I've always struggled with toujours and encore (and related adverbs) and what they mean when their position in a phrase is changed.

What is the difference in the following sentences?

  1. Il était là toujours
  2. Il était toujours là

I take the first to mean that "he was still there", that is, he was (for example) waiting and at the moment that was being described he hadn't yet left. I take the second phrase to mean that "he was always there", in that he was a constant presence, whether or not this is figurative or literal (for example, in the sense that he visited that place every day).

Firstly, are both of these grammatical constructions allowed? Secondly, are my interpretations valid?

3 Answers 3


First off: the first one is grammatically incorrect, and thus doesn't mean anything.

On the other hand, the second one is interesting. In French, "still" and "always" can both be translated to "toujours".

You could have:

Deux heures plus tard, il était toujours là-bas.
(Two hours later, he was still there.)

But also:

Il était toujours là pour moi.
(He was always there for me.)

And only the context will help you know which one is being used !


and toujours are both adverbs. In what you want to express modifies the verb être and toujours the adverb .

Theoretically adverbs can be placed before or after the verb. It's most usual to have the adverb after the verb but it can depend on the length or meaning of the adverb.

It's correct to say :

J'étais là.
J'ai été là.

An adverb that modifies another adverb is always placed before the adverb it modifies. Therefore toujours when modifying will always be placed before . You can consider that "toujours là" is a sort of idiomatic phrase.

Je suis toujours là.
J'ai toujours été là.
J'ai été toujours là.

Are all correct.

Note that when in a compound tense toujours can be placed before or after the past participle but will always stay before even if separated from it by the past participle.

Il était là toujours is not only ungrammatical but not even a mistake a French native would make.

If you come across toujours after it will be in a context where toujours does not modify and the punctuation will be different from the one in your sentence.

Il était là, toujours prêt à aider.

In this last sentence toujours is placed before the sentence it modifies, i.e. "prêt à aider"; "toujours prêt à aider" is apposed to "Il était toujours là" and separated from it by a comma.

An example with encore:

Il était encore là.
Il était là, encore à se plaindre.


Il était là toujours means nothing. You need to switch and toujours : the second sentence is the correct one and the only one you would say.

Il était toujours là can be translated as he was still there with the first explanation you provide, but forget the first sentence we don't say that in any way, that's not grammatically correct, even with a comma after

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