Easy Learning French

How adverbs are formed - Easy Learning Grammar French

1 The basic rules

  • Adverbs in French never change their form, no matter what they refer to.
Il est très beau.He’s very handsome.
Elles sont très belles.They’re very beautiful.
J’y vais souvent.I often go there.
Nous y allons souvent.We often go there.
  • Note that there is one exception to this rule. The word tout changes in certain phrases, for example, tout seul (meaning all alone).
Il est arrivé tout seul.He arrived on his own.
Elle est souvent toute seule.She’s often on her own.
  • Many English adverbs end in -ly, which is added to the end of the adjective (quickquickly; sadsadly; frequentfrequently). In French, many adverbs end in -ment. This is usually added to the end of the feminine singular form of the adjective.
Masculine adjectiveFeminine adjectiveAdverbMeaning
heureuxheureuseheureusementfortunately
douxdoucedoucementgently, slowly
seulseuleseulementonly
  • The adverb ending -ment is added to the masculine not the feminine form of the adjective if the masculine ends in , -i or -u.
Masculine adjectiveFeminine adjectiveAdverbMeaning
désespérédésespéréedésespérémentdesperately
vraivraievraimenttruly
absoluabsolueabsolumentabsolutely
  • If the adjective ends in -ant, the adverb ends in -amment. If the adjective ends in -ent, the adverb ends in -emment. The first vowel in the -emment and -amment endings is pronounced in the same way in both – like the a in the English word cat.
  • courantcouramment (fluently)
  • récentrécemment (recently)
  • Note that an exception to this rule is the adverb lentement (meaning slowly), which comes from the adjective lent (meaning slow).

2 Irregular adverbs

  • There are a number of common irregular adverbs.
AdjectiveMeaningAdverbMeaning
bongoodbienwell
gentilnice, kindgentimentnicely, kindly
mauvaisbadmalbadly
meilleurbetter, bestmieuxbetter
petitsmallpeulittle
pireworsepisworse
Elle travaille bien.She works well.
C’est un emploi très mal payé.It’s a very badly paid job.

3 Adjectives used as adverbs

  • Certain adjectives are used as adverbs, mostly in set phrases:
  • bon good
    sentir bon to smell nice
  • cher expensive
    coûter cher to be expensive
    payer cher to pay a lot
  • droit straight
    aller tout droit to go straight on
  • dur hard
    travailler dur to work hard
  • fort loud
    parler plus fort to speak up
  • mauvais bad
    sentir mauvais to smell

4 Adverbs made up of more than one word

  • Adverbs can be made up of several words instead of just one. Here are some common ones:
bien sûrof course
c’est-à-direthat is
d’abordfirst
d’habitudeusually
de temps en tempsfrom time to time
en généralusually
en retardlate
tout de suitestraight away
Key points
  • With the exception of tout, French adverbs do not change their form.
  • The ending -ment is usually added to the feminine singular form of the corresponding adjective.
  • If the masculine singular adjective ends in , -i or -u, the -ment ending is added to that.
  • If the adjective ends in -ant or -ent, the adverb ends in -amment or -emment (apart from lentement).

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