Adverbs of Quantity in French

Instructor: Romain Chareyron

Romain teaches university French and has a PhD in French culture and cinema.

This lesson will teach you about adverbs of quantity in French. We will discuss the position of adverbs in a sentence, how to express the absence of quantity, and offer you a list of the most common adverbs in quantity.

What Is an Adverb of Quantity?

If you ever flip through the pages of a health and fitness magazine in French - especially before the beginning of summer - you are more than likely to find advice on how to lose weight. You might come across sentences like Mangez plus de légumes ('Eat more vegetables') or Buvez beaucoup d'eau ('Drink a lot of water').

Mangez plus de legumes.
Mangez plus de legumes

In the above sentences, the expressions plus de… ('more') and beaucoup d'… ('a lot of') are adverbs of quantity. In both these example sentences, adverbs are placed right before a noun--légumes ('vegetables') in the first example and eau ('water') in the second. This corresponds to one of the most common uses of adverbs of quantity--to modify a noun. Adding an adverb of quantity to the front of a noun changes the meaning of a sentence. Saying Mangez plus de légumes is different than simply saying Mangez des légumes ('Eat vegetables'), and Buvez beaucoup d'eau is not the same as Buvez de l'eau ('Drink water').

Buvez beaucoup d eau.
Buvez beaucoup d eau

Adverbs of Quantity Used with a Noun

There are two different structures you find when using an adverb of quantity with a noun:

• You can have an adverb of quantity followed by de and a noun at the plural level when the noun is countable (Mangez plus de légumes).

• If the noun is uncountable, you will have an adverb of quantity followed by de and a noun at the singular level (Buvez beaucoup d'eau).

Below are two examples that further illustrate this difference:

Il mange beaucoup de bonbons. ('He eats a lot of candies.') Bonbons ('candies') is a countable noun, so you will use the plural.

Il mange beaucoup de bonbons.
Il mange beaucoup de bonbons

Il a peu de volonté. ('He has little desire in life.') Volonté ('desire') is a concept and is thus uncountable, so you will use the singular.

Feminine and Masculine Nouns

As you can see from the different examples used so far, adverbs of quantity are invariable, which means that their spelling won't change whether the noun they modify is singular or plural, masculine or feminine.

Below are two examples of the adverb beaucoup de, used with a feminine and masculine noun. Notice how the spelling remains the same in both cases:

Il mange beaucoup de viande. ('He eats a lot of meat.') The French noun viande ('meat') is feminine.

Elle mange beaucoup de poisson. ('She eats a lot of fish.') The French noun poisson ('fish') is masculine.

Il mange beaucoup de viande.
Il mange beaucoup de viande

Another aspect you might have noticed from these examples is that, regardless of the fact that the noun is countable or uncountable, the structure of your sentence, when using an adverb of quantity with a noun, will always remain the same: Adverb of quantity + de + noun.

The only exception to this rule is when the word de is followed by a noun that starts with a vowel, then de will become d' (like in the example Buvez beaucoup d'eau).

Most Common Adverbs of Quantity

Beaucoup de/d' A lot
Peu de/d' A little
Assez de Enough
Trop de/d' Too much/Too many (depending on context)
Plus de/d' More
Moins de/d' Less
Autant de/d' As much as

Adverbs of Quantity Used with a Verb

When reading the advice to lose weight Marie, a young French woman, lists some of the things she does that are not healthy. She writes Je dors peu ('I get little sleep') and Je mange beaucoup ('I eat a lot'). In these two sentences, the adverbs of quantity, peu ('a little/little') and beaucoup ('a lot'), are not paired with a noun but with a verb: peu is paired with the verb dors (infinitive dormir, which means 'to sleep') and beaucoup is paired with the verb mange (infinitive manger, which means 'to eat').

Je mange trop.
Je mange trop

The same adverbs are being used here as with nouns, and adverbs of quantity used with a verb remain invariable. However, you probably noticed some differences between the two sentences above and the ones we studied previously. These differences are of two kinds:

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