Adjectives

An adjective is a word used to give more information about a noun. Imagine you have a pencil. If you wanted to tell me the color of this pencil, you’d say “It’s a red pencil”. Here, “red” is the adjective because it tells us what the pencil is like. Simply put, the adjective is like a “friend” to the noun, helping it to describe itself.

Examples:

  • A gentle cat (here, “gentle” is the adjective used to describe the cat)
  • A magnificent dress (here, “magnificent” is the adjective used to describe the dress)

Adjective formation

Regular adjectives

Most French adjectives have a masculine and a feminine form. To put it simply, we often change the adjective a little depending on whether we’re talking about a boy or a girl, a man or a woman.

Examples:

  • Masculine: He’s tall (He may be a man or a boy)
  • Feminine: She’s tall (We’ve added an “e” to refer to a woman or a girl)

Irregular adjectives

Some adjectives are a bit special and don’t follow the usual rules. They’re a bit like children who like to surprise!

Examples:

  • Masculine: He’s an old man (Not “old”)
  • Feminine: She’s an old woman (We changed “vieux” to “vieille”)

But be careful: sometimes, when an irregular adjective is placed before a noun that begins with a vowel or a silent “h”, it changes again! For example:

  • He’s an old man (here, “old” is in front of “man” which begins with a vowel)

Common exceptions

There are always a few exceptions in French, a bit like in a classroom: there are always students who like to do things differently from the others.

Examples:

  • Beau (masculine) becomes Belle (feminine), but if used in front of a noun beginning with a vowel or a silent “h”, it becomes Bel. For example: A beautiful tree.

Placement of adjectives in the sentence

In French, where you place an adjective in a sentence is very important, as it can change the meaning of what you’re trying to say.

Adjectives before the noun

Some adjectives are often placed before the noun. It’s a bit like putting on your coat before going out: it’s natural!

Examples:

  • A little cat (here, “little” comes before “cat”)
  • A pretty flower (here, “pretty” comes before “flower”)

Adjectives after the noun

Other adjectives are usually placed after the noun. Think of it as putting on your backpack after putting on your coat.

Examples:

  • A tired dog (here, “tired” is after “dog”)
  • A spacious house (Here, “spacious” is after “house”)

Exceptions and special features

Some adjectives can change their meaning depending on whether they are placed before or after the noun. It’s a bit like when you change your mind about the game you want to play: it all depends on your mood!

Examples:

  • A great man (here, it means that the man is important, like a king or a president)
  • A tall man (here, it simply means that the man is tall)

Adjective agreement

When using an adjective term, make sure it “agrees” with the noun it describes. It’s like making sure your shoes are the right size for your feet!

Gender agreement: masculine and feminine

Adjectives often change depending on whether they describe something masculine or feminine.

Examples:

  • A heavy bag (here, “heavy” is masculine)
  • A heavy suitcase (here, “heavy” is in the feminine, we’ve added an “e” at the end)

Number agreement: singular and plural

If the adjective describes more than one thing, it’s often necessary to add an “s” at the end.

Examples:

  • A black cat (Un seul chat)
  • Black cats (Several cats, so we add an “s” to “black”)

Exceptions

As always in French, there are exceptions. Some adjectives don’t change, whether they’re masculine or feminine, singular or plural. These adjectives are like solid toys that never break!

Examples:

  • Brown pants (even if “pants” is masculine)
  • A brown shoe (even if “shoe” is feminine)

Degrees of adjective

Adjectives can be used to compare the relationship of things or people to each other, a bit like comparing two sweets to see which is bigger or sweeter.

Comparison

The
comparative
is used to compare two elements. It’s like a scale: you put something on one side and something on the other, and see which is heavier or lighter.

  • Superiority (more… than)

    When something is “more” than the other.

    Examples:

    • This cake is more delicious than that one. (The first cake is better)
  • Inferiority (less… than)

    When something is “less” than the other.

    Examples:

    • My bike is slower than yours. (Your bike is faster than mine)
  • Equality (as… as)

    When the two things are the same, like twins.

    Examples:

    • This cat is just as cute as that one. (Both cats are equally adorable)

Superlative

The superlative is used to show the maximum or minimum, a bit like saying someone is the best in class or the fastest in a race.

  • The most

    To say it’s the maximum.

    Examples:

    • This is the most interesting book I’ve ever read. (No other book is as interesting)
  • Least

    To say it’s the minimum.

    Examples:

    • This is the least funny film of the year. (All the other films are funnier)
  • Irregular forms (best, worst…)

    Some adjectives have special forms that you can’t guess.

