French adjectives
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One of the eight parts of speech, adjectives are a type of modifier; that is, they modify or describe nouns in a certain way, letting you know the size, shape, weight, color, nationality, or any of a myriad other possible qualities of nouns.

Adjectives serve the same purpose in French and English, but they are very different in two other respects.

Characteristics of French Adjectives

  1. Modify nouns
  2. Must agree in gender and number with nouns
  3. Usually follow nouns
  4. May be modified by adverbs

1. Gender and Number of French Adjectives

English adjectives have a single form, but in French, they can have up to 4* forms, according to the gender and number of the nouns they modify:

masculine singular   masculine plural
feminine singular   feminine plural

Masculine singular is the default form, to which the feminine and/or plural endings are added. For regular adjectives,** these endings are e for feminine and s for plural.

Par exemple…

petit (small)

le petit verre   les petits verres
la petite tasse   les petites tasses

When the default form of the adjective ends in s or x, the masculine singular and plural forms are the same.

Par exemple…

surpris (surprised)

Il est surpris.   Ils sont surpris.
Elle est surprise.   Elles sont surprises.

When the default form of the adjective ends in a, e, or o, the masculine and feminine forms are the same.

Par exemple…

calme (calm)

un homme calme   des hommes calmes
une femme calme   des femmes calmes

  See the links to irregular feminine and plural forms at the end of this lesson.

*There are a few adjectives that have 5 forms.

**All regular and most irregular present participles and past participles follow these rules.

Quiz: Adjective agreement

2. Placement of French Adjectives

While English adjectives are always placed in front of the nouns they describe, most French adjectives follow nouns:

Par exemple…

le stylo bleu   the blue pen
une histoire intéressante   an interesting story

  There are, however, a few dozen French adjectives that precede nouns. Most of these can be memorized with the simple acronym BAGS:

Beauty une belle fille
un joli appartement
a beautiful girl
a nice apartment
Age un jeune homme
une vieille dame
a young man
an old woman
Good and bad une bonne idée
un mauvais restaurant
a good idea
a bad restaurant
Size un grand livre
une petite maison
a big book
a small house

Also see Adjectives that change meaning depending on their placement

 French nouns and adjectives

French lesson plans French lesson plans

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French adjectives

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