French Grammar: Adjectives – Basics


French Grammar: Adjectives – Basics
Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project


French Grammar: Adjectives – Basics
la grammaire française: les adjectifs – rudiments

Adjectives are essential for describing nouns and pronouns. These key components let you describe people, animals, places, concepts, and things!


First let’s take another look at nouns.  In both English and in French, nouns have number; that is, a noun can be either singular or plural.  But, unlike English, all French nouns also have gender; any given French noun is either masculine or feminine.

Like French nouns, French adjectives (les adjectifs) also have number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine or feminine).  In French, adjectives must agree in gender (masculine or feminine) AND number (singular or plural) with the nouns or pronouns they describe.  This means that we must use the masculine singular form of an adjective to describe a masculine singular noun; we must use the feminine plural form of an adjective to describe a feminine plural noun, and so on.

Le film intéressant.
 (‘film’ is a masculine singular noun, and ‘intéressant’ reflects this)
The interesting film.

Les films intéressants. (‘films‘ is a masculine plural noun, and ‘intéressants’ reflects this)
The interesting films.

La conte intéressante.
 (‘conte’ is a feminine singular noun, and ‘intéressante’ reflects this)
The interesting story.

Les contes intéressantes. (‘contes’ is a feminine plural noun, and ‘intéressantes’ reflects this)
The interesting stories.

Gender of Adjectives:

(a) For the most part, masculine French adjectives (including those that end in  –é), become feminine by adding a final  –e :

amusant (masculine) : funny / amusing

amusante (feminine) : funny / amusing

bleu (masculine) : blue
bleue (feminine) : blue

déprimé (masculine) : depressed
déprimée (feminine) : depressed

laid (masculine) : ugly
laide (feminine)
: ugly

noir (masculine) : black
noire (feminine) : black

poli (masculine) : polite
polie (feminine) : polite

Masculine singular adjