Adverbs are words that describe or modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. In English, we often form adverbs by adding -ly to an adjective (as in careful, carefully). In French, many adverbs are formed by adding -ment to the feminine form of an adjective. Here are some examples:

facile: facilement – easily

heureuse: heureusement – happily

finale: finalement – finally.

Sometimes adverbs are formed by adding -ment to the masculine form of the adjective, when the last letter of the adjective is a vowel, for example:

poli: poliment – politely

vrai: vraiment – truly

absolu: absolument – absolutely.

If the masculine form of an adjective ends in -ant, this ending changes to -amment to form the adverb:

constant: constamment – constantly

puissant: puissamment – powerfully.

Similarly, masculine adjectives ending in -ent change this ending to -emment to form the adverb:

évident: évidemment – evidently

fréquent: fréquemment – frequently

One common exception to this rule is lent: lentement – slowly.

Some adverbs do not follow these rules and are irregular in form. Here are some of the most common ones:

bon (good): bien – well

mal (bad): mauvais – badly

petit (small, little): peu (little) (For example, il mange peu – he eats little.)

gentil: gentiment – nicely.

In some cases, the adverb is exactly the same as the masculine singular adjective, for example:

fort – loudly, strongly

dur – hard (for example, to work hard – travailler dur)

clair – clearly.

Elizabeth Allen
April 2007