Using adjectives is pretty easy in English. You just need to put them before a noun they are describing. That’s it!
But when it comes to French, adjectives are used differently.
The placement of an adjective in a sentence changes according to the noun it describes. And the adjective’s form depends on whether the noun it describes is a feminine, masculine, singular, or plural noun.
Sound complicated? Let us simplify it for you. This post will teach you all about using French adjectives correctly.
Placing Adjectives: Before or After the Noun
In contract to English, French adjectives are often placed after the noun they describe: la boule bleue (the blue ball), une personne intéressante (an interesting person).
But there are a few exceptions.
French adjectives related to beauty, age, number, size or goodness come before the noun.
une belle robe (a beautiful dress)
un gros pain (a big loaf of bread)
une vieille femme (an old woman)
Now, there are exceptions to this rule as well. One perfectly suited example is the adjective délicieux (delicious) since it can be placed before or after the noun.
How Number and Gender Affect French Adjectives
French adjectives are variable and depend on two things: the number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine or feminine) of the noun that the adjective is describing.
The following rules apply in many cases:
The letter E is added to adjectives describing a feminine noun, except adjectives that end with a silent “e.”
S is added to adjectives describing a plural noun, except adjectives already ending in “s.”
un petit sac (a small bag)
une petite fille (a little girl)
des petites révisions (small revisions)
One important thing to mention here also is that French adjectives of nationality (e.g., français, américaine) do not begin with a capital letter (unlike English).
For even more practice with these and other everyday French adjectives, see the video below:
Modifying and Placing Commonly Used French Adjectives
Based on the above rules, let’s learn how to place and modify French adjectives. The simplest and quickest way is with the help of examples, so we compiled a list for you.
Some Examples of Common Adjective Placement
Jeune follows the regular rule. E is already present at the end of the adjective, so there is no need to add it when describing a feminine noun.
C’est une jeune fille.
She is a young girl.
Voici le jeune homme.
Here is the young man.
Les jeunes filles ont déjà atteint la place.
Young ladies have already reached the square.
Les jeunes garçons sont partis pour la fête.
The young boys left for the party.
Elle a une petite balle.
She has a small ball.
C’est un petit bébé.
He is a little baby.
Hou la la! ces petites sucettes sont délicieuses.
Wow! These little suckers are delicious.
Les petits fruits sont délicieux.
The small fruits are delicious.
Notice how délicieux changes to délicieuses when a feminine plural noun is described. Keep reading to find out why!
Adjectives that end with –ieux (except vieux) have -se at the end for feminine nouns. For the plural nouns, there is no change.
une nourriture délicieuse
a delicious food
un délicieux gâteau
a delicious cake
des délicieuses pizzas
des délicieux chocolats
Along with adding “e” and “s” while describing feminine and plural nouns, here “n” is also used when the adjective describes feminine nouns.
Elle a cuisiné une bonne soupe.
She made a delicious soup.
C’est un bon livre.
This is a good book.
Mami m’a offert des bonnes friandises.
Nana gave me some yummy candies.
Ces hamburgers sont bons.
These burgers are good.
Adjectives that end with –ien have a feminine form with an –ienne ending.
Ma soeur est australienne.
My sister is Australian.
Il est australien.
He is Australian.
Elles sont australiennes.
They are Australian.
Ils sont tous australiens.
They are all Australian.
French Adjectives That Don’t Follow the Rules
Below is a list of irregular French adjectives that you will often see while learning French.
Sa mère a un beau teint.
Her mother has a beautiful complexion.
John est un bel homme.
John is a handsome man.
Beau is used to describe masculine nouns in both examples above. Why is the spelling so different (bel) in the second example? Beau changes to bel when placed before masculine nouns that start with a silent H or a vowel.
Je prendrai cette belle robe.
I’ll take this lovely dress.
Cette année les prunes sont belles.
The prunes are beautiful this year.
J’ai toujours des beaux souvenirs de cette époque.
I still have great memories of that time.
This adjective follows the same rule as beau.
Elle a acheté une nouvelle tenue.
She bought a new outfit.
Elle aime son nouveau manteau de fourrure.
She likes her new fur coat.
Ses nouvelles responsabilités lui ont permis de progresser.
Her new responsibilities enabled her to progress.
John a eu ses nouveaux livres.
John got his new books.
This is one of the more difficult (and one of the most commonly used) French adjectives.
Elle est une vieille femme.
She is an old woman.
Il est un vieil homme.
He is an old man.
Les vieux lieux de la ville sont magnifiques.
The old places of the city are magnificent.
Toutes les vieilles villes de France sont belles.
All the old cities of France are beautiful.
We hope all the examples above have helped you learn the proper usage of of these common French adjectives as well as some rules for navigating the rest. For a more in-depth learning experience, connect with our French tutors.