Just a general question. In English one can say:

He is an extremely professional/handsome worker

In French (my try):

Il est un travailleur extrêmement professionnel

Is this correct? Does one have to follow the general adverbial rules for verbs in French. What about the order, as some french adjectives are set before the substantive in French. Are there any exceptions to the rule (as usually in French)?

Is there a grammatical rule (order, syntax) one can follow to distinguish if the adverbial adjective refers to the verb or the adjective in a sentence?

If I expand above example to:

Il travaille extrêmement dure (He works extremely hard)

Is this correct?

  • 1
    So far the only reasonable answer is "it depends". You should give a little more context and maybe your attempt(s) at writing whatever you want to say in French. When you write "extreme" is it the French word without the accent (extrême) or the English word?
    – None
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 18:06
  • @Laure hope this helps, although I'm really more interested in a general grammatical rule than above specific example, so when I read some newspapers I can distinguish to what the adjective refers. But the exception of the rule seems more commom than general rules in French ;)
    – Hauser
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 19:36
  • Shows you already have a good background in Frech grammar exception of the rule seems more commom than general rules in French. Très vrai.
    – None
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 21:03

2 Answers 2


Il est un travailleur extrêmement professionnel.
Il travaille extrêmement dur. (no "e")

Rien à redire sur la place de l'adverbe, dans ces deux phrases : il est placé devant l'adjectif qu'il qualifie.
Par contre dans ce genre de phrase il faut employer le pronom personnel "ce" (et pas il/elle).

In these two sentences the place of the adverb "extrêmement" is fine, it comes in front of the adjective it modifies. But you should use the demonstrative form "ce" to refer to a specific individual, as you're qualifying him

Il y a bien des règles qui régissent la place de l'adverbe dans la phrase, mais comme tu le dis justement dans ton commentaire il y a des exceptions.

Je pense qu'une règle générale serait de dire qu'un adverbe qui modifie un adjectif ou un autre adverbe précède ce mot et quand il modifie un verbe il se place presque toujours après ce verbe (mais pas forcément juste après).

Ici un assez bon aperçu de ces règles. Comme tu peux le voir les règles disent parfois "toujours", parfois "presque toujours" et parfois la place dépend ....

Cette page me semble bien faite et peut-être plus accessible et en faisant les exercices ça te permettra de mieux intégrer les règles.

As you say there are rules and exceptions to these rules. In general we can say when an adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb it is placed in front of it. When it modifies a verb is is usually placed after the verb (after the auxiliary in compound tenses). But this is only general, it can depend on what you want to convey or on the adverb itself.

I think this page is a good overview of how to place adverbs in French. And this one seems good as well, with exercises if you want to train.

  • +1, thank you very much for splitting answer in English and French, this way I can learn even more. Probably my French is still not good enough to understand tricky Q&A in pure French here. Is there a rule here to answer questions like on german.se? For some of the pure french Q&A on french.se it takes to much time for me to translate them. Would it qualify as a duplicate to ask such one in English?
    – Hauser
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 21:38
  • 1
    @Hauser: there has been a question on meta on the subject, but just one answer. Other questions on meta that deal about which language to use : meta.french.stackexchange.com/questions/14 - meta.french.stackexchange.com/questions/18 - meta.french.stackexchange.com/questions/247 - meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/59.
    – None
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 22:08
  • La phrase "C'est un travailleur extrêmement professionnel" n'est vraiment pas du tout naturelle en français. On dirait plutôt soit "Il est très professionnel", soit "Il travaille extrêmement dur", bien que les sens soient légèrement différents (il y a une notion de compétence dans la première phrase, et d'effort presque physique dans la seconde)
    – Orabîg
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 22:28
  • "Un travailleur professionnel" is a pleonasm in french. They are complete synonyms. Unlike in English where professional refers to the quality of the work. In French, it means it is the main work of the guy. Of course, anyone will unconsciously "translate", but s/he will probably first search a reference to a famous film in which professional=burglar.
    – AlainD
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 15:22

First of all "Il est un travailleur extrêmement professionnel", although syntactically correct, is not expected in french.

I would expect "C'est un travailleur extrêmement professionnel", or "Il travaille extrêmement professionnellement". Don't ask me why, it is totally instinctive. Maybe because I was beaten at school for every sentences beginning with "il est", until I found an alternative without really understanding why.

Now about your question regarding the position of the adjective, a few a fairly predictable: for example color follows the name (la voiture rouge), petit and grand are always before (un grand appartement but un appartement spacieux, un petit homme (small) but un homme petit (mean)). In facts, the adjective position is a research subject in french theoretical linguisitc.

The best way to know which substantive a adjective refers to is the gender. Yes, there is a reason why in french gender is not related to the sex. With the gender and plural agreement, and the facts that the adjective is never very far from the name, you have really very few chances to misinterpret the reference.

  • You were beaten with some reason. ;)
    – Orabîg
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 22:30
  • Maybe, though it'd be better to explain me why. Now I am applying a rule I do not know. By the way "Il est un travailleur extrêmement professionnel" means There is an an extremely professional worker, while @Hauser was visibly using it in the sense of C't un vrai pro or Il travaille comme un pro.
    – AlainD
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 9:27
  • Well, you can say "il est" with an adjective ("Il est beau, grand...") but you use "c'est" with a substantive ("c'est un bel homme"). I'm sorry, I'm not a linguist, so I can't provide a more precise rule. I'm french, so that's something I do naturally...
    – Orabîg
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 7:02
  • Thanks @Orabîg. Well spotted, dear. I am not a linguist neither, only someone that read a lot about the subject. And I am native french speaker too, Belgian grown up in the Colonies then Switzerland and South of France alternatively, so I am auto-specialized in regionalism by birth. That's said, I don't remember the last time was it I said "Il est beau", as opposed to "C'est un bel homme"?
    – AlainD
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 11:31
  • Maybe that's because you don't know me... :p
    – Orabîg
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 23:34

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