French Adverbs


Adverbs are words that describe and modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. When an adverb modifies a word, this means it changes its meaning or adds more precision/detail. Adverbs can even modify entire sentences. Adverbs tell us how, when, where, why, how often, or how much. French adverbs can modify all major components of the French language except for nouns (adjectives modify nouns).

She is faster then wind

Similar to an adjective, an adverb is a descriptive word. The difference between an adjective and an adverb is that an adjective describes a noun or pronoun and an adverb describes a verb. The most common examples of adverbs in English end in the letters –ly. Take a look at these examples:

He runs quickly to catch up to his friend.                  

The adverb quickly modifies how the subject (He) runs (the verb).

We write carefully to avoid making mistakes.

The adverb carefully modifies how the subject (We) write (the verb).

In this module, we will focus on two common types of adverbs in French. And, most importantly, where to place them in sentences. The two types are adverbs of frequency (how often an action occurs) and adverbs of manner (how an action is carried out). View the lists below to study these two categories of adverbs.

Adverbs of Frequency Adverbs of Manner
jamais ever bien well
parfois sometimes mal poorly
rarement rarely heureusement happily
souvent often poliment politely
toujours quelquefois bientôt maintenant always sometimes soon now rapidement lentement constamment énormément quickly slowly constantly enormously

What do you notice in the “Adverbs of Manner” list? Some of the most common French adverbs end in the ending, –ment. This would be the equivalent to the –ly in English. It’s added to the adjective form of the verb.

If the adjective ends in a vowel, you can add –ment to it directly.

poli polimentpolitely

Some adjectives that end in a consonant are changed to their feminine adjective forms so that a vowel will then precede the -ment ending.

heureux heureuse heureusementhappily

Other adverb rules require an accent to be added to the word or a double letter (-emment or -amment if the adjective ends in -ent or -ant respectively).

énorme → énormémentenormously

constantconstamment                    constantly

View the resources in this module for examples of additional adverbs and adverb rules.

Adverbs in a sentence:

For the two categories of adverbs that we’re talking about today, we need to talk about where they are placed in a French sentence. Often, these adverbs are placed after the verb. *And when negating a sentence, the adverb typically follows the “pas.” Review the examples below:

                        On mange bien ici!

We eat well here !

                        Nous achetons parfois des bijoux chers.

We sometimes buy expensive jewelry.

                        Cleo ne conduit pas lentement.

Cleo doesn’t drive slowly.

Le jeune garçon na pas parlé poliment au Monsieur.

The young boy didn’t speak politely to the Mister.

*You will learn additional negative adverbs in Module 9.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.