    Examples:

    • She’s better at maths than I am. (Here, “better” comes from “good”)
    • This film is worse than the last. (Here, “worse” comes from “bad”)

Demonstrative adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives are like little fingers pointing at something to show what we’re talking about. They help to specify which object or person you want to designate.

  • This, that, these

    “Ce” and “cet” are for the masculine, “cette” is for the feminine, and “ces” is for the plural.

    Examples:

    • That dog’s always barking. (A male dog)
    • This tree is huge. (A masculine tree, but the word “tree” begins with a vowel)
    • That dress looks good on you. (A feminine dress)
    • These children are playing in the park. (Several children)
  • Usage and examples

    We use demonstrative adjectives to be clear about what we’re talking about, especially when there are several objects or people.

    Examples:

    • Do you prefer this cake or this tart? (We show two different things)
    • These shoes are more comfortable than the ones I had. (Two pairs of shoes are compared)

Possessive adjectives

Possessive adjectives are like labels we put on our belongings to show who they belong to. They indicate to whom a subject or thing belongs.

  • Mon, ma, mes; ton, ta, tes; son, sa, ses, etc.

    “Mon”, “ton” and “son” are for the masculine singular, “ma”, “ta” and “sa” for the feminine singular, and “mes”, “tes”, and “ses” for the plural.

    Examples:

    • My bike is red. (The bike belongs to me)
    • I like your dress. (The dress belongs to you)
    • Where are his keys? (The keys belong to another person)
  • Agreement and use

    Possessive adjectives agree with the noun they precede, not with the possessor. It’s a bit like choosing a label color based on the object, not the person.

    Examples:

    • Mon amie (even if “amie” is feminine, we use “mon” because “amie” begins with a vowel)
    • My friends (several friends)

Interrogative adjectives

Interrogative adjectives

Interrogative adjectives are words we use to ask questions, a bit like playing detective.

  • Which, which, which, which

    “Quel” is for masculine singular, “quelle” for feminine singular, “quels” for masculine plural and “quelles” for feminine plural.

    Examples:

    • Which book do you want? (We’re talking about a men’s book)
    • Which ice cream do you prefer? (We’re talking about a feminine ice cream)
    • What sweets do you like? (We’re talking about several male candies)
    • What shoes will you be wearing? (We’re talking about several women’s shoes)
  • Use in questions

    These adjectives are used to ask questions about a specific choice.

    Examples:

    • What film will we be watching tonight?
    • Which color do you like best?

Indefinite adjectives

Indefinite adjectives give information about the noun, but in a general or vague way. It’s a bit like talking about sweets without saying exactly what they are.

  • Each, some, many, all, other, etc.

    Examples:

    • I exercise every day. (Every day, without exception)
    • Some students haven’t done their homework. (Not all, but some)
    • I bought several books. (More than one, but we don’t say how many)
    • Everyone is invited. (Every single person)
  • Application and special features

    These adjectives can be used to add precision without giving exact details.

    Examples:

    • I want to eat everything! (I’m very greedy and want to eat everything)
    • Anything else? (Do you want something different?)

Numeral adjectives

Numeral adjectives

Numeral adjectives are a bit like the numbers you put on a team’s jerseys. They are used to indicate a quantity or an order.

Cardinals (one, two, three…)

These adjectives tell us how many things or people there are. It’s like counting candy after Halloween.

Examples:

  • I have three apples.
  • There are two tickets left for the concert.
  • She has five cats at home.

Ordinary (first, second…)

These adjectives show the order of things, like when you’re in line and you’re first, second, third…

Examples:

  • It’s the first day of summer.
  • I live on the second floor.
  • She finished third in the race.

Nuances and particularities

Nuances and particularities

French is a language full of surprises! Some adjectives change their meaning depending on their place, or don’t change at all.

Adjectives that change meaning depending on their position

Some adjectives, depending on whether they are placed before or after the noun, can change their meaning. It’s a bit like putting your shoes on backwards, they’d look different.

Examples:

  • A great man: This means a man who is famous or important.
  • A tall man: Here, it means a man of great stature.

Invariable adjectives

Some adjectives never change, regardless of whether what they describe is masculine, feminine, singular or plural. It’s like a “one size fits all” garment.

Examples:

  • Brown shoes (whether it’s one shoe or several, for a boy or a girl, the color remains “brown” without “s” or “e”).
  • A navy blue dress (even though “dress” is feminine, “navy blue” is invariable).