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Quelle est la différence entre "rapide(ment)" et "vite"? "Vite" est un adverbe, donc peut-être il faut demander entre "rapidement" et "vite".

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They are pretty close synonyms — there aren't many nuances that differentiate them. But there are four notes to add:

1) "Vite" can also be an adjective, particularly (I am given to understand) in informal contexts. Edit: As discussed in the comments, your mileage among native speakers may vary when relying on this usage. However, I still see it taught in learning materials now and then.

The next three notes are derived from entries in le Dictionnaire de l'Académie française based on DVLF searches for "vite" and "rapide".

2) Edit: Does not seem to be current. It suggests that "vite" is better suited to animals and other living things, as an adjective, anyway. That would make "rapide" the preferable choice for inanimate objects. I can't say I've noticed a strong trend towards that distinction, and (edit) judging by Frank's commentary below and the fact that the edition of this dictionary that was cited is 80 years old, it appears that this distinction has died out.

3) "Rapide" seems like the more suitable figurative choice for something is not literally moving fast, such as "un style rapide", "un esprit rapide".

4) "Rapide" may also carry connotations of brusqueness or impetuousness, similar to "hasty".

Interested to see what the others think of these connotations.

  • Using one or the other is not always appropriate: ils vont vite, c'est rapide = ça va vite, but il est vite is not correct. C'est une machine rapide: OK, c'est une machine vite: nope. C'est un cheetah vite: absolutely not, even if it is an animal. It seems rapide is easier to use than vite :-) I have ah hard time coming up with examples of vite as an adjective. I noticed that many foreigners have a hard time using the right one - this question probably deserves more digging into usage. – Frank Mar 4 '17 at 3:15
  • Hmm, interesting. Do you think the animals would be fixed collocations or could some rule describe which ones? the DAF offers "cheval vite" readily enough; horses, probably having a much longer history in the language than "cheetah", might well have been attached to an older usage pattern of "vite", I guess. – Luke Sawczak Mar 4 '17 at 3:20
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    "Cheval vite"? I would definitely categorize that as "incorrect". I'll look into it. Try "vite_ADJ,rapide_ADJ" in ngrams. "vite_ADJ" is close to 0. I think that "vite" as an adjective is more or less dead today, or very rare - we use it only as an adverb, and use "rapide" only as an adjective. The examples given in CNRTL or DAF are surprising to me and feel "incorrect" (they are not incorrect, but I would classify them as "wrong" today) or old. – Frank Mar 4 '17 at 4:24
  • Try also "cheval vite,cheval rapide" in ngrams: "cheval vite" is dead today. It had its moment in the 19th century, and a couple of revivals, but we don't say that today anymore. – Frank Mar 4 '17 at 4:28
  • Good to know. Updated answer. – Luke Sawczak Mar 4 '17 at 4:53

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