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French Adverbs of Frequency & Time

Instructor: Ada Pouplard

Ada has taught French at Tulane University and hold a master's degree in French Literature

Though not always necessary, adverbs of time and frequency allow you to add information about 'when' something occurs. In this lesson, we will introduce you to French adverbs of frequency and time, including adverbs for the past, present and future.

French Adverbs: Definition

When is the final exam? Today or tomorrow? No, it was yesterday! As you can see in this dialogue, adverbs like today, tomorrow and yesterday can be quite important!

While adjectives add information about nouns, adverbs are used to add meaning to a verb, an adjective, another adverb or a whole sentence. Contrary to French adjectives that agree in gender and number with the noun they relate to, French adverbs are invariable, which means they never change.

Although adverbs sometimes add crucial information, they are usually not essential to the sentence and can be removed without altering the construction of the sentence.

Adverbs are divided into different categories determined by the type of information they provide. As you might have guessed, adverbs of frequency and time provide information on when, how often, or for long an action takes place.

Adverbs of Time

There are many French adverbs of time. To help you learn them, we will divide them into four different categories: adverbs of time past, time present, time future and adverbs about a specific moment in time relative to another moment (this will become clearer as we get there).

Adverbs of Time Past

Adverbs of time past indicate the event has taken place in the past, whether recently or a long time ago. Logically, they are usually used in sentences in the past tense.

Here is a table listing some adverbs of time past from most recent to most ancient:

French adverb Pronunciation English translation
À l'instant ah-lun-stan just now
Récemment ray-sah-man recently
Tout à l'heure too-tah-luhr earlier
Hier ee-ehr yesterday
Avant-hier ah-van-tee-ehr the day before yesterday
Autrefois o-truh-fwah in the past, in the old days
Jadis zhah-dees in the old days

Examples:

Il est sorti à l'instant. He just walked out.

Ils ont déménagé récemment. They recently moved away.

Autrefois, j'avais les cheveux bruns. In the past, I used to have brown hair.

Jadis, les enfants ne regardaient pas la télévision. In the old days, children did not watch television.

Adverbs of Time Present

French adverb Pronunciation English translation
Aujourd'hui o-zhoor-düee today
Maintenant mun-tuh-nan now
Tout de suite too-duh-süeet right now
Immédiatement eem-may-deeah-tman immediately
En ce moment an-suh-mo-man right now/currently
Actuellement ak-tü-ehl-man currently

Examples:

Aujourd'hui nous allons à la plage! Today we are going to the beach!

Je dois préparer le dîner maintenant. I have to prepare dinner now.

Rendez-moi mon argent tout de suite. Give me back my money right now.

Adverbs of Time Future

French adverb Pronunciation English translation
Tout à l'heure too-tah-luhr later
Bientôt beeun-to soon
Demain duh-mun tomorrow
Après-demain ah-preh-duh-mun the day after tomorrow
Dorénavant do-ray-nah-van from now on
Aussitôt o-si-to as soon as/right away

Note that tout à l'heure can either refer to an event that just happened, or an event that will happen very soon, and can either mean earlier today or later today.

Examples:

Les enfants sortirons bientôt de l'école. The children will soon come out of school.

Dorénavant, je ne lui ferai plus confiance. From now on, I won't trust him anymore.

Aussitôt que les étudiants auront fini leurs examens, ils partiront en vacances. As soon as the students will have finished their exams, they will go on vacation.

A Moment in Time

Some adverbs express how and when something happened relative to other events:

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