French/Grammar/Adjectives

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Just like articles, French adjectives also have to match the nouns that they modify in gender and plurality.

Regular formation[edit]

Spelling[edit]

Most adjective changes occur in the following manner:

  • Feminine: add an -e to the masculine form
    • un garçon intéressant --> une fille intéressante
    • un ami amusant --> une amie amusante
    • un camion lent --> une voiture lente
  • Plural: add an -s to the singular form
    • un garçon intéressant --> des garçons intéressants
    • une fille intéressante --> des filles intéressantes

Pronunciation[edit]

Generally, the final consonant is pronounced only when it comes before an -e. Most adjectives, such as those above, are affected by this rule.

  • Masculine Pronuciation: intéressan, amusan, len
  • Feminine Pronunciation: intéressant, amusant, lent

Irregular formation[edit]

Irregular plural formation[edit]

Examples
M Sing. --> M. Pl. Masc. Singular --> Masc. Plural Notes
No change -s -s un plafond bas
un gros porc
des plafonds bas
des gros porcs
-x -x un homme généreux
un garçon furieux
des hommes généreux
des garçons furieux
Add x -eau -eaux un nouveau jeu des nouveaux jeux
-al -aux un vent hivernal des vents hivernaux Exceptions: fatal (fatals),
final (finals) & naval (navals)

Irregular feminine formation[edit]

Examples
Masc. --> Fem. Masculine --> Feminine Notes
No change -e -e égoïste, populaire, sociable, timide,
énergique, dynamique, sympathique
* When the masc. form ends in an -e, there is no change.
* The final consonant is pronounced on the masc. form.
Final
Consonant
Doubled
-el -elle cruel cruelle When an adjective has one of these endings, the ending of
the feminine form is doubled. There is no change of
pronunciation when changing from -el to -elle.
-il is pronounced "ee" (as in keen), while -ille is similar, with a final yuh (pronounced like "ee" in keen with a "yuh" on the end: IPA /ij/).
-on is pronounced oh(n) and -onne is pronounced ohn.
-en is pronounced a(n) and -enne is pronounced ehn.
-os is pronounced oh and -osse is pronounced ohs.
-as is pronounced ah and -asse is pronounced ahs.
-il -ille gentil gentille
-on -onne bon
breton
bonne
bretonne
-en -enne ancien
parisien
ancienne
parisienne
-os -osse gros grosse
-as -asse bas basse
-c
change
-c -che blanc
franc
blanche
franche
-eur
change
-eur -euse accrocheur
prometteur
accrocheuse
prometteuse
-eux
change
-eux -euse furieux
généreux
furieuse
généreuse
-eux is pronounced ew (like dew) and -euse is pronounced ews.
-g
change
-g -gue long
longue
-if
change
-if -ive sportif
actif
sportive
active
er
change
-er -ère étranger
cher
étrangère
chère
-er is pronounced ay and -ère is pronounced ehr, though exceptions such as "cher" exist in which both forms are pronounced with ehr.
-et
change
-et -ète inquiet
complet
inquiète
complète
-et is pronounced ay and -ète is pronounced eht.
-ou
change
-ou / -ol -olle fou, fol
mou, mol
folle
molle
-ol forms occur before a vowel or mute h.

Special rules[edit]

Adjectives that precede nouns[edit]

List[edit]

Adjectives that are used frequently before nouns. These are:

  • affreux (affreuse)
  • autre
  • beau (belle)
  • bon(ne) +
  • court(e) +
  • dernier (dernière) +
  • gentil (gentille)
  • grand(e) +
  • gros(se) +
  • haut(e)
  • jeune +
  • joli(e)
  • large
  • long(ue)
  • mauvais(e)
  • méchant(e) +
  • meilleur(e)
  • nouveau (nouvelle)
  • pauvre
  • petit(e)
  • vieux (vieille)
  • vilain(e)

+ sometimes placed after a noun, and may change in meaning

When these adjectives appear before an indefinite plural noun, they will change the article associated with it [1]:

  • des garçons courageux / de beaux garçons

Changes in meaning[edit]

When grand goes before a noun, it means great. However, when it goes after the noun, it means tall. Likewise, when pauvre goes before a noun, it means unfortunate. When it comes after the noun, it means financially poor. This rule works most of the time, but be careful, "pauvre" can mean "financially poor" even when used before the nouns.

Beau, nouveau, and vieux[edit]

These three adjectives behave differently when placed before a singular masculine noun starting with a vowel or silent h:

Masc. Sing. Cons. Masc. Sing Vowel Masc. Plural Fem. Sing. (all) Fem. Plural
Beau un beau garçon un bel individu de beaux garçons une belle fillette de belles fillettes
Nouveau un nouveau camion un nouvel ordre de nouveaux ordres une nouvelle idée de nouvelles idées
Vieux un vieux camion un vieil ordre de vieux camions une vieille idée de vieilles idées

Possessive adjectives[edit]

In English, we say "her car" when the owner of the car is a woman and "his car" when the owner is a man. In French, they say "sa voiture" even if the owner is a male. It is not the owner who determines the gender of the possessive adjective but the object owned.

First person singular - mon, ma, mes
Second person singular (informal) - ton, ta, tes
Third person singular - son, sa, ses

First person plural - notre, notre, nos
Second person plural (and polite form) - votre, votre, vos
Third person plural - leur, leur, leurs

Note: Exception. When a feminine noun starts with a vowel or silent 'h', you should utilize "Mon" instead of "Ma". Example:

Mon ami = ok 
Ma amie = error! 
Mon amie = ok.

Demonstrative adjectives[edit]

There are four adjectives that demonstrate a specific object:

  • Ce garçon (masculin)
  • Cet ami (masculin before vowel or silent h)
  • Cette fille (feminine)
  • Ces enfants (plural)

References[edit]

  1. Price, Glanville (2008), A Comprehensive French Grammar (6 ed.), Blackwell, p. 35, ISBN 978-1-4051-5385-0