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French Adverbs

What they are: Adverbs are words that modify: the action described by verbs (e.g. I run slowly), the quality of adjectives (e.g. I was very sad) and even the modification made by other adverbs (e.g. I can smell it even now).

How to recognize them: As with English, there is a simple rule that covers most cases.  The majority of adverbs in French have a recognizable ending, namely -ment.  This is the equivalent of the -ly ending in English.  (Of course, there are exceptions to this general rule — after all, how much fun could we have if we didn’t have exceptions.)

CAREFUL! Not all words ending in -ment are adverbs.  Some nouns are formed by combining a verb root with a -ment ending.

Examples:

rajeunir (v.) (to get younger)  =>  rajeunissement (n.) (the process of getting younger)

adouber (v.) (to dub [as in knights and lords NOT audio dubbing])  => adoubement (the dubbing ceremony)

A more generalized, more widely applicable rule is to look at the role the word you’re wondering about plays in the sentence.  If it does any of the things described in this page’s first paragraph, it probably is an adverb.  If it does not end in -ment, file it away!  You’ve just found an exception.

As in English, most French adverbs are formed using adjectives as a root.

How to go from adjective to adverb:

Adjectives that end in -e in either the feminine or masculine singular form simply append a -ment ending.

French: Adjective into Adverb

Adjectif => Adverbe
Agréable => Agréablement
(Agreeable => Agreeably)
Riche => Richement
(Rich => Richly)
Pénible => Péniblement
(Ardous => Arduously)
Pauvre => Pauvrement
(Poor => Poorly)

Examples:

Le temps est agréable. / The weather is nice.

Ils parlaient agréablement. / They were conversing nicely.

La tâche était pénible. / The task was arduous.

Ils avançaient péniblement dans la neige. / They were advancing with difficulty through the snow.

Adjectives that end in -i or -u in the singular masculine and -ie or -ue in the singular feminine append a -ment ending to the masculine form.

French

Adjectif => Adverbe
Joli (beautiful) => Joliment (beautifully)
Poli (polite) => Poliment (politely)
Absolu (absolute) => Absolument (absolutely)
Vrai (true) => Vraiment (truly)

Examples:

Louis XIV était un monarque absolu. / Louis XIV was an absolute monarch.

J’étais absolument sûr de mes propos. / I was absolutely sure of my statements.

Ce qu’il dit est vrai. / What he says is true.  è  Je ne le croyais pas vraiment. / I didn’t truly believe him.

The following adjectives that end with a silent -e in the singular feminine form replace the -e with an é.  This is purely for phonetic reasons.

French English
Adjectif => Adverbe Adjective =>  Adverb
Aveugle => Aveuglément Blind => Blindly
Énorme => Énormément Enormous => Enormously
Intense => Intensément Intense => Intensely
Précise => Précisément Precise => Precisely
Profonde => Profondément Profound => Profoundly

Deep => Deeply

Uniforme  => Uniformément Uniform => Uniformly

Examples:

Il est aveugle. / He is blind.

Elles le suivent aveuglément. / They follow him blindly.

Nous avons commis une énorme faute. / We have made an enormous mistake.

Elle me plaisait énormément. / I fancied her enormously.

Adjectives that end with a consonant (but not -ant or -ent) in the singular masculine form, append a -ment ending to the singular feminine form.**

French English
Adjectif => Adverbe Adjective => Adverb
Plein/Pleine   =>  Pleinement Full => Fully
Doux/Douce   =>  Doucement Soft => Softly
Créatif/Créative =>  Créativement Creative => Creatively
Sérieux/Sérieuse => Sérieusement Serious => Seriously
Réel/Réelle => Réellement Real => Really

Examples:

Les filets sont pleins. / The nets are full.

Je lui fais pleinement confiance. / I trust him fully.

Sopie est vraiment sérieuse. / Sophie is really serious.

Il faut sérieusement considéré la possibilité. / We must seriously consider the possibility.

**  There are two exceptions to this rule:  gentil / nice and bref / brief.  In the case of gentil, the -lle ending of the singular feminine form (e.g. gentille) is dropped altogether; thus, the adverb is gentiment / nicely.  In the case of bref, an archaic form of the adjective (e.g. brief) – in fact the same word as in English – serves as the basis for the adverb; thus, the adverb is brièvement / briefly from the singular feminine form briève.

Adjectives that end in -ant or -ent in the singular masculine form, replace the final -nt with -mment.**  The adverbial ending is thus either -amment or – emment; both are pronounced -amment.

French English
Adjectif => Adverbe Adjective => Adverb
Précédent => Précédemment Previous => Previously
Différent => Différemment Different => Differently
Constant => Constamment Constant => Constantly

** Exceptions: lent(e) / slow  =>  lentement / slowly; présent(e) / present =>  présentement / presently

Examples:

Elle avait envoyé la lettre le jour précédent. / She had sent the letter the prvious day.

Précédemment en tête, je me retrouve dorénavant en queue du peloton. / Previously in the lead, I now find myself at the back of the peloton.

Sa réponse est toujours lente. / His reply is always slow.

Il répond toujours lentement. / He always replies slowly.

The following adjectives have irregular adverbs.  They’re very important exceptions and should be memorized.

French English
Adjectif => Adverbe Adjective => Adverb
Bon/Bonne => Bien Good => Well
Meilleur(e) => Mieux Better => Better
Mauvais(e) => Mal Bad => Badly
Petit(e) => Peu Small => Little

Examples:

C’est la meilleure joueuse. / She’s the best player.

Elle fait de son mieux. / She does the best she can.

Ils donnent la bonne réponse. / They give the correct answer.

Ils parlent bien. / They speak well.

Finally, there is a category of adverbs which stand on their own without adjective equivalents.  They can be divided into several sub-categories of: time, frequency, manner, place and quantity.

Here are some of them:

Time:

Hier / Yesterday

Aujourd’hui / Today

Après / After

Auparavant / Previously

Ensuite / Next

Autrefois / In the past

Frequency:

Quelquefois / Sometimes

Souvent / Often

Toujours / Always

Jamais / Never

Encore / Again

De temps à autre / From time to time

Manner:

Petit à petit / Little by little

Aussitôt / Immediately

Volontiers / Willingly

Place:

Dedans / Inside

Dehors / Outside

Devant / In front

En bas / Down

Autour / Around

Ici / Here

Quantity:

Beaucoup / Much

Assez / Enough

Environ / About

Plus / More

Trop / Too much

Examples:

Je suis revenu hier. / I came back yesterday.

Il lui en avait parlé auparavant. / He had previously talked to him about it.

Elle s’améliorait petit à petit. / She was improving little by little.

Je jouais dehors. / I was playing outside.

Tu en demandes beaucoup. / You’re asking for a lot.

J’en ai assez! / I’ve had enough!

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