TNs, U29: Adverbs 1(Placement, Comparatives & Superlatives, Bon/Bien/Mauvais/Mal)

Adverbs are invariable words that can modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, and more.

Adverb Placement

If an adverb modifies a verb, it usually follows right after it.

  • Il parle vite. — He speaks quickly.
  • Elle mange souvent de la soupe. — She often eats soup.
  • J'aime bien l'hiver. — I like the winter.

An adverb comes before an adjective or other adverb that it modifies.

  • Je suis très heureux. — I am very happy.
  • Ma cuillère est trop grande ! — My spoon is too big!

A long adverb that modifies a phrase can usually be relegated to the beginning or end of a sentence.

  • Ton fils est un homme maintenant. — Your son is a man now.
  • Généralement, je sais quoi faire. — Generally, I know what to do.

Comparatives and Superlatives

The adverbs plus ("more") and moins ("less") can be used with the conjunction que in comparisons.

  • Ta sœur est plus jolie qu'elle. — Your sister is prettier than her.
  • Ils mangent moins que nous. — They are eating less than us.

To express equivalence, use aussi...que ("").

  • Je suis aussi timide que mon père. — I am as shy as my father.

Adding a definite article before plus or moins creates a superlative. The definite article agrees with the noun being modified.

  • C'est la plus jolie robe. — That's the prettiest dress.
  • Le plus grand arbre du monde est là. — The biggest tree in the world is there.

If the adjective should follow the noun, then the definite article must be repeated.

  • Je veux acheter le pain le moins cher. — I want to buy the least expensive bread.
  • C'est le livre le plus difficile à comprendre. — That's the most difficult book to understand.

Bon, Bien, Mauvais, and Mal

In French, we have to deal with the good (bon and bien), the bad (mauvais and mal), and the ugly (trying to decide which to use). Luckily, in most cases, bon and mauvais are adjectives while bien and mal are adverbs.

  • C'est un bon chanteur. — He is a good singer.
  • Il chante bien. — He sings well.
  • C’est une bonne étudiante. — She's a good student.
  • Elle étudie bien. — She studies well.
  • C'est un mauvais homme. — He's a bad man.
  • Mon frère lit très mal. — My brother reads very badly.
  • Tu bois le mauvais vin ! — You're drinking the wrong wine!
  • L'anglais, ce n'est jamais que du français mal prononcé. (Georges Clemenceau) — English is nothing but mispronounced French.

There are also a number of fixed expressions or special usages for bien. You are familiar with some of these from "Common Phrases", and bien can also be exceptionally used as an invariable adjective, that is, it does not form agreements with the nouns it modifies.

  • Bien ! — Good!
  • C'est très bien ! — That's very good!
  • Bien sûr. — Of course.
  • C’est une femme bien. — She is a good/decent woman

Also, remember that aimer normally means "to love" when directed at people and pets, but adding bien reduces its meaning to "to like".

  • Elle l'aime. — She loves him/her.
  • J'aime bien mon ami. — I like my friend.

Important: If you find any errors in the Tips and Notes, have questions related to the grammar points above, or would like to discuss the topic in depth, please feel free to comment below. We ask that you keep your comments on topic so that this post stays educational and everyone can benefit from them. Any spam or unrelated comments will be deleted.

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December 20, 2018


Great explanation. I could never figure out the difference between "aime" vs. "aime bien". It would probably be beneficial to get more context sensitive help during lessons. Like when I type "love" a pop-up said "bien" reduces "love" to "like".

December 24, 2018

We used to have context specific corrections and contributors manually entered 1,000s of such report messages. However, with program changes, Duolingo stopped showing them.

December 24, 2018
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