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
anciennotre 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
braveun 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)
cherun cher livre
beloved book
 un livre cher
expensive book
chicun chic type
nice, decent guy
 un type chic
stylish guy
curieuxun curieux homme
curious (strange) man
 un homme curieux
curious (nosy) man
dernierle dernier mois
the last month (of the year)
 le mois dernier
last month (a month ago)
différentdifférentes raisons
various, mixed reasons
 raisons différentes
different reasons (more than 1)
diversdivers problèmes
several different problems
 problèmes divers
assorted problems
douxune douce voix*
sweet voice
un doux repos*
sweet rest
 le tissu doux
soft fabric
le fromage doux
mellow cheese
drôleun drôle de type
peculiar guy
 un type drôle
funny guy
faibleun faible espoir
weak, slight hope
 un cœur faible
weak heart
fameuxun fameux trajet
a heck of a journey
un fameux travail
first-rate job
 un homme fameux
famous man
une bataille fameuse
memorable battle
francun franc rire
hearty laugh
 une cassure franche
clean break
grandun grand homme
great man
 un homme grand
tall man
grosun gros travail
big job
 un homme gros
fat man
honnêtehonnêtes gens**
decent people
 gens honnêtes
honest people
jeuneun jeune chien
a young dog
 un visage jeune
youthful face
maigreune maigre consolation
small consolation
 un animal maigre
scrawny animal
méchantune méchante affaire
unsavory business
 un enfant méchant
naughty child
mêmele même jour
the same day
 le jour même
the very day
modesteun modeste employé
ordinary employee
 un cadeau modeste
modest, small gift
noblenobles sentiments
noble, worthy sentiments
 une famille noble
noble, respected family
nouveauun nouveau vin
new wine (I’ve never had)
 un vin nouveau
new, young wine
pauvreun pauvre sourire
poor (weak) smile
 un pays pauvre
poor (not rich) country
platplates excuses
humble excuses
 un écran plat
a flat screen
premierle premier objectif
first objective
 l’objectif premier
primary, essential objective
prochainla prochaine fois
next time
 l’avenir prochain
near future
propreson propre appartement
his own apartment
 son appartement propre
his clean apartment
purla pure vérité
pure, absolute truth
 l’eau pure
pure water
rareune rare énergie
extraordinary energy
 une plante rare
rare plant
rudeun rude adversaire
formidable adversary
 un homme rude
rude man
sacréun sacré menteur
damned liar
 un édifice sacré
sacred building
saleune sale ville
nasty town
 une ville sale
dirty town
seulle seul homme
the one/single/only man
 un homme seul
lonely man, man on his own
simpleune simple femme
mere (plain, ordinary) woman
 une femme simple
modest, honest woman
tristeune triste affaire
unsavory business
 un sourire triste
sad smile
uniqueune unique fille
a single daughter
 une fille unique
only child (who is a girl)
véritableun véritable ami
true (worthy) friend
 un nom véritable
real (not fake) name
vertla verte jeunesse
first bloom of youth
 énergie verte
green energy
vilainune vilaine plaie
nasty wound
 une pensée vilaine
wicked thought
vraiun 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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