French adverbs

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French adverbs, like their English counterparts, are used to modify adjectives, other adverbs, and verbs or clauses. They do not display any inflection; that is, their form does not change to reflect their precise role, nor any characteristics of what they modify.

Formation[edit]

In French, as in English, most adverbs are derived from adjectives. In most cases, this is done by adding the suffix -ment ("-ly") to the adjective's feminine singular form. For example, the feminine singular form of lent ("slow") is lente, so the corresponding adverb is lentement ("slowly"); similarly, heureuxheureusement ("happy" → "happily").

As in English, however, the adjective stem is sometimes modified to accommodate the suffix:

  • If the adjective ends in an i, then -ment is added to the masculine singular (default) form, rather than to the feminine singular form:
    • vraivraiment ("real" → "really")
    • polipoliment ("polite" → "politely")
  • If the adjective ends in -ant or -ent, then the-nt is stripped and -mment is added:
    • constantconstamment ("constant" → "constantly")
    • récentrécemment ("recent" → "recently") (-emment and -amment have the same pronunciation -> /amã/)
  • Some adjectives make other changes:
    • précisprécisément ("precise" → "precisely")
    • gentilgentiment ("nice" → "nicely")

Some adverbs are derived from adjectives in completely irregular fashions, not even using the suffix -ment:

  • bonbien ("good" → "well")
  • mauvaismal ("bad" → "badly")
  • meilleurmieux ("better"-adjective → "better"-adverb)
  • traditionally, pirepis ("worse"-adjective → "worse"-adverb)
  • nowadays commonly, pirepire ("worse"-adjective → "worse"-adverb)

And, as in English, many common adverbs are not derived from adjectives at all:

  • ainsi ("thus" or "this way")
  • vite ("quickly")

Placement[edit]

The placement of French adverbs is almost the same as the placement of English adverbs.

An adverb that modifies an adjective or adverb comes before that adjective or adverb:

  • complètement vrai ("completely true")
  • pas possible ("not possible")
  • trop bien cuit ("too well cooked" or "overdone")

An adverb that modifies an infinitive (verbal noun) generally comes after the infinitive:

  • marcher lentement ("to walk slowly")

But negative adverbs, such as pas ("not"), plus ("not any more"), and jamais come before the infinitive:

  • ne pas marcher ("not to walk")

An adverb that modifies a main verb or clause comes either after the verb, or before the clause:

  • Lentement il commença à marcher or Il commença lentement à marcher ("Slowly, he began to walk" or "He began slowly to walk").

Note that, unlike in English, this is true even of negative adverbs:

  • Jamais je n'ai fait cela or Je n'ai jamais fait cela ("Never have I done that" or "I have never done that")

External links[edit]