Forum Rocket French French Grammar placement of toujours in passé composé

placement of toujours in passé composé





I'm wondering why toujours comes before the negation in (L 20.3),

et John n'a toujours pas trouvé de qui on parlait la dernière fois.

(and John still hasn't found out who we were talking about last time.)

I don't remember seeing this before. Is it the case that toujours can come before or after the negation, but changes the meaning?

par exemple:

John ne l'a toujours pas trouvé.
(John still hasn't found it.)

John ne l'a pas toujours trouvé.
(John didn't always find it.)


Is it also the case that using encore after the negation is the same as using toujours before the negation, as in,

John ne l'a pas encore trouvé.
(John still hasn't found it.)







Bonjour Robert,


I think you've got the hang of it, but I'll try and give you another way of looking at it. 


Pas toujours, toujours pas and pas encore are all similar expressions to do with frequency but they do have distinct meanings:

  1. pas toujours - not always
  2. toujours pas - still not
  3. pas encore - not yet

We'll take an example sentence to highlight the difference. I'll use an adjective rather than an active sentence because this should be clearer:

  • Il est toujours fatigué. (He is always tired.)
  1. Il n'est pas toujours fatigué. (He is not always tired.)
  2. Il n'est toujours pas fatigué. (He is still not tired.)
  3. Il n'est pas encore fatigué. (He is not yet tired.)

In the first example, the ‘toujours’ is linked more to the adjective than the verb and you could comfortably insert a pause between pas and toujours to emphasise that. Examples 2 and 3 are the most similar, however there is a slight difference. #2 implies that he should be tired already, whereas #3 is simply making a blanket statement that he is not yet tired.


This distinction is pretty much the same with verbs:

  • Je cherche toujours mes clés. (I'm still looking for my keys.)
  1. Je ne cherche pas toujours mes clés. (I'm not always looking for my keys.)
  2. Je ne cherche toujours pas mes clés. (I'm still not looking for my keys.)
  3. Je ne cherche pas encore mes clés. (I'm not looking for my keys again.)

Encore can be translated as still or again depending on the tense. Here, we are using th epresent tense but it implies more future, i.e.e I won't look for them again. Encore can be ambiguous which is why if we want to convey the idea ‘still not’, then it is better to use toujours.


I hope this helps!


   -   Mitchell



Ok, Mitchell, I can see the logic in the interpretations there. I'm not sure how many adverbs can be placed either before or after the end of the negation with a change of meaning, except that in compound tenses it must be limited to those that come before the past participle in the first place. Are there many, and is there always a logical interpretation associated with them ?


What about those that are always placed before the end of the negation, is there any logic behind that ? Because, of the ones that I know, I fail to see it.







Salut Robert,


As a blanket rule, when adverbs modify verbs, they are placed after the (first) verb:

  1. Je voyage beaucoup.
  2. J'ai beaucoup voyagé.
  3. Je dois beaucoup voyager.

When the adverb modifies any other part of speech such as adjectives, prepositions or another adverb, then they come before whatever they're modifying.

  1. Je suis très fatigué.
  2. Je suis assez souvent fatigué.
  3. Il habite tout près de moi.

Being French, there are obviously exceptions to these rules most notably for irregular adverbs (bien, mal, moins etc.), adverbs of time, manner, place which require different word orders. As for a definitive list, I don't think there is one, largely because of how many adverbs there are and the different functions they perform.

Referring back to our previous example and taking into account the above rules:

  • Il est toujours fatigué. (He is always tired.)
  1. Il n'est pas toujours fatigué. (He is not always tired.)
  2. Il n'est toujours pas fatigué. (He is still not tired.)

If the adverb falls after the negative (example #1) then it most likely modifies the element it precedes. If it falls within the negative structure (example #2) then it modifies the first verb or the auxiliary verb if it is a compound sentence.


Again, this won't apply to all adjectives as some have a completely different word order. For example, adverbs of time (hier, maintenant) are usually put at either end of the sentence.


Did I answer any of your questions above?


   -   Mitchell



a) I thought that there are only certain types of adverbs that came before the past participle. Granted, there are quite a few but, still, I thought the general rule is that they come after.


b) Part of what I was asking was if there was a definitive list of adverbs that came before or after the negation with a change of meaning. I'm not sure if you meant to say no to that question. I think it would be helpful to become familiar with those particular adverbs and their variable meanings.


c) Yes, I think you answered the general question as to why adverbs occur within or after the negation as well as it can be answered.







Salut Robert,


a) Placement of adverb

The general rule, is that they come after the past participle. However, that does depend on the length of the adverb.

In simple tenses (présent, futur simple, imparfait, etc.) the adverb is always placed after the verb (regardless of length).

  • Il mange beaucoup.
  • Elle parle franchement.

In compound tenses (passé composé, plus-que-parfait, futur composé…), simple and short adverbs (bien, mal…), adverbs of manner and quantity (beaucoup, trop, assez…) as well as certain adverbs to do with time (souvent, toujours, trop, tard, quelque fois…) are placed between the auxiliary verb and the past participle:

  • Il a beaucoup mangé.
  • Nous avons bien dormi.

However, if the adverb is longer and made up of several syllables, then we place it after the past participle:

  • Elle a parlé franchement.
  • Ils ont travaillé sérieusement.

Adverbs which define a spatial or temporal context (hier, aujourd'hui etc.) are most often placed at the beginning or end of the sentence. Rarely are the placed in the middle and I would avoid it.

  • Hier, je suis allé au magasin.


b) Adverbs in the negative

When an adverb is placed in front of the verb in an affirmative sentence, then it is generally placed after the second element of the negation (i.e. ne…pas, ne…plus etc.) in the negative. 

  • Elle n'a pas bien mangé.

Some notable exceptions to this include certainment, généralement, peut-être, probablement, sans doute.

  • Elle n'a probablement pas mangé.

Longer adverbs like franchement maintain the same position in the affirmative as in the negative i.e. after the past participle.

  • Elle n'a pas parlé franchement.

Vraiment can be placed before or after the second element of the negation but it does change the meaning of the sentence:

  1. Elle n'a pas vraiment parlé. (She didn't really speak. - she talked, but not about something in particular or she wasn't serious)
  2. Elle n'a vraiment pas parlé. (She really didn't speak. - she didn't say a single word.)

The position of the adverb here dictates which verb is being modified. That's to say in example #1 it modifies parlé, so we know that she did in fact speak, but it wasn't a lot or in depth. In example #2, the adverb is modifying the auxiliary, which indicates that the action may not have even taken place in the past at all.


This is something you will get a feel for as you hear certain adverbs being used one way or another, but there is not definitive list. Most adverb placement makes sense when you translate it back into English and if it doesn't then it's likely not correct. 


I hope this helps and I hope it isn't too much at once.


   -   Mitchell

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