In English it is sometimes permissible (but not necessarily (always?) proper grammar) to "split" a verb infinitive with an adverb. For example, consider the placement of "quickly" in the two following sentences:

I was able to get up quickly.
I was able to quickly get up.

I have a related, but slightly more specific, question about a similar notion in French. In the two following sentences, is it correct to place the adverb before the infinitive (as opposed to after it)? If is so, is there a specific rule as to why?

Tu me sembles de bien connaître …
Je serais très heureux d'encore vous ("vous encore"?) aider !

My intuition tells me that it's sometimes correct to place the adverb beforehand, but I don't know why. Maybe it's related to why sometimes (always?) it's correct to say "ne pas" + infinitive?

Edit - Note that my first french sentence, I've misused "de" (there shouldn't be a preposition there). I've left it as is to ensure the responses I've gotten don't need updating.

  • I actually would have thought it'd be de vous aider encore, but what do I know. Sep 16, 2013 at 1:42
  • That's my question :P. Does it go before or after? I'll clarify that point in my post :). Sep 16, 2013 at 3:46
  • I'd say "Tu me sembles bien connaître …", then it's valid. As for the second, it goes after, as first comment said.
    – Ven
    Sep 16, 2013 at 18:24
  • FYI: You haven't split the infinitive in your English examples. The infinitive is the form "to verb". "To boldly go" is a famous example. I was able to quickly get up would be a similar example to yours. Sep 25, 2013 at 12:43
  • Whoops, you're right. Updated my post to reflect the correction. Sep 25, 2013 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


The first sentence is incorrect, but on account of de having no business being there whatsoever. Sembler is a verb that does not take a preposition before the following infinitive (it functions much like an English modal in that regard).

The second sentence is not incorrect, but strikes as a strongly elevated or even dated literary style.

It is common for most adverbs of scale or manner to be placed between the auxiliary and participle of a compound tense verb. I believe the same adverbs may occur between a modal verb and its auxiliary (whereas in English it depends on the verb, and different auxiliaries and semi-auxiliaries may allow different adverbs).

Certain adverbs (such as mieux, assez, beaucoup, trop, bien) as well as indefinite pronouns (such as tout and rien) commonly occur between a preposition and the verb, but personal pronouns and other adverbs (such as encore in your example) make for a markedly literary/poetic usage bordering on archaic.

Grevisse (Le Bon Usage 14th ed., §684 a) confusingly discusses this in the sections about pronoun placement rather than adverb placement (§§971-5) and I would have entirely missed without a cross-reference.

  • Thank you for point out my ill-usage of de in the first example. Sep 16, 2013 at 5:33
  • (Argh, I didn't know pressing enter would submit my comment. Now I can't edit it because 5 minutes has passed). Anyways, I have a few questions of terminology. A modal verb would be words such as pouvoir, vouloir, sembler, who take no preposition when followed by another verb? Also, would you mind elaborating on what is meant by "scale or manner"? In any case, this answers my question very well, with the major takeaway being: when proceeded by a preposition, the verb should proceed most adverbs Sep 16, 2013 at 5:42
  • "Modal verbs" here kinda refers to all catenative verbs, I guess, since construction such as s'attendre à, commencer à or arrêter de can be involved. The way I understand Grevisse's explanations, the adverbs that are not found between the preposition and the verb in modern French (with the above "elevated language" caveats) are adverbs that are complements, such as adverbs of time and place, as well as "longer" adverbs (i.e. most adverbs in -ment).
    – Circeus
    Sep 16, 2013 at 13:46

En effet :

"Tu me sembles de bien connaître …" sonne faux, tu devrais dire, "Tu me sembles bien connaître".

"Je serais très heureux d'encore vous aider !" Sérieusement : c'est compréhensible, mais de cette manière, on pourrait penser que tu insistes sur le mot 'encore'.

"Je serais très heureux de vous aider encore !" C'est mieux, ça fait plus poli, mais le mot "encore" insiste bien sur le fait que tu aides la personne une fois de plus...

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