Adjectives in French

What is an adjective?

Adjectives are describing words. They tell us more information about nouns, such as the ‎colour, size, age, etc.‎

Examples of adjectives include:

FrenchEnglish
bleublue
grandbig
petitsmall
nouveaunew
vieuxold

Where do adjectives go in relation to nouns?‎

In French, adjectives usually go after the noun:‎

  • J’ai un chat noir - I have a black cat.‎
  • Mon père a les cheveux courts - My dad has short hair.‎

However, most of the BAGS adjectives go before the noun. BAGS stands for Beauty, Age, ‎Goodness and Size.

BeautyAgeGoodnessSize
beau / belle ‎‎(beautiful)‎vieux / vieille (old)‎bon / bonne (good)grand(e) (big)‎
joli(e) (pretty)‎nouveau / nouvelle ‎‎(new)‎mauvais(e) (bad)‎petit(e) (small)

For example:‎

  • J’habite dans une grande maison - I live in a big house.‎
  • Ma copine a une nouvelle tortue - My friend has a new tortoise.‎

How do adjectives ‘agree’ with the noun?‎

Most adjectives in French change depending on whether they are describing a masculine, ‎feminine or plural noun. The usual endings are as follows:‎

masculine singularmasculine pluralfeminine singularfeminine plural
(no ending)-s-e-es
  • J’ai un vélo vert - I have a green bike.‎
  • Tu aimes les haricots verts? - Do you like green beans?‎
  • Ma tante mange une pomme verte - My aunt is eating a green ‎apple.‎
  • Mon oncle aime les voitures vertes - My uncle likes green cars.‎

There are some exceptions to this rule, however: ‎

masculine singularmasculine pluralfeminine singularfeminine plural
‎un jeune homme‎ ‎(a young man)‎‎des jeunes hommes ‎(some young men)‎‎une jeune femme ‎(a young woman)‎des jeunes femmes‎ ‎(some young ‎women)‎
‎un homme heureux ‎(a happy man)‎des hommes ‎heureux ‎(some happy men)‎‎une femme ‎heureuse ‎(a happy woman)‎‎des femmes ‎heureuses ‎(some happy ‎women)‎
un homme sporti‎f ‎(a sporty man)‎des hommes ‎sporti‎fs ‎(some sporty men)‎une femme sporti‎ve ‎(a sporty woman)‎des femmes ‎sportives ‎(some sporty ‎women)‎
‎un homme fier ‎(a proud man)‎des hommes fi‎ers ‎(some proud men)‎‎une femme fière ‎(a proud woman)‎‎des femmes fières ‎(some proud ‎women)‎
un gentil garçon‎ ‎(a kind man)‎des gentils garçons‎ ‎(some kind men)‎une gentille femme‎ ‎(a kind woman)‎des gentilles ‎femmes‎ ‎(some kind women)‎

Some of the BAGS adjectives are irregular:‎

EnglishMasculine ‎singularFeminine ‎singularMasculine ‎pluralFeminine plural
beautifulbeau, belbellebeauxbelles
oldvieux, ‎vieilvieillevieuxvieilles
newnouveau, ‎nouvelnouvellenouveauxnouvelles

Examples using BAGS

Beautiful

  • Le bel homme - The handsome man.‎
  • Le beau chien - The beautiful dog.‎
  • La belle maison - The beautiful house.‎

Old

  • La vieille maison - The old house.‎
  • Un vieux vélo - An old bike.‎

New

  • La nouvelle maison - The new house.‎
  • Un nouveau ‎cinéma - A new cinema.‎

Nouveau, vieux and beau become nouvel, vieil and bel when used to describe a ‎masculine noun that starts with a vowel or an ‘h’: ‎

  • Un nouvel ami - A new friend. ‎
  • Un vieil homme - An old man‎.
  • Un bel appartement - A nice flat.

Quiz

Find out how much you know about adjectives in French in this short quiz.

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