My dictionary has the following examples for environ (adv.).

Il gagne environ cinq mille francs par mois.

Il habite ici depuis dix ans environ.

My question: Does it make any difference putting environ before or after a numeral?

For the first example, I guess environ cinq mille francs is better due to the following par mois, but for the second, is there any difference if I use depuis environ dix ans?


  • 2
    Even for the first example, putting environ at the end works just fine. For the second, putting environ before also works just fine.
    – Frank
    Commented May 17 at 2:29

2 Answers 2


Larousse :

La place de environ dans la phrase est libre : on dit aussi bien la maison que vous cherchez est à cent mètres environ que la maison que vous cherchez est environ à cent mètres.

Termiumplus :

De façon générale, l’adverbe environ précède l’expression de la quantité, mais il peut également la suivre :

  • Il a parcouru une distance de trente kilomètres environ. / Il a parcouru une distance d’environ trente kilomètres.
  • Il y a environ cinq ou six ans que je l’ai vu. / Il y a cinq ou six ans environ que je l’ai vu.

Placing environ before or after the expression of quantity doesn't make any difference to the meaning although I tend to agree with Termiumplus to say that having it before is more usual.

If asked to give any criteria for placing environ before or after the numeral adjective I would say it depends on the length of the adjective (and not of the noun it modifies). I would indifferently say: ça a couté trois euros environ. / ça a couté environ trois euros. But I would rather say: ça a couté environ trois cent mille euros. But that is not a rule, just a personal stylistic choice.

  • I would not write il gagne cinq mille francs ENVIRON par mois which is weird to my ear, only il gagne cinq mille francs par mois ENVIRON. I differ from my teammates in this. Individual preferences notwithstanding, there is no ambiguity in meaning. Commented May 17 at 10:24
  • @FrançoisJurain I think splitting the quantity unit, and chiefly when writing, would sound weird to French native.
    – None
    Commented May 17 at 10:36
  • So would I think, to... until I reflected on it and asked around. Commented May 17 at 10:39
  • Weirdly enough none of the Larousse's propositions matches my ears, I'd personally say "la maison que vous cherchez est à environ cent mètres", both other choices would make it sound like a less natural place to state the hesitation in the sentence, since I believe it's all the granurality that can be shared between each choices. I'd say "environ" is a word I'd use when I realize I didn't remembered something that I thought I knew. So placing it at the end is odd, since we should have hesitated before stating 100m, and hesitating before "à" is even weirder since you should not hesitate yet.
    – Kaiido
    Commented May 17 at 16:02
  • 1
    @Kaiido Bof. La maison est à cent mètres environ is perfectly ok to my ears.
    – Frank
    Commented May 17 at 18:57

Although grammatically environ can be placed indifferently before or after the quantified expression, I think the difference is one of focus. What comes first is more important: in

  • Ç'a coûté environ trois mille euros

the focus is on environ, so I know in advance that it is an approximation, and I somehow emphasize it—the amount comes second in importance. While in

  • Ç'a coûté trois mille euros environ

the focus is on the quantified expression, maybe also with a connotation of the subject of the sentence being expensive, and environ comes as additional information to introduce some doubt on the exactness of the price.

What I'm saying depends, of course, also on prosody. One may communicate the same result in any order by stressing the word environ or the quantified expression.

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