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French Grammar from RapideFrench.com

Adverbs

Adverbs add meaning to a verb and describe actions. They usually tell you where, when or how something happened or how it is done. Examples in English are slowly, precisely, immediately, happily – for example She quickly runs home or He eats slowly. Notice the 'ly' at the end. In French most adverbs end in 'ment' which is added on to the masculine if that ends in a vowel, otherwise is added on to the feminine form of the adjective for example:

  • général/générale (free) généralement (generally)
  • lent (slow) lentement (slowly)
  • heureux/heureuse (happy) heureusement (happily)
  • doux/douce (sweet/gentle) doucement (sweetly/gently)
  • joli/jolie (pretty) joliment (prettily)
  • libre (free) librement (freely)

In most cases where the masculine adjective ends in 'ent' or 'ant' we instead remove the 'nt' and add 'mment', for example:

  • constant (constant) constamment (constantly)
  • évident (evident) évidemment (evidently)
  • récent (free) récemment (freely)

As always there are some exceptions that don't follow either rule, for example (look out for where the 'e' changes to 'é' and for 'mal' and 'vite'):

  • bref (brief) brièvement (briefly)
  • gentil (nice) gentiment (nicely)
  • mal (bad) mal (badly)
  • précis/précise (precise) précisément (precisely)
  • profond/profonde (deep) profondément (deeply)
  • vite (true/quick) vite (quickly)
  • vrai (true/right) vraiment (truly/rightly)

Notice that in the first English example above quickly is before the verb, and in the second example slowly is after the verb. In French, the advert is after the verb 99% of the time, so the above examples in French would be:

  • elle court vite à la maison
  • il mange lentement

In the perfect (compound past) tense the advert goes after the auxiliary (avoir/être) and before the past participle, except if it is a long one (!), so for the above examples:

  • She quickly ran home elle a vite couru à la maison
  • He ate quickly il a vite mangé or il a mangé rapidement
  • He ate slowly il a mangé lentement

There are also adverbs of time, frequency and place which are also usually come after the verb, for example elle arrive toujours en retard (she always arrives late), il mange souvent des beignets (he often eats donuts) and je suis dehors (I am outside). The table below shows the common adverbs of time, frequency and place.

     FrenchEnglish
    Frequencyjamais never
    rarementrarely
    quelquefoissometimes
    parfoissometimes
    souvent often
    toujours always
    d’habitudeusually
    encoreagain
    enfinfinally
    Presentaussitôtimmediately
    tôtearly
    maintenantnow
    d'abordfirst
    actuellementcurrently
    tardlate
    Pasthieryesterday
    avant-hierthe day before yesterday
    plus tôtearlier
    Futurebientôtsoon
    ensuitenext
    aujourd’huitoday
    demaintomorrow
    tout à l'heurelater
    après-demainthe day after tomorrow
    Placelà-basover there
    there
    icihere
    prèsnear
    loinfar
    loin d'icifar away
    quelque partsomewhere
    dehorsoutside
    dedansinside
    avantbefore
    dessusabove
    dessousbelow
    partouteverywhere
    devantin front
    derrière behind

Some adverbs can modify or intensify other adverbs. For example in the sentence Il est vite 'est' is the verb and 'vite' is the adverb. très is an adverb modifier e.g. Il est très vite. Adverb modifiers include all the adverbs of frequency, time and place and:

  • peu (a bit / not very)
  • assez (quite)
  • presque (almost)
  • beaucoup (a lot / too much)
  • très (very)
  • vraiment (really)
  • trop (too)