French adverbs’ function works in a similar way than the English language. They modify, i.e. add to the meaning, of a verb, an adjective or another adverb.
As in English, the bulk of French adverbs are formed by adding a suffix at the end of adjectives. Whilst in English the added suffix is –ly in French the suffix is –ment. To facilitate pronunciation, this suffix is usually added to the feminine form of the adjective unless the word already finishes by ‘e’.
final = final-ly / finale = finale-ment
rapide = rapid-ly / rapide = rapide-ment
strong = strong-ly / forte = forte-ment
When adjectives in their masculine form already end in a vowel (other than ‘e’), the suffix –ment is directly added.
poli = poli-ment / polite = politely
absolu = absolu-ment / absolute = absolutely
In a few cases, accents are added:
continu = continû-ment / continual = continually
énorme = énormé-ment / enormous = enormously
or there are slight variations as for words ending in –ant or –ent:
brilliant = brillamment / brilliant = brilliantly
évident = évidemment / evident = evidently
Irregular adverbs are actually the most common in both languages.
bien / well
mal / bad
tôt / early
tard / late
très / very
peu / a little
mieux / better
beaucoup / a lot of
toujours / always
parfois / sometimes
souvent / often
autant / as much
plus / more
moins / less
Some words have different grammatical values in French or English. For example, in French, ‘meilleur’, ‘moindre’ or ‘rapide’ are adjectives when ‘better’, ‘least’ or ‘fast’ are adverbs. Confusion can also arise between words which are close in meaning but have different functions, i. e. bon/mauvais and bien/mal.
‘Bon’et ‘mauvais’ are adjectives and therefore modify nouns:
Il est bon/mauvaisen anglais – He is good / bad in English
‘Bien’ et ‘mauvais’ are adverbs and therefore modify verbs:
Elle parle bien / mal le français – She speaks French well / badly
Beware! Some adverbs are incompatibles:
Il mange beaucoup (not très)
Nous sommes beaucoup (not très)