French adverbs

Les adverbes

Salut, and welcome to our lesson about French adverbs at Language Easy! As a matter of fact, if you’re learning French, then sooner or later you will have to learn about adverbs. So, what are they ? Well, actually the denomination is a little bit of a catch-all, and includes more or less all the words that don’t belong to the other categories. So this will be a little bit like a vocabulary course somehow. There is some grammar lesson material though.

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French adverbs in Balzac

What are french adverbs?

Que sont les adverbes ?

Adverbs (les adverbes) modify the meaning of other words : verbs, nouns, adjectives, or even other adverbs… It’s a category of words  very diversified in form, usage and meaning.

Another keypoint is that all adverbs are invariable in gender and in number.

For instance, let’s take this two basic sentences :

  • Il m’a parlé de vous. J’avais envie de vous rencontrer.
    = He told me about you. I wanted to meet you.

Now, let’s add adverbs to bring new meaning :

  • Il m’a beaucoup parlé de vous, alors j’avais très envie de vous rencontrer bientôt.
    = He told a lot about you, so I wanted very much to meet you soon.

Adverbs can be words or group of words; in which case they are called adverbial locutions (locutions adverbiales). They usually are formed with a preposition like à, de, en.

We’ll give a lot of examples at the end of this article, meanwhile here is one, just to get the feeling :

  • Je suis parti de chez elle à contre-coeur.
    = I left her place reluctantly. (literally, “at counter-heart”)

Adverbs are generally classified according to their meaning : adverbs of cunjunction, quantity, place, time, affirmation, negation, interrogation, logical relationship, mood. A useful way to classify French adverbs is to find out which question they answer : for instance, the adverbs of place answer the question « where ? », etc..

Also, we can produce adverbs from adjectives that we’ll learn at the end of this article : the derivation.

Anyways, for each type of French adverb, we used a same example with different adverbs to help you understand how each one modifies meanings in its own way. Initially, our example will be :

  • Il a plu toute la journée. Je suis rentré mouillé.
    = It rained all day. I got home wet.

French adverbs of quantity

Les adverbes de quantité

You are probably already familiar with the adverbs of quantity that carry the notion of… quantity, or intensity. They answer the questions « how much? » or « how many? »

In order to illustrate, let’s modify our example :

  • Il a beaucoup plu toute la journée. Je suis rentré tout mouillé.
    It rained a lot all day long. I got home all wet.
French adverbs Translation
Assez enough
Aussi too, as well
as much
a lot
Encore again
Environ about
Moins less
Peu a little, a bit
Plus more
Presque almost
Seulement only
Tant, Tellement
so much, so many
Tout Everything, all
Très very
Trop too much, too many

French adverbs of place

Les adverbes de lieu

Adverbs of place, obviously, give geographical indications and answer the question « where ? »

So, the questions in this example would be : « where did it rain ? and where did I get ? »

  • Il a plu partout toute la journée. Je suis rentré ici mouillé.
    = It rained eveywhere, all day long. I got here wet.
French adverbs Translation
à côté (de)
next (to)
à droite (de)
at the right (of)
à gauche (de)
at the left (of)
ailleurs (que)
elsewhere, somewhere else (from)
à l’intérieur (de)
inside (of)
dedans inside
dehors outside
derrière behind
devant in front of
dessous underneath
dessus above
sur on
sous under
en bas (de)
en face (de)
en haut (de)
Ici here
là-bas over-there
loin (de)
nulle part nowhere
partout everywhere
près (de)
close to
quelque part somewhere
tout droit straight

French adverbs of time

Les adverbes de temps

The adverbs of  basically answer the question « when ? » and give an indication of the position in time, or of chronology.

In the second sentence of this example the question « when ? » actually doesn’t apply, however the idea behind encore (again) is that it already happened in the past :

  • Il a plu toute la journée, aujourd’hui. Je suis encore rentré mouillé.
    = It rained all day today. I got home wet, again.
French adverbs Translation
aujourd’hui today
après after
aussitôt as soon as, immediately
autrefois, jadis
in the past
avant before
bientôt soon
d’abord first
déjà already
demain tomorrow
encore again
at last
en même temps at the same time
ensuite, puis
jamais never
quelquefois, parfois sometimes
soudain swift, suddenly
souvent often
tard late
toujours always
tôt early
tout de suite right now
tout à coup
jusqu’à  until

French adverbs of logical relationship

Les adverbes de relation logique

The adverbs of logical relationship have the role of expressing any idea of cause, consequence, opposition… They don’t answer to a question in particular, or maybe « why ? » or « how ? »

Before our listing, let’s modify our example with adverbs of logical relationship :

  • Il a plu toute la journée. Par conséquent, je suis rentré mouillé.
    = It rained all day long. Therefore, I got home wet.
French adverbs Translation
aussi also
cependant however
donc So
en revanche nevertheless, yet
encore again
même same
par ailleurs in addition
par conséquent consequently
pourtant yet, however
quand même anyway
seulement except that
tout de même All the same
toutefois nevertheless

French adverbs of cunjunction

Les adverbes de liaison

The adverbs of conjunction play the role of linking sentences together, and as such, they can modify the meaning of a whole sentence.

