Learn French: an Introduction to French Adverbs and Their Usage
written by: R. H.
• edited by: Rebecca Scudder
• updated: 3/2/2012
Adverbs are essential modifiers in French. To understand, speak and write French well, you must have a good grasp of French adverbs--what they are and how to use them. Read on to learn about French adverb usage and placement and to learn some essential French adverbs specifying quantity and manner.
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What Are Adverbs?
Adverbs serve a similar function in English and French. An adverb defines a part of speech that modifies any other word, except for nouns. Therefore, adverbs are used often and liberally. To learn more about how adverbs function in English, and how to identify them in a sentence, read this article.
French adverbs, les adverbes français, can be generally divided into the following categories:
Adverbs of manner (such as vraiment, "really")
Adverbs of frequency (such as toujours, "always")
Adverbs of place (such as là-bas, "there")
Adverbs of quantity (such as beaucoup, "a lot")
Adverbs of time (such as maintenant, "now")
To use French adverbs correctly, it is useful to become familiar with many adverbs, and get a basic understanding of their placement in a phrase or sentence.
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French Adverbs of Quantity
The following adjectives in French indicate quantity. Learn these well, as you will use them frequently to communicate effectively in French.
beaucoup – a lot
peu – a little
ne…pas du tout – not at all (as in all other cases, the verb is inserted between the negation markers ne and pas)
très – very
énormément – enormously
trop – too much
assez –enough, quite
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French Adverbs of Manner
Other adverbs in French are adverbs of manner. You will notice that many of these adverbs are made by taking the feminine form of the corresponding French adjective and adding -ment to the end. For example, take the feminine adjective difficile and add -ment to the end to make an adverb that means "with difficulty."
difficilement – with difficulty
efficacement – efficiently, effectively
aimablement – politely, kindly
amicalement – warmly, in a friendly way
naturellement – naturally
froidement – coolly
légèrement – gently, lightly
franchement – frankly, candidly
amoureusement – amorously, lovingly
silencieusement – silently
doucement – gently
mollement – idly, half-heartedly
passionnément – passionately
poliment – politely
prudemment – carefully, cautiously
méchamment – spitefully, maliciously
fréquemment – frequently
patiemment – patiently
brièvement – briefly
gentiment – kindly, quietly
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French Adverb Placement and Usage
French adverb placement varies, especially when compound verb forms (such as passé composée) are the words being modified. Also, the placement of adverbs in French does not always match where adverbs would be placed in English. Read the following sentences for examples of where various adverbs are placed in French sentences:
(vite) La discussion s'est vite terminé. - The discussion was quickly finished.
(déjà) Il est déjà parti. - He already left.
(trop) J'ai trop bu. - I drank too much.
(bien) Je me suis bien intégré. - I am well-integrated.
(beaucoup trop) Elle s'est beaucoup trop maquillé - She put on way too much makeup.
(toujours) Nous avons toujours vécu en France. - We have always lived in France.
(rapidement) Les secours ont arrivé rapidement. - Help arrived quickly.
(presque) On a presque fini. - We almost finished.
(à peine) Le public a à peine applaudi. - The audience hardly applauded.
(peut-être) Elle a peut-être téléphoné. - Maybe she called.
As you read French and listen to the speech of native French speakers, keep a list of different adverbs and when they occur in relation to the words they modify. Learning adverbs well, and knowing their proper placement in a sentence, will help you reach you desired level of proficiency in reading, understanding, writing and speaking the French language.