Movable Adjectives

Movable French adjectives
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Adjectifs mobiles

The general rule for the placement of French adjectives is that they follow the nouns they modify unless they fit into BAGS (learn more). Also, some are placed in front of the noun for stylistic reasons, such as in poetry.

But there are a number of adjectives that change meaning depending on whether they go before or after the noun.

 In general, when the adjective …

  • follows the noun, the meaning is objective or literal.
  • precedes the noun, the meaning is more subjective or figurative.

Movable French Adjectives

  Subjective or Figurative   Objective or Literal Meaning
ancien notre ancien appartement
our old (former) apartment
une ancienne maison
old house (now a museum)
  notre appartement ancien
my (80-year-) old apartment
une maison ancienne

ancient house
brave un brave homme
good (decent) man
  un homme brave
brave man
certain certains progrès
some progress
un certain âge

old age (euphemism)
  des progrès certains
definite progress
un âge certain
old age (rude)
cher un cher livre
beloved book
  un livre cher
expensive book
chic un chic type
nice, decent guy
  un type chic
stylish guy
curieux un curieux homme
curious (strange) man
  un homme curieux
curious (nosy) man
dernier le dernier mois
the last month (of the year)
  le mois dernier
last month (a month ago)
différent différentes raisons
various, mixed reasons
  raisons diffĂ©rentes
different reasons (more than 1)
divers divers problèmes
several different problems
  problèmes divers
assorted problems
doux une douce voix*
sweet voice
un doux repos*
sweet rest
  le tissu doux
soft fabric
le fromage doux
mellow cheese
drĂ´le un drĂ´le de type
peculiar guy
  un type drĂ´le
funny guy
faible un faible espoir
weak, slight hope
  un cĹ“ur faible
weak heart
fameux un fameux trajet
a heck of a journey
un fameux travail
first-rate job
  un homme fameux
famous man
une bataille fameuse
memorable battle
franc un franc rire
hearty laugh
  une cassure franche
clean break
grand un grand homme
great man
  un homme grand
tall man
gros un gros travail
big job
  un homme gros
fat man
honnĂŞte honnĂŞtes gens**
decent people
  gens honnĂŞtes
honest people
jeune un jeune chien
a young dog
  un visage jeune
youthful face
maigre une maigre consolation
small consolation
  un animal maigre
scrawny animal
méchant une méchante affaire
unsavory business
  un enfant mĂ©chant
naughty child
mĂŞme le mĂŞme jour
the same day
  le jour mĂŞme
the very day
modeste un modeste employé
ordinary employee
  un cadeau modeste
modest, small gift
noble nobles sentiments
noble, worthy sentiments
  une famille noble
noble, respected family
nouveau un nouveau vin
new wine (I’ve never had)
  un vin nouveau
new, young wine
pauvre un pauvre sourire
poor (weak) smile
  un pays pauvre
poor (not rich) country
plat plates excuses
humble excuses
  un Ă©cran plat
a flat screen
premier le premier objectif
first objective
  l’objectif premier
primary, essential objective
prochain la prochaine fois
next time
  l’avenir prochain
near future
propre son propre appartement
his own apartment
  son appartement propre
his clean apartment
pur la pure vérité
pure, absolute truth
  l’eau pure
pure water
rare une rare Ă©nergie
extraordinary energy
  une plante rare
rare plant
rude un rude adversaire
formidable adversary
  un homme rude
rude man
sacré un sacré menteur
damned liar
  un Ă©difice sacrĂ©
sacred building
sale une sale ville
nasty town
  une ville sale
dirty town
seul le seul homme
the one/single/only man
  un homme seul
lonely man, man on his own
simple une simple femme
mere (plain, ordinary) woman
  une femme simple
modest, honest woman
triste une triste affaire
unsavory business
  un sourire triste
sad smile
unique une unique fille
a single daughter
  une fille unique
only child (who is a girl)
véritable un véritable ami
true (worthy) friend
  un nom vĂ©ritable
real (not fake) name
vert la verte jeunesse
first bloom of youth
  Ă©nergie verte
green energy
vilain une vilaine plaie
nasty wound
  une pensĂ©e vilaine
wicked thought
vrai un vrai ami
true (genuine) friend
  une histoire vraie
true (not fictional) story

* For this meaning, the adjective can precede or follow the noun.

** This is somewhat archaic.

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French adjectives with meaning changes

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