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French Adverbs – The Simple Guide

french adverbs - the simple guide

Looking for a simple guide on French adverbs? Here in this article, we'll break down French adverbs into the simplest terms and make learning all about it a breeze for you.

Like other languages, the main words you'll learn in French are nouns, verbs, and adjectives. However, you will definitely need more than that to express your full idea. This is where adverbs enter the picture.

I'm sure you already know that French adverbs use the ending “-ment” like the “-ly” in Engish, but that’s not all there is to it.

This article will answer some questions you may have about French adverbs such as:

  • How many types of adverbs are there in French?
  • What types of words can a French adverb change?
  • Where should you place an adverb in a French sentence? 

Let’s spend 5 minutes and all your questions will be answered.

What can a French adverb modify?

A French adverb, like its counterparts in other languages, can modify a verb, an adjective or another adverb. It can also relate to the whole sentence, telling you what the speaker is thinking or feeling. In other words, it can modify almost everything, except a noun (which is modified by an adjective)

Let's see some examples:

  • An adverb modifying a verb: Je regarde (verb) souvent (adv) la télé.
  • An adverb modifying an adjective: Je suis vraiment (adv) touché (adj).
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    An adverb modifying another adverb: Nous avons très (adv) bien (adv) mangé
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    An adverb modifying a whole sentence: Malheureusement (adv)je ne l’ai pas trouvé(sentence) 

How to form a regular French adverb from an adjective

Although there are many adverbs that do not have the ending –ment, this ending is undoubtedly an important category of adverbs.  Let’s get through the general rules:

If the adjective ends with a vowel, add –ment to the adjective to form the adverb:

absolu                ==>       absolument

poli                      ==>          poliment

If the adjective ends with a consonant, change it to the feminine form (to get the “e” at the end) and then add -ment:

normal                ==>          normale       ==>         normalement

éventuel             ==>         éventuelle     ==>      éventuellement

The different types of French adverbs

The table below lists down the main types of adverbs in French and commonly used examples:

Type of adverbDescriptionExample
Adverb of mannerTell us how something happens.bien, mauvais, poliment, énormément…
Adverb of quantity (intensity)Explain how many or how much a thing isassez, autant, aussi, beaucoup, moins, peu…
Adverb of timeExplain the time that something happensactuellement, alors, hier, déjà, demain…
Adverb of placeExplain where something happensDehors, dedans, devant, derrière, en bas, en haut
Adverb of frequencyExplain how often something happenstoujours, souvent, parfois, rarement, jamais
Adverb of affirmationConfirm or emphase somethingcertainement, vraiment, aussi
Adverb of doubtExpress a doubtProbablement, apparemment, vraisemblablement

The placement of French adverbs


When an adverb modifies a verb, it is placed after the verb

E.g: Il marche (verb) rapidement (adv) 

Note:

 If you are using a compound tense, the adverb will be placed after the auxiliary (the conjugated verb) but before the participle. E.G: Nous avons (verb) bien (adverb)dormi.

If an adverb modifies an adjective or an  adverb, it will be placed before the word it modifies.


e.g.:  Cette robe est peu (adv) chère (adj)/  Tu conduis trop (adv) vite (adv).

Note:

Here the adverb « trop » modifies the adverb « vite », so "trop" is placed before "vite".

Quick Recap

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    An adverb can modify almost everything except a noun.
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    There a many types of adverbs in French that describe the manner, the time, the place, the frequency, the doubt…
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    - Almost all French words that end in –ment are adverbs, but not all adverbs in French ends in –ment

​Adverbs and adjectives are sometimes confusing, so I hope this article could help you to understand it better and therefore you could speak and write French correctly.

Also check out:

120 Common French Adverbs to Add to Your Vocabulary

Improve your French faster with Talk in French grammar e-books 

About the Author Frederic

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +

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