Before we start this lesson, make sure you first completely understand what adjectives and adverbs are:

  • Adjectives: describe nouns (people, places, ideas, things). Example: A green dress; a happy boy; a loud truck.
  • Adverbs: describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Example: She spoke loudly; a very happy boy; a really really loud truck.

Adjectives’ location in the sentence

In English, adjectives always go in front of the noun. You never have a “pipe copper” or a “pie apple.”

In French, adjectives USUALLY go AFTER the noun.

Une voiture grise. (Literally, “A car gray.”)

Un livre lourd. (Literally, “A book heavy.”)

Beauty - Age - Number - Goodness - Size

However, a few common French adjectives go in front of the noun instead of after it.

Exceptions (adjectives that go IN FRONT OF the noun)

A simple acronym to remember these adjectives is BANGS, which stands for Beauty, Age, Goodness, Number and Size.

However, realize that these descriptions will not apply to ALL adjectives relating to beauty, for instance, just certain common adjectives. The acronym “BANGS” exists only to help remind you of each category that gets the special adjective placement rules.

Here are the “exception” adjectives:

Beauty beau/belle joli/jolie
Age vieux/vielle jeune nouveau/nouvelle
Number any number or numbering position, such as deux or deuxième
Goodness bon/bonne mal/mauvais
Size grand/grande petit/petite

Masculine, feminine and plural in French adjectives

French adjectives differ from adjectives in English in one other major way: they take slightly different forms depending on whether the noun they’re modifying is masculine, feminine or plural.

The “usual” rule is to add an -e to the end to make an adjective feminine, and/or an -s to to make the adjective plural.Here’s an example with the adjective bleu, below:

Un livre bleu; une jupe bleue; les livres bleus; les jupes bleues.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, just like most grammar rules in any language. Most have to do with the feminine form not “working” if an e was added on – the feminine form would either create a syllable pattern not used in French, the sound would be too insubstantial, or it would just plain “sound bad”.

Luckily, there are patterns that many French irregular adjectives follow, depending on their ending. Here are some of the most common patterns for adjectives that change between the masculine and feminine forms (with an example adjective in parenthesis):

Note that plural adjectives will be based off the masculine form + plural, unless you know that all the items that the adjective is referring to are feminine. (Then it takes the feminine form + plural.)

Masculine Form Ending Feminine Form Ending
-c (blanc) -che (blanche)
-er (premier) -ère (première)
-et (complet) -ète (complète)
-eur (heureux) -euse (heureuse)
 -f (neuf)  -ve (neuve)
 -eau (personnel)  -elle (personelle)
 -on (bon)  -onne (bonne)

There are even fewer adjectives that have irregular plural forms, but they are important to know because many of them are fairly common words:

Masculine Singular Feminine Singular Masculine Plural Feminine Plural
nouveau nouvelle nouveaux nouvelles
beau belle beaux belles
vieux vielle vieux vielles
mou molle mous molles
fou folle fous folles

Alternate masculine adjective forms before vowels

There’s one more important French adjective grammar rule to know, but luckily it’s rare, and it applies to the same irregular plural verbs listed just above.

It happens when the masculine form of an adjective ends in a vowel, and the following word begins with a vowel (or h, which is usually silent in French).  You don’t ever want to hear two vowel sounds next to each other in French (as there would be if you said un beau homme). Instead, you take the feminine form of the word (which ends in -lle, and just end it in -l instead.)

Un beau garçon, but un bel homme

Un vieux camion, but un vieil homme.

This covers most of the major aspects of French adjectives that you need to know. Next up, French adverbs!

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