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 Adverbs in French

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Types of adverb and their usage


Subject index:  Functions and use of adverbs Adverbs related to adjectives Adverbs unrelated to adjectives 

1.0. Use and function of adverbs:

Adverbs are....
Adverbs and adverb phrases are the parts of a sentence that add circumstantial information to qualify  a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.  Some adverbs - called "sentence adverbs" - can also qualify a whole sentence or clause (see below).
Adverbs are invariable, in other words they only have one single form.

French has  less adverbs than English   

French often requires the use of an adverb phrase when in English a simple adverb will do.

In French, adverbs can be formed from many but not all adjectives by adding the ending -ment, but they cannot normally be formed from nouns or verbal adjectives (present participles) as they can in English. Consequently there are less single-word adverbs in French than in English.
   French does not have adverbial endings like -wise, -fully, -ingly, - like, or -wards which can be used in English to make adverbs from nouns, verbs or prepositions.
   Thus many simple English adverbs cannot be expressed as single words in French, but require adverb phrases . For example
  • inwards  > vers l'intérieur
  • forwards  > vers l'avant or en avant,
  • surprisingly  > de  manière surprenante ,
  • hopefully > avec un peu d'espoir,
  • clockwise,  > dans le sens des aiguilles d'une montre.

1.1. Types of adverb:

The term "adverb" covers quite a large spectrum of words. Demain is an adverb, but so are  probablement, bien, malheureusement or déjà.
   One common way of classifying adverbs is to divide them into four main types .  includes adverbs of four main types: adverbs of time, adverbs of place, adverbs of manner,  adverbs of degree (including degrees of certainty)

Examples

Time ( duration, sequence, frequency)  :  déjà, bientôt, demain, ensuite, souvent précédemment, éternellement, récemment
Place (position or direction) : ici, quelque part, là-bas, en-dessous, partout localement, verticalement, extérieurement, latéralement
Manner : bien, mal, ensemble, vite, rapidement, facilement, calmement
Degree: très, assez, beaucoup, peu, extrèmement, hautement, faiblement, largement, moins, sûrement, probablement, apparemment
Most simple adverbs can be re-expressed as longer "adverb phrases", of which the number is infinite. The exact adverb phrase equivalent will depend on the context. Adverb phrases are frequently made up of a preposition and a noun and maybe more.

Examples

Adverbs and sample adverb phrase equivalents
Facilement / avec beaucoup de facilité
bientôt / dans très peu de temps
dedans  /  à l'intérieur
poliment  /  avec beaucoup de politesse

1.2. Position of adverbs:

   With the exception of sentence adverbs, adverbs stand next to the element they qualify – usually after a verb, but before an adjective or adverb.
   
   With compound verb-forms, such as auxiliary + verb, as in  j'ai mangé or je vais manger, some common adverbs, notably adverbs of frequency or of manner, are most often placed in the middle of the verb group, for example
  J'ai souvent mangé dans ce restaurant.
  Je vais 
souvent manger dans ce restaurant.
  J'aime souvent manger dans ce restaurant
   Some adverbs, without being sentence adverbs, can also be seen to qualify a whole sentence or clause. Their position is flexible, and may depend on the user's preference, or the logic of the sentence.
  Take the word hier (yesterday) in this sentence.
   Hier j'ai acheté un nouvel téléphone.
While hier qualifies the whole sentence, we could also say that is qualifies the verb, so hier can stand after the verb .
  J'ai acheté hier un nouvel téléphone.
Since it qualifies the whole  sentence, hier can also stand next to it at the end, rather than the beginning.
  J'ai acheté un nouvel téléphone hier .
So in this case, there are three positions possible for the adverb.

3.1 . Adverbs formed from adjectives

Adverbs can be divided into two categories
  1.    Those that are related to adjectives or prepositions, and are single words
  2.    Those that exist independently, and are not derived from adjectives or prepositions, and may be made up of two or even three words
Adverbs from either category play the same role in a sentence.

French has many adverbs derived from adjectives, though not as many as English. Some of these can qualify verbs or adjectives or other adverbs, others are less flexible. It depends on their meaning.

2.1 Formation of adverbs:

In virtually all cases (except for moins (adv.) from moindre (adj) ), adverbs are formed by adding the ending -ment to the feminine form of the adjective.   However
  • adjectives ending in -ent form adverbs in -emment ,
  • adjectives ending in -ant form adverbs in -amment
  • and adjectives ending in -i  or -u  form adverbs from their masculine form
Examples: (adjective / adverb)
Grand / grandement,  certain / certainement, beau / bellement, heureux / heureusement,  franc / franchement
Récent / récemment,  fréquent / fréquemment
Constant / constamment, savant / savamment
Poli / poliment,  vrai / vraiment,  dû / dûmont
Examples in context
Adjectives Adverbs
qualifying a noun qualifying a verb qualifying an adjective (or an adverb)
Une haute montagne Je pense très hautement de lui Cela est hautement improbable
Une vraie surprise je l'aime vraiment Vous êtes vraiment gentil !
Un train rapide Il va très rapidement
Une bouteille pleine J'ai rempli pleinement la bouteille. Il est pleinement satisfait.
Une faible lumière La bougie éclaire faiblement la pièce Il est faiblement satisfait.
Les sports extrèmes Je suis extrèmement fatigué
Il conduisait extrèmement mal

3.2. Adverbs unrelated to adjectives

There are many common adverbs in French that are not related to adjectives; they can be found in all four types, as illustrated above.  These adverbs include some important groups:
  • Several common adverbs of frequency: souvent, parfois,  etc.
  • Several common adverbs of degree : assez, très, peu, 
  • A number of "Sentence adverbs" , which qualify whole clauses or sentences.

More examples: 
Adverbs of manner: ainsi, mal, vite
Adverbs of degree : à peine, davantage,  tout-à-fait, très, trop
Adverbs of time :  alors, après, avant, bientôt, demain, depuis, encore, ensuite, hier, jamais, longtemps, parfois, quelquefois, soudain, toujours.
Adverbs of place : ailleurs, autour, dedans, dehors, dessous, ici, là, partout

4. Sentence adverbs - les adverbes de phrase

Adverbs qualifying a whole clause or a whole sentence

Some adverbs can apply (or in some cases only apply)  to a whole sentence or statement.
These can be
  • adverbs that qualify the whole statement , such as naturellement, évidemment, effectivement,  , or
  • conjunctive adverbs (adverbes de liaison) such as  donc, ainsi, pourtant, cependant...  
Sentence adverbs are not conjunctions (like et or mais or puisque), since conjunctions must come at the start of their clause; sentence adverbs may have more than one possible position in the clause.

Examples: 
Donc vous n'avez pas compris ce que je vous ai dit.
Vous n'avez donc pas compris ce que je vous ai dit.

Vous n'avez pas compris donc ce que je vous ai dit.


Evidemment nous essaierons de trouver la bonne réponse.
Nous essaierons évidemment de trouver la bonne réponse.

These adverbs are in reality contractions of a longer clause:
Donc means "on peut conclure que..."
Evidemment means "Il est évident que .."
 etc.

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