The full guide to French adverbs

I’ve read half a dozen books on writing style and nearly every one of them advises authors to avoid the excessive use of adverbs.

Writers are encouraged to use strong and specific verbs, rather than add an adverb to a weak verb. For example:

generic verb plus adverb more specific verb
she said softly she whispered
he ran quickly he sprinted
he looked angrily he glared
she shouted loudly she screamed
they talked quietly they murmured

I’ve lived in France most of my life and I have noticed the excessive use, in spoken French, of adverbs like “notamment,” “également,” “effectivement,” and “éventuellement.”

Many French speakers seem to like using long adverbs (with many syllables), especially in professional settings —perhaps because they think that it makes them sound sophisticated.

But it can lead to pretentious and pedantic speech. It also goes against the notion of conciseness, as there are shorter alternatives with the same meanings. For example: “aussi” instead of “également,” and “en effet” is in some cases synonymous with “effectivement.”

That being said, adverbs are one of the main parts of speech (alongside nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.), so anyone who is learning French must learn plenty of French adverbs to reach fluency.

An overview of French adverbs

French adverbs are invariable words. This means that they don’t change form according to number and gender —in contrast to French adjectives which do.

In the same way that English uses the suffix “-ly” to form adverbs from adjectives, French often uses the suffix “-ment” (but not always —we’ll explain this in more detail in the following sections).

French adverbs can be classified into five main types: adverbs of manner, frequency, degree, time, and place.

Adverbs of manner (“Adverbes de manière” in French): these describe how an action is performed. Here are some examples:

French English Translation
lentement slowly
rapidement quickly
mieux better
volontiers gladly / willingly

Adverbs of frequency (Adverbes de fréquence) indicate how often an action takes place. For example:

French English Translation
toujours always
souvent often
parfois sometimes
rarement rarely

Adverbs of degree (Adverbes de quantité) describe the intensity of something. For example:

French English Translation
très very
quelque peu somewhat
moins less
absolument absolutely

Adverbs of time (Adverbes de temps) specify when an action occurs. Here are some examples:

French English Translation
hier yesterday
aujourd'hui today
demain tomorrow
bientôt soon

Adverbs of place (“Adverbes de lieu” in French): these indicate where an action occurs.

French English Translation
ici here
à gauche to the left
à droite to the right

French adverb placement

The placement of French adverbs is not always identical to the placement of English adverbs.

For example, in the English sentence, “he often wins”, the adverb is placed before the verb, whereas in the corresponding French sentence, (“il gagne souvent”), the adverb is placed after the verb.

But look at this example: “Il a complètement oublié son anniversaire” (“He completely forgot about her birthday”).

In that example, the French sentence has compound tense, so there are the two verbs: the auxiliary and the past participle. In that example, the adverb was placed between the auxiliary and the past participle.

Basically, when a French adverb modifies a verb that is in a simple tense, the adverb is generally placed after that verb. But when the verb being modified is in a compound tense, there is no absolute rule.

A French adverb that modifies an adjective is generally placed in front of that adjective. For example: “C’est très beau” (it is very beautiful).

A French adverb that modifies another adverb is placed in front of that other adverb. For example: “C’est vraiment très beau” (it is really very beautiful).

The formation of French adverbs

In the same way that the English language uses the suffix “-ly” to create adverbs from adjectives, French uses the suffix “-ment.”

This pattern has two sets of exceptions: adjectives ending in “-ent” and in “-ant”.

The general case: The formation of adverbs from adjectives that neither end in “-ent” nor in “-ant”

When forming adverbs from these adjectives, in most cases it is the feminine form of the adjective which is used.

An acute accent is added to the ‘e’ in some cases, in order to facilitate the pronunciation. For example:

French adverb formation
précisément (precise) précise + -ment
énormément (enormously) énorme + -ment
profondément (deeply) profonde + -ment
conformément (accordingly) conforme + -ment
intensément (intensely) intense + -ment
communément (commonly) commune + -ment

Here is a list of the most common French adverbs which are formed simply by adding the suffix -ment to an adjective.

In most cases, the feminine form of the adjective is used. In the table, we have sometimes indicated the masculine form of the adjective even in cases when the feminine form is used to create the adverb.

French adverb formation
éventuellement (possibly) éventuel + -ment
entièrement (entirely) entier + -ment
seulement (only) seule + -ment
actuellement (currently) actuelle + -ment
également (also / equally) égal + -ment
simplement (simply) simple + -ment
vraiment (truly) vrai + -ment
nécessairement (necessarily) nécessaire + -ment
facilement (easily) facile + -ment
probablement (probably) probable + -ment
lentement (slowly) lente + -ment
parfaitement (perfectly) parfait + -ment
absolument (absolutely) absolu + -ment
doucement (softly) douce + -ment
rapidement (speedily) rapide + -ment
exactement (exactly) exact + -ment
complètement (completely) complet + -ment
immédiatement (immediately) immédiate + -ment
clairement (clearly) clair + -ment
rarement (rarely) rare + -ment
malheureusement (unfortunately) malheureux + -ment
particulièrement (particularly) particulier + -ment
totalement (totally) totale + -ment
généralement (generally) générale + -ment
heureusement (luckily) heureux + -ment
autrement (otherwise) autre + -ment

Exception 1: forming adverbs from adjectives ending in “-ent”

French adverbs which are formed from adjectives ending in “-ent” replace that ending with “-emment”. Here are some examples:

French adverb formation
évidemment (evidently) évident + -emment
récemment (recently) récent + -emment
apparemment (apparently) apparent + -emment
impatiemment (impatiently) impatient + -emment
différemment (differently) différent + -emment
précédemment (before now) précédent + -emment
prudemment (carefully) prudent + -emment
fréquemment (often) fréquent + -emment
violemment (violently) violent + -emment
pertinemment (pertinently) pertinent + -emment
décemment (decently) décent + -emment
consciemment (consciously) conscient + -emment

An exception to this pattern is the adverb “lentement” (lente + ment).

Exception 2: forming adverbs from adjectives ending in “-ant”

French adverbs which are formed from adjectives ending in "-ant" replace that ending with “-amment”. Here are some examples:

French adverb formation
suffisamment (sufficiently) suffisant + -amment
couramment (fluently or commonly) courant + -amment
indépendamment (independently) indépendant + -amment
abondamment (abundantly) abondant + -amment
constamment (constantly) constant + -amment
brillamment (brilliantly) brillant + -amment
étonnamment (surprisingly ) étonnant + -amment
bruyamment (noisily) bruyant + -amment
incessamment (unceasingly) incessant + -amment

French adverbs which do not end in -ment

In French, there are also many adverbs that are not derived from adjectives. Here are some examples of these:

Adverb Meaning
bien well
jamais never
ainsi thus, so
bientôt soon, shortly
vite quickly, fast
avant before
peu little, few
désormais from now on
loin far
beaucoup very much
dehors outside
mieux better
assez enough, somewhat
néanmoins nevertheless, nonetheless
trop too much
maintenant now
toujours always
alors then, hence, so
ici here
tard late
ailleurs elsewhere
déjà already
tôt early
dorénavant from now on
encore still, yet, again
environ about
enfin finally, at last
presque almost
très very
longtemps for a long time
demain tomorrow
ensemble together
souvent often
derrière behind
cependant however
lors during
surtout especially
parfois sometimes
juste only, precisely
partout everywhere
autrefois back in the day, in the past
autant as much, equally
guère hardly, barely
auparavant beforehand
davantage more
pourtant however
jadis once, formerly
dessus above
dessous under
soudain suddenly, abruptly
toutefois however
volontiers willingly, gladly