French Adverbs

Understanding Adverbs

  • An adverb is a word that describes or modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb.
  • Unlike adjectives, adverbs in French do not agree in gender and number with the word they are modifying.
  • Many French adverbs are formed by adding ‘-ment’ to the feminine form of adjectives: ‘franchement(frankly), ‘facilement(easily).
  • However, if the masculine form of the adjective ends in a vowel, the adverb is formed by adding -ment directly to it: ‘vraiment(really), ‘généralement(generally).

Position of Adverbs

  • The placement of adverbs can vary, but they typically follow the verb they are modifying: ‘Elle parle rapidement(She speaks quickly).
  • If the verb is in a compound tense (e.g formed with auxiliary verb), the adverb is usually placed after the auxiliary and before the past participle: ‘Elle a souvent visité(She often visited).
  • However, some short, common adverbs (e.g., ‘bien’, ‘mal’, ‘encore’, ‘toujours’) are often placed before the past participle: ‘Elle a bien dormi(She slept well).

Comparative and Superlative Forms

  • To form the comparative of adverbs, use ‘plus’ (more), ‘moins’ (less), or ‘aussi’ (as) before the adverb: ‘Elle parle plus rapidement que moi(She speaks more quickly than me).
  • The ‘superlative’ (the most/the least) is formed with definite articles + ‘plus/moins’ before the adverb: ‘Elle travaille le plus sérieusement(She works the most seriously).
  • Some adverbs have irregular comparative and superlative forms: for example, ‘bien’ (well) becomes ‘mieux’ (better) for comparative and ‘le mieux’ (the best) for superlative.

Most Common French Adverbs

  • Become familiar with some of the most common French adverbs which include ‘aussi’ (also), ‘très’ (very), ‘trop’ (too), ‘alors’ (then), ‘ici’ (here), ‘maintenant’ (now) and others.
  • Remember the important adverbs ‘ne’ and ‘pas’ are used together to make a sentence negative, e.g., ‘Je ne comprends pas(I don’t understand).

Adverbial Phrases

  • Adverbial phrases often express time, place or manner and used in French just like in English: ‘à l’heure(on time), ‘à pied(by foot), ‘pendant ce temps(meanwhile), ‘tout à coup(all of a sudden).
  • Keep in mind that the position, relationship to other words and punctuation can affect the meaning and usage of these phrases.