All you need to know for using French adjectives correctly
While nouns and verbs are important elements for constructing a sentence, it is usually the adjectives that make the writing or speech more visual and distinctive.
By Michelle A
1 week ago
French Grammar French Lessons
All you need to know for using French adjectives correctly
The usage of adjectives is pretty easy in English. You only 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 they are describing. It depends on whether the noun they are describing is a feminine, masculine, singular, or plural noun.
Sounds complicated? Well, allow us to simplify it for you. This post will educate you about the correct French adjective usage.
Placing the adjectives – before or after the noun
As opposed to the English language, in French the adjectives are placed before the noun that it is describing. It usually comes after a noun like – “une boule bleue” (a ball blue), “la personne intéressante” (the person interesting)
While most of the time, adjectives come after nouns in French, but there are a few exceptions.
French adjectives that express beauty, age, number, size or goodness are placed before the noun they are describing.
Here are some examples:
une belle robe (a beautiful dress)
un gros pain (a big bread)
une vieille femme (an old woman)
Now, there are exceptions to the above rule as well. One perfectly suited example for this exception is the adjective “délicieux” (delicious). It can be placed both before and after the noun.
Understanding the effect of number and gender on the French adjectives
Unlike English, the French adjectives are variable and depend on two things – the number (singular or plural), and gender (masculine or feminine) that the adjective is describing.
The following rule applies in many cases:
“e” is added to the adjectives describing feminine noun, except the adjective that ends with silent “e.”
“s” is added to the adjectives describing the plural noun. Again the adjectives that end with “s” are an exception.
un petit sac (a small bag)
une petite fille (a small girl)
petites révisions (small revisions)
Modifying and placing the commonly used French adjectives
Based on the above-mentioned rules, let’s learn how to place and modify French adjectives. The simplest and quickest way is to understand with the help of examples. We have compiled a short list to help.
Usage of regular French adjectives
As explained above, in most of the sentences, French adjectives follow the below method:
Add “e” if adjective describes feminine, except those that already contain “e” at the end
Add “s” if it is describing plural, and again, leaving those words that already include “s” at the end.
One thing that is important here to mention is that French adjectives of nationality do not begin with the capital alphabet.
Some of the examples where common adjectives are placed:
It follows the regular rule. As “e” is already present at the end of the adjective, so there is no need for adding “e” when it describes a feminine noun.
C’est une jeune fille. (feminine singular)
She is a young girl.
Voici le jeune homme. (masculine singular)
Here is the young man.
Les jeunes filles ont déjà atteint la place. (feminine plural)
Young ladies have already reached the place.
Les jeunes garçons sont partis pour la fête. (masculine plural)
The young boys left for the party.
Elle a une petite balle. (feminine singular)
She has a small ball.
C’est un petit bébé. (masculine singular)
He is a little baby.
Hou la la! ces petites sucettes sont délicieuses. (feminine plural)
Wow! these small lollies are delicious.
Les petits fruits sont délicieux. (masculine plural)
The small fruits are delicious.
You must have observed here that “délicieux” changes to “délicieuses” when feminine noun is described. The extra “s” at the end is to define a plural noun.
Adjectives that end with “ieux” (except “vieux”) has “se” at the end for feminine nouns and for the plural noun, it remains the same.
Une nourriture délicieuse. (feminine singular)
A delicious food.
Un délicieux gâteau. (masculine singular)
A delicious cake.
De délicieuses pizzas (feminine plural)
De délicieux chocolats (masculine plural)
Along with adding “e” and “s” while describing feminine and plural words, here “n” is also used when an adjective describes the feminine words.
Elle a une bonne pensée. (feminine singular)
She has a good thought.
C’est un bon livre. (masculine singular)
This is a good book.
Elle a produit de bonnes graines. (feminine plural)
She has produced good seeds.
Ces hamburgers sont bons. (masculine plural)
These burgers are good.
The Adjectives that end with “ien” have femininie form and has “ienne” ending.
Ma soeur est australienne. (feminine singular)
My sister is Australian.
Il est australien. (masculine singular)
He is Australian.
Elles sont australiennes. (feminine plural)
They are Australian
Ils sont tous australiens. (masculine plural)
They all are Australian.
Using French adjectives that don’t follow standard rules
Following is a list of irregular French adjectives that you will often see while learning French.
Sa mère a un beau teint. (masculine singular)
Her mother has a beautiful complexion.
John est un bel homme. (masculine singular)
John is a handsome man.
Here “beau” is used to describe the masculine noun. You must be wondering why “beau” changes to “bel” in above written second example.
This is because “beau” changes to “bel” when placed before masculine nouns that start with a silent “h” or a vowel.
Beaucoup de belles femmes sont ici. (feminine plural)
Many beautiful women are here.
It goes with the same rule as Beau.
Elle aime son nouveau manteau de fourrure. (masculine singular)
She likes her new fur coat.
Elle a acheté une nouvelle tenue. (feminine singular)
She bought a new outfit.
John a eu ses nouveaux livres. (masculine plural)
John got his new books.
Ses nouvelles responsabilités lui ont permis de progresser. (feminine plural)
Her new responsibilities gave her progress.
This is the trickiest and most commonly used French adjective.
Il est un vieil homme. (masculine singular)
He is an old man.
Elle est une vieille femme. (feminine singular)
She is an old woman.
Les vieux lieux de la ville sont magnifiques. (masculine plural)
The old places of the city are beautiful.
Les vieilles villes de France sont belles. (feminine plural)
The old cities of France are beautiful.
We hope the examples discussed above will help you in learning the proper usage of French adjectives.