French Adverbs Formation

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, heureux » heureusement ("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:
vrai » vraiment
("real" » "really")

poli » poliment
("polite" » "politely")
• If the adjective ends in -ant or -ent, then the corresponding adverb ends in -amment or -emment, respectively:
constant » constamment
("constant" » "constantly")

récent » récemment
("recent" » "recently")
• Some adjectives make other changes:
précis » précisément
("precise" » "precisely")

gentil » gentiment
("nice" » "nicely")
Some adverbs are derived from adjectives in completely irregular fashions, not even using the suffix -ment:
bon » bien
("good" » "well")

mauvais » mal
("bad" » "badly")

meilleur » mieux
("better"-adjective » "better"-adverb)

traditionally, pire » pis
("worse"-adjective » "worse"-adverb)

nowadays commonly, pire » pire
("worse"-adjective » "worse"-adverb)
And, as in English, many common adverbs are not derived from adjectives at all:
ainsi ("thus" or "thusly")
vite ("quickly")
Examples in French:

When the adverb is modifying a verb, it is placed after the verb.
  • Nous avons bien mangé.
    We ate well.

  • Je regarde souvent la télé le soir.
    I watch TV often in the evening.
    I often watch TV in the evening.
    Often, I watch TV in the evening.
When the adverb is modifying an adjective or another adverb, is is placed in front of the word it is modifying.
  • Nous avons très bien mangé.
    We ate very well.

  • Je suis profondément ému.
    I am deeply moved.

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