjective and add -ment at the end.
|lent(e) (slow)||lentement (slowly)||Il parle lentement.|
(He speaks slowly)
|rapid(e) (quick)||rapidement (quickly)||Elle parle rapidement.|
(She speaks quickly)
|fort(e) (strong)||fortement (strongly)||L’alarme sonne fortement.|
(The alarm sounds strongly)
There are some exceptions such as :
- gentil (m) / gentille (f) (kind) > gentiment (kindly)
- bref (m) / brève (f) (brief) > brièvement (briefly)
From a masculine adjective ending with a vowel
If a masculine adjective ends in a vowel, add -ment at the end (no need to turn the adjective feminine first).
|Nous avons poliment accepté l’offre.|
(We politely accepted the offer)
|Les enfants jouaient calmement.|
(The children were calmly playing)
|Le cadeau était joliment emballé.|
(The gift was nicely wrapped).
Note: While the 2 rules above can be applied to most adjectives, there are some exceptions. Below are the most common exceptions.
From a masculine adjective ending with -ant or -ent
If a masculine adjective ends in -ant or -ent, drop the -nt and add -mment at the end.
|constant (constant)||constamment (constantly)||Il y a constamment du bruit.|
(There is noise constantly)
|prudent (careful)||prudemment (carefully)||J’ai prudemment soulevé la boîte.|
(I carefully lifted the box)
|récent (recent)||récemment (recently)||Vous avez récemment changé d’adresse ? (Have you recently changed address?)|
Two common exceptions to this rule are lent (slow) and présent (present):
- Lent changes to lentement as an adverb.
- Présent changes to présentement as an adverb.
From a masculine adjective ending with a silent -e
If a masculine adjective ends in a silent -e, remove the -e and add -ément at the end.
|énorme (enormous)||énormément (enormously)|
|intense (intense)||intensément (intensely)|
|aveugle (blind)||aveuglément (blindly)|
Adverbs with a form different from their adjectives
Some adverbs do not follow the patterns above and are completely different from their adjectives.
They are common parts of French speech so it is essential to learn them by heart. Here are the most important ones.
|Il joue bien du piano.|
(He plays the piano well)
|Je chante mal.|
(I sing badly)
|Ils jouent mieux que vous.|
(They play better than you)
Top Tip: If you are ever confused about whether to use bon or bien, mal or mauvais, etc, just think – is the word referring to a noun or another part of speech? Adjectives only describe nouns whereas adverbs can describe verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.
What are the main types of adverbs in French?
There are 11 main types of adverbs BUT do not feel daunted by this! This article will break down and simplify their usage so you can speak more fluently and confidently in no time.
Adverbs of place in French
Adverbs of place answer the question “Where?”. You will surely know most of these adverbs, used to demonstrate position, direction or place.
Ma fille est venue ici. (My daughter came here)
Il pleut partout en France. (It is raining everywhere in France)
Frequently used adverbs of place:
- À coté (next to)
- Ailleurs (elsewhere)
- Devant (in front of)
- Derrière (behind)
- Dehors (outside)
- Ici (here)
- Là-bas (over there)
- Loin (far)
- Partout (everywhere)
- Près (close)
Adverbs of time in French
These adverbs answer the “When?” question.
J’ai déjà mangé (I have already eaten)
Demain, nous partons en vacances. (Tomorrow we are going on holiday)
Frequently used adverbs of time:
- Actuellement (currently)
- Après (after)
- Avant (before)
- Déjà (already)
- Demain (tomorrow)
- Depuis (since)
- Ensuite (next)
- Hier (yesterday)
- Parfois (sometimes)
Adverbs of quantity and intensity in French
These adverbs explain how many or how much.
Example: Il y a environ 30 élèves dans ma classe. (There are around 30 students in my class)
Frequently used adverbs of quantity and intensity:
- Assez (enough)
- Beaucoup (too much)
- Combien (how much/how many)
- Encore (more)
- Moins (less)
- Très (very)
- Trop (too much/too many)
Adverbs of frequency in French
These adverbs answer the question “How often?”.
