Qualifying adjectives (in French: les adjectifs qualificatifs) modify the noun they refer to.
They are sometimes called "describing words" and can be used directly next to the noun they are describing or can be separated by a verb such as: to be, to look or to feel.
1. She is a clever girl.
2. This girl is clever.
In English, when an adjective is not separated by a verb, it always follows the noun. However, in French, although most adjective follow the noun, they can sometimes be placed before it.
1. Adjectives which follow the noun:
Elle porte une robe bleue. She is wearing a blue dress.
Cela fait partie de la culture française. It is part of French culture.
C'est un sport fatigant. It is a tiring sport.
2. Adjectives which normally precede the noun:
C'est ma première voiture. It is my first car.
Tu as une bonne idée. You have a good idea.
J'habite dans un petit village. I live in a small village.
Note: Below is a mnemonic for you to remember these types of adjectives
3. Adjective agreement
We normally learn French adjectives in their masculine singular form. When they are used in a sentence, you need to make sure that you change them to make them agree with the noun or the pronoun that they are modifying.
Adjectives agree in gender and number.
The basic rule:
- to make an adjective feminine, add an -e to the masculine singular form.
- to make an adjective masculine plural, add an -s to the masculine singular form.
- to make an adjective feminine plural, add -es to the masculine singular form.
See the table below for clarity:
Note that if an adjective already ends in an -s or -x in the masculine singular form, then we DON'T add a 'second -s or -x' in the masculine plural form.
Note that if an adjective already ends in an -e in the masculine singular form, then we DON'T add a 'second -e' in the feminine singular form. (an extra -e is still needed for adjectives ending in -é)
Note that for the adjectives gentil and pareil, an extra -le is added when put in the feminine form: gentille and pareille.
Note that adjectives ending in -eau in the masculine singular form, end in -eaux in the masculine plural form (nouveau becomes nouveaux).
The change in the final consonant or syllable
In some cases, the addition of the final -e for the feminine form leads to a change in the final consonant or syllable.
See table below:
C'est un homme fier. He is a proud man.
C'est une femme fière. She is a proud woman.
Note that adjectives which end in -al in the masculine singular form, end in -aux in the masculine plural form (principal becomes principaux), EXCEPT for a few adjectives which end in -als instead in the plural form: banal, bancal, fatal, glacial, naval, natal.
doubling the final consonant
In the table below are cases where the addition of the feminine -e leads to the doubling of the final consonant.
Some adjectives are invariable. This means that they do not change no matter the gender or number of the noun they are describing.
Apocopes (when the final section is cut off) : extra, fluo, sympa (although sympas is often seen nowadays)
Cardinal directions: nord, sud, ouest
Some colour adjectives (when they can also be used as a noun): marron, orange, lavande (rose is an exception and takes an -s in the plural form)
Adjectives with an extra masculine form
For a small number of adjectives, the masculine form changes when they are directly placed in front of a word starting with a vowel or a 'silent -h'.
beau becomes bel
fou becomes fol
mou becomes mol
nouveau becomes nouvel
vieux becomes vieil
Note that for these adjectives, the feminine form is structured using that extra masculine form instead.
Continue reading if you want to know more about qualifying adjectives.
4. Adjectives which can be placed before or after the noun
Some adjectives have a different meaning when they are placed before or after the noun.
See the table below for the most common adjectives:
5. The difference between neuf and nouveau
The adjectives neuf and nouveau are both equivalent to new in English.
Neuf is used when you are referring to something brand new.
Nouveau is used when you are referring to something that is new to you.
C'est une voiture neuve. It is a brand new car. ( i.e. it has never been used before)
C'est ma nouvelle voiture. It is my new car. (i.e. it is new to you but could be a second hand car)
For French A Level students with any exam board:
For French GCSE students with any exam board:
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