French Adverbs

An adverb is, like in english, a word that precise another word. It’s optional and depends of other words. For example :

  • A verb : Il court vite (He runs fast).
  • An adjective : Elle est très intelligente (She is very smart).
  • A sentence : Lentement, il descendit les escaliers (Slowly, he came down the stairs).
  • A another adverb : Elle mange très goulument (She eats very gluttonously .

The main rule when using adverbs is that they are invariant. To the opposite of the adjectives, the adverbs do not agree with any words they relate to. EXCEPT, the adverb « tout » (all), in the following cases :

  1. Tout is used with a feminine noun starting by a consonant : Elle a mangé toute timidement (She ate very shyly).
  2. Tout is used with a feminine noun starting by a « H » not pronunced : Elle était toute heureuse. (She was all happy).
  3. Tout is invariant with a feminine noun starting by a vowel : Elle a mangé la tarte tout entière. (She ate the whole pie).

French Adverbs


Notes :

Here, Tout means « all », « the whole », « very ». So even if some sentences seem to have many meaning, you can figure the appropriate meaning by paying attention to the agreement.

For example : Ces filles sont toutes heureuses. What would be the meaning here ? All the girls are happy, or these girls are very happy ? Just read again the rules above if you don’t figure it out.

How to build adverbes

Some are just the way they are, (they come from Latin or after that and you can see them listed below) :

bien, en, hier, là, loin, mal, mieux, où, plus, quand, tant, tard, tôt, très, mais / avant, derrière, jamais, assez, arrière, dans, demain, etc.

Others are build with -ment to the feminine form of an adjective : Example : (Lent) Lente > Lentement (Slow > Slowly)

Notes

There are exception to this rule. For example « Prudent » (cautious). The feminine is « Prudente », but the adverb is « Prudemment ».

Some adverbs are also built directly on nouns, for exemple : « Diable » (devil) > « diablement ».

The colors adjectives can’t build an adverb. (Except vert, but the meaning is not ‘greenly’, but roughly or energicly).

Very important notes

Some adjectives are used as adverbs. Therefore, they become invariant. For example : Elle crit fort (she screams loudly), or Il achète américain (he buys ‘usa made’).

Adverb locutions are made as follow : à, de, en + noun or adjective ; à l’inverse, à côté, à présent, de fait, en général, etc.

Use

The adverb is attached to another word which it completes :

  • A verb : Il joue bruyamment (He plays loudly).
  • An adjective : Il est très grand (He is very tall).
  • Another adverb : Il mange très vite (He eats very fast).
  • A noun : C’est un bon garçon (It’s a good lad).
  • A preposition : Il aime uniquement les gâteaux aux fruits (He only likes the fruits’ cakes.
  • The whole sentence : Demain, c’est le départ (Tomorow, it’s the departure).

Note

You should pay attention to which word the adverd is attached to.

For example the two following sentences have very different meaning :

  1. Elle marche étrangement (She walks strangely). The adverb is about « marche », in other words on what it says (the adverb completes what the sentence says).
  2. Etrangement, elle marche. (Strangely, she walks). The adverb is about the whole sentence, (she walks), in other words, on what it is said (the adverb comments on what the sentence says).

To understand which one is which ; try to use the negative on the whole sentence.

  1. Elle ne marche pas étrangement. (She doesn’t walk strangely)
  2. Etrangement, elle ne marche pas. (Strangely, she doesn’t walk.) You can see here that the adverb is about the sentence, not the verb.
  • Some adverbs are used are logical or time links in a speech
    • Logical link : ainsi, effectivement, etc : for example : Je vous avais dit que je vous présenterai les adverbes. Ainsi, il est temps de commencer. (I’ve said that I’ll introduce the adverbs to you. Therefore, here we go.)
    • Time link : premièrement, deuxièmement, puis, ensuite, etc : for example : Je vous montrerai qu’ils sont simples à utiliser, ensuite nous ferons une série d’exercices. (I’ll show they are easy to use, then we’ll do some exercises).  

There are also some adverbs for question or exclamation : combien, comme, comment, quand, où, pourquoi, etc. Examples : Que s’est-il passé ? Il est tombé, mais il n’a pas eu mal. Ah, comme je suis soulagé de l’apprendre. (What happened ? He felt, but he was not hurt. Ah, how relieved I am to ear that.)

To compare

The adverbs are also used to compare things :

Comparative : Il est moins / aussi / plus grand que moi. He is less / as / more tall (taller) than me.

Superlative : Il est le plus / le moins fort de l’équipe. He is the more / the less strong of the team.

Intensity : Il est très / extrêmement affamé.  He is very / extremly starved.

                  Il est assez / moyennement affamé. He is rather / moderately starved.

                  Il est peu aimable. He is sparsely friendly.

I hope the content of this page was useful to you, and that you learned some French Adverbs, Make sure to memorize them to be able to use them in your daily conversation. If you want to practice what you have learnt here, go to Language Test. Make sure to check our Learn French page, which contains several lessons that might help you in your learning process.