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For comparison :
Adjectives in English

French language & grammar pages : adjectives

 French adjectives: forms and usage 

Adjectives in French agree in number and gender with the noun they qualify.

While several common adjectives come before the noun, the majority of adjectives, including all less frequent adjectives, follow the noun.

Page index Adjective forms Adjective positions Order of adjectives Comparison of adjectives Modification of adjectives

1.  Adjective forms 

The table below lists the main families of adjectives in French; while there are certain exceptions that need to be learned individually, the groups below illustrate how to decline most French adjectives in their different forms. Nonetheless, given the number of exceptions, it is advisable to check a new adjective you learn, using a good dictionary.

Types of adjective: Examples
Masculine singular Feminine singular Masculine plural Feminine plural Meaning
The general
rule
grand
cher
fini
constant
grande
chère
finie
constante
grands
chers
finis
constants
grandes
chères
finies
constantes
big
dear
finished
constant
Several short adjectives ending in vowel+ consonant: bas
bon
gros
nul
las
basse
bonne
grosse
nulle
lasse
bas
bons
gros
nuls
las
basses
bonnes
grosses
nulles
lasses
low
good,
fat
worthless
tired
Adjectives ending in -g long
longue longs longues long
Many adjectives ending in -e sage,
efficace
sage
efficace
sages
efficaces
sages,
efficaces
wise
efficient
Short adjectives ending in c blanc
sec
blanche
sèche
blancs
secs
blanches
sèches
white
dry
Adjectives ending in -f actif
nocif
active
nocive
actifs
nocifs
actives
nocives
active
poisonous
adjectives ending in -el or -eil , most ending in -il réel,
tranquil,
pareil
réelle
tranquille
pareille
réels,
tranquils,
pareils
réelles,
tranquilles,
pareilles
real
quiet
similar
adjectives ending in -er léger
premier
légère
première
légers
premiers
légères
premières
light
first
adjectives ending in -(eu)x délicieux,
heureux,
poreux
jaloux
délicieuse,
heureuse,
poreuse
jalouse
délicieux,
heureux,
poreux
jaloux
délicieuses,
heureuses,
poreuses
jalouses
delicious
happy
porous
jealous
adjectives ending in -teur  porteur porteuse porteurs porteuses load-bearing
adjectives ending in -al général
génial
générale
géniale
généraux
géniaux
générales
géniales
general
brilliant
The most common completely irregular adjectives beau / bel
belles beaux belles beautiful
nouveau / nouvel nouvelle nouveaux nouvelles new
vieux / vieil vieille vieux vieilles old
frais fraîche frais fraîches fresh
doux douce doux douces gentle
faux fausse faux fausses wrong



Click here for demonstrative adjectives 

2.  Adjective position in French 

2.1.  Adjectives that come before the noun:

beau, cher, gros, grand,
mauvais, méchant, meilleur, bon
joli, petit, vilain, jeune, bref,
nouveaux, vieux, gentil, haut,
seul, autre, premier.
However any of these nouns can occasionally be placed after the noun if context or a grouping of adjectives requires it.

2.2   Adjectives that sometimes come before the noun,

 depending on context
 long, court, double

2.3. A few adjectives vary their position according to different meanings:

The adjective "ancien" normally comes before the noun when it means "former", and after it when it means "ancient".  
The adjective "certain" normally comes before the noun when it means "particular", and after it when it means "sure".
The adjective "même" normally comes before the noun when it means "same", and after it when it means "very same".
The adjective "pauvre" normally comes before the noun when it means "unfortunate", and after it when it means "not rich".
The adjective "propre" comes before the noun when it means "own", and after it when it means "clean".

2.4. Other adjectives follow the noun. These include adjectives of colour and of nationality

Examples:
A beautiful and very intelligent young lady . 
- Une belle jeune dame très intélligente.
There was a long queue of cars. 
 Il y avait une longue file de voitures.
A long and difficult day. 
 Une journée longue et difficile.
A former president of the Ancient History Society
 Un ancien président de la Société d'histoire ancienne.  
He started in the morning and finished the very same day
 Il a commencé le matin et terminé le jour même..  
A popular bilingual dictionary
 Un dictionnaire bilingue populaire.  
A flexible metal frame
 Un cadre métallique flexible.  
It's my own cat, and he sleeps in a clean basket
 C'est mon propre chat, et il couche dans un panier propre..  


3.  Adjective order 

Generally speaking, adjective order in French and adjective order in English follow similar principles. The closer an adjective comes to a noun in English, the closer it will come in French.

Thus, in a simple world where all adjectives in English came before the noun, and all French adjectives came after the noun, the order of adjectives in French would be the mirror image of the order of the equivalent adjectives in an English sentence .