Example: Parfois, je prends le bus. (Sometimes I take the bus)
Frequently used adverbs of frequency:
- Encore (again)
- Jamais (never)
- Parfois (sometimes)
- Rarement (rarely)
- Souvent (often)
- Toujours (always)
Adverbs of manner in French
These adverbs explain how something is done.
Example: Le prof parle calmement. (The teacher speaks calmly)
Frequently used adverbs of manner:
- Autrement (differently)
- Calmement (calmly)
- Clairement (clearly)
- Complètement (completely)
- Fortement (strongly)
- Facilement (easily)
- Joliment (nicely)
- Lentement (slowly)
- Poliment (politely)
- Vite (quickly)
Adverbs of negation in French
These adverbs are used to express negation. You’ll often recognize them in sentences containing ne. The most common French adverb is the use of ne … pas.
Example: Elle n’est pas ici. (She’s not here)
Frequently used adverbs of negation:
- Ne … jamais (never)
- Ne … pas (not)
- Ne … plus (no more/no longer)
- Ne … nulle part (nowhere)
- Ne … que (only)
Adverbs of affirmation and doubt in French
These adverbs are used to either confirm or doubt something.
Example: J’étais vraiment surpris ! (I was truly surprised!)
Frequently used adverbs of affirmation and doubt:
- Certainement (definitely)
- Précisément (precisely)
- Vraiment (truly)
- Peut-être (perhaps)
- Probablement (probably)
- Tellement (very much so)
Modal adverbs in French
These adverbs express the mood or attitude of the speaker.
Example: Malheureusement, ils sont en retard. (Unfortunately, they are late)
Frequently used modal adverbs:
- Certainement (surely)
- Hélas (alas)
- Heureusement (luckily/happily)
- Malheureusement (unluckily/unhappily)
Interrogative adverbs in French
Also known as question words, these adverbs are used to ask a question.
Example: Comment allez-vous aujourd’hui ? (How are you today?)
Frequently used interrogative adverbs:
- Combien (how many/how much)
- Comment (how)
- Où (where)
- Pourquoi (why)
- Quand (when)
Where to put the French adverb in a sentence?
To correctly place a French adverb in a sentence, you must consider the type of adverb you are using and the word it is modifying.
When the French adverb modifies a verb
The place of the adverb will change depending on the tense of the verb.
With verbs in a simple tense
Generally speaking, when used in simple sentences, the adverb will come immediately after the verb it is modifying.
- Ils jouaient bien au tennis. (They played tennis well)
- Nous partons bientôt. (We are leaving soon)
In negative sentences, the adverb will normally follow pas.
- Je ne chante pas bien. (I don’t sing well)
With verbs in the near future tense
When using an adverb in the near future tense (aller + infinitive), the adverb will normally follow the conjugated verb aller.
- Elles vont certainement gagner. (They will surely win)
- Vous allez probablement réussir. (You will likely succeed)
With verbs in a compound tense
When an adverb is used in a compound tense, such as the passé composé, the word order will change so that the adverb follows the conjugated être or avoir and precedes the verb it is describing.
- Ils ont bien joué au basket. (They played basketball well)
- J’ai beaucoup mangé. (I ate a lot)
When the French adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb
When an adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb, they are placed directly before that adjective or adverb.
- Elle est très intelligente. (She is very intelligent)
- C’est tout près. (It is very nearby)
When the French adverb refers to an entire sentence
When an adverb refers to the entire sentence, it’s placed at the beginning of the sentence.
- Généralement, je préfère rester à la maison. (I generally prefer to stay at home)
Other adverbs can be placed at the beginning or at the end of a sentence, without impacting the meaning. This is generally true for adverbs relating to time:
- Aujourd’hui, je vais à l’école. (Today, I’m going to school)
- Je vais à l’école aujourd’hui. (I’m going to school today)
The bottom line
Now you know exactly how to handle French adverbs!
By using these adverbs, you really improve your speech and writing.
So if you want to aim for greater detail or meaning, think about adding adverbs into your sentences.
Interested in learning more French grammar? Check this guide on French noun gender to perfect your skills.