For instance, in the following example, the adverb pourtant (however) adds the idea that the outcome of the first sentence wasn’t the one that was expected :

  • Il a plu toute la journée. Pourtant, je ne suis pas rentré mouillé.
    = It rained all day long. However, I didn’t get home wet.

French adverbs
si if
alors then
admittedly, of course
donc so
en effet because, actually
ensuite, puis
par contre
on the other hand
yet, however

French adverbs of affirmation

Les adverbes d’affirmation

Adverbs of affirmation are used to affirm something or to back it up. They also can serve to minimize a statement, or express a doubt about its truth or realization.  As such, they would answer the question « really ? »

For example, imagine someone asking you if it rained at all, and you would answer :

  • Oui, il a plu probablement toute la journée. Je suis rentré vraiment mouillé.
    = Yes, it probably rained all day long. I got home really wet.
French adverb Translation
assurément doubtlessly
certainement certainly
certes of course
oui yes
volontiers with pleasure
vraiment really
peut-être maybe
sans doute
most likely
vraisemblablement in all likelihood
Tellement So much
Tout, très
Trop too much
Un peu a little

French adverbs of negation

Les adverbes de négation

As it should be, adverbs of negation are used to make negative sentences. In this sense, they are almost always part of an adverbial locution.

Let’s illustrate by reversing our example to the negative :

  • Non, il n’a pas plu toute la journée. Je suis rentré sans être mouillé.
    = No, it did not rain all day. I got home without getting wet.
French adverb Translation
ne … pas not
ne … plus not … anymore
ne … rien not … anything
non no
pas du tout not at all

French adverbs of interrogation

Les adverbes d’interrogation

Quite simply, the adverbs of interrogation are used to ask question.

Let’s illustrate with our example :

  • Pourquoi a-t-il plu toute la journée ? Quand pourrai-je rentrer sec à la maison  ?
    = Why did it rain all day ? When will I be able to get home dry ?

French adverbs Translation
combien how much, how many
comment how
pourquoi why
quand when

French adverbs of modality

Les adverbes de modalité

The adverbs of modality carry a sense of subjectivity, and as such they inform about the mood or attitude of the person who is speaking about what he is saying without stating any actual fact.

Put like this, our example expresses a big distress, without a doubt :

  • Hélas, il a plu  toute la journée. Je suis malheureusement rentré mouillé.
    = Alas, it rained all day. I got home wet, unfortunatly.
French adverbs Translation
hélas Alas
heureusement Fortunately
malheureusement unfortunately
par bonheur happily
certainement probably
par manque de chance
by lack of luck

Adverbs derived from adjectives

Les adverbes dérivés des adjectifs

Most adjectives can be transformed into adverbs, with the intention to modify the meaning of another word. To do so, we add the suffix –ment to the end of the feminine form of the adjective.

Indeed, an example will be very helpful here :

  • long (long, adjective, m.)
    longue (long, adjective, f.)
    longuement (
    at length, adverb)
  • Il m’a parlé longuement de sa jeunesse.
    = He told me
    of his childhood at length.

Sometimes, a little modification is necessary. Firstly, and to the exception of lent (slow) and présent (present), the adjective already ending in -ent or -ant have their adverbial form in –emment or –amment (and in both cases it is pronounced the same, e.g. –amment) :

  • méchant (mean) → méchamment (meanly)
  • récent (recent)→ récemment (recently)
  • but : présentement, lentement

Also, some adjectives that already end in -e at the masculine form take an accent when derived :

  • intense (intense) → intensément (intensely)

Finally, a few adjectives derive into an exceptionally formed adverb.

  • bon (good) → bien (good)
  • fou (crazy) → follement (crazily)
  • mou (soft) → mollement (softly)
  • bref (brief) → brièvement (briefly)
  • mauvais (bad) → mal (badly)
  • impuni (unpunished) → impunément (with impunity)

As much as it’s a helpful process, some adjectives don’t accept derivation. For example, it would be incorrect to derive ébahiement from ébahi (flabbergasted). Nethertheless you can always construct a nominal locution like this : de façon ébahie (in a flabbergasted way), or d’une manière ébahie (in a flabbergasted manner).

  • Il ouvrit la bouche ébahiement de façon ébahie / de manière ébahie.
    = He opened his mouth in a flabbergasted way.

What’s next?

C’est quoi, la suite ?

Et voilà, we reached the end of our lesson about French adverbs. You sure have learnt a whole bunch of new vocabulary today, and took a big step in your study of French. If you want to go even deeper into the subject, don’t hesitate to see our other articles in this section, or go to the next one to learn about French pronouns.

Allez, à bientôt !

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