Sadly the world is not as simple as this, and as we have seen adjectives in French often come before the noun. Yet the principle remains valid. When  organising three or four adjectives round a noun in French, try and keep the same relationship of proximity as in English, even though some of the adjectives may go before the noun and others after it.

In both English and French the general rule is that the adjectives closest to a noun express its most fundamental qualities. In some cases, this is more evident in French than in English. For example, in French one could say, of a car...
   C'est une voiture allemande bleue  or  C'est une voiture bleue allemande
In the first expression the speaker probably implies a German car (i.e. made in Germany) that happens to be blue... , or possibly though less probably a German-registered car of any make.
In the second, we have a blue car that happens to be German, probably a car with German plates rather than a German make of vehicle.

Note that when two adjectives A & B are linked by "et ", they have an equal value in terms of required proximity, so can often be placed either in the order AB or in the order BA.

Certain adjectives expressing value-judgement (e.g. misérable), surprise (e.g.incroyable) or appreciation (e.g. magnifique) can be brought forward for purposes of emphasis. 
Examples:
A dangerous and useless chemical experiment . 
- Une expérience chimique inutile et dangereuse..
Some beautiful fresh red Spanish tomatoes. 
 De belles tomates espagnoles rouges et fraîches.
A long and difficult day. 
 Une journée longue et difficile. / Une journée difficile et longue.
A magnificent old American automobile.
 Une vieille voiture américaine magnifique  or
  Une magnifique vieille voiture américaine.
        
In this case, magnifique  is brought to the front for purposes of emphasis 


4.  Comparison of adjectives 

Comparative forms and superlative forms of adjectives in French are not difficult to master; however the small difference between the comparative form and the superlative form can sometimes cause confusion.
   Other than in a few exceptional cases, the comparative form of an adjective in French is formed by adding plus in front of the adjective.
    The superlative form is made by adding le plus (or la plus or les plus, acccording to context) .
Adjectives that normally precede the noun are often placed after it when used in the superlative form with le plus.

Normal Comparative Superlative
grand plus grand le plus grand (etc.)
facile plus facile le plus facile (etc)

Examples:
A difficult job, a more difficult job, the most difficult job . 
- Une tâche difficile, une tâche plus difficile, la tâche la plus difficile..
A big man, a bigger man, the biggest man. 
 Un grand homme, un plus grand homme, le plus grand homme (l'homme le plus grand).
The oldest women should leave before the others. 
 Les femmes les plus âgées devraient partir avant les autres..
The first is more complicated than the second, but the third is the most complicated of all.
  La première est plus compliquée que la seconde, mais la troisième est la plus compliquée de toutes.


Exceptions:
Three common adjectives have exceptional comparative and superlative forms

Normal Comparative Superlative
bon meilleur le meilleur (etc.)
mauvais pire le pire (etc.)
moins moindre le moindre (etc.)

5.  Modification of adjectives

Linguists distinguish two different types of adjective; qualitative adjectives, and classifying adjectives. Qualitative adjectives describe a quality, for example beau, grand, intéressant. Classifying adjectives categorise the noun they modify; for example français, quotidien, chimique, principal.  Classifying adjectives have an absolute value, and cannot normally be modified.

Qualitative adjectives can be modified by adverbs of degree or manner.
The most common of these are the adverbs or adverb phrases of degree très (very), assez (rather, quite), plutôt (rather),  peu (little, not very) ,  trop (too), and trop peu (not...enough), de plus en plus (increasingly), de moins en moins (decreasingly).
Exceptionally, adjectives can be modified by a noun of degree: un peu.
Many other adverbs, themselves derived from adjectives, can be used to modify adjectives. Examples: généralement (generally), habituellement (usually), constamment (constantly), extrèmement (extremely), particulièrement (particularly), hautement (highly), sérieusement (seriously) and many more.

However French does not use adverbs to modify nouns as easily as English does. For example, a large number of present participles in English can be made into adverbs to modify nouns; frustratingly, lovingly, worryingly, disgustingly, boringly, shockingly, etc....  French does not have many participial adverbs of this sort, so other forms of expression are needed. See example 5 below

Examples:
1. - Ce livre est très intéressant, mais trop peu connu.
    This book is very interesting, but not well enough known . 
2.  Il est de plus en plus exigeant et de moins en moins agréable
    He's more and more (increasingly) demanding and less and less pleasant. 
3.  C'est une jeune femme hautement qualifiée et particulièrement intélligente.
    She's a highly qualified and particularly intelligent young lady. 
4.   Je trouve que c'est un peu compliqué tout cela.
    I find all that a bit complicated.
5  C'est inquiétant combien ses prévisions sont justes !
    His predictions are worryingly accurate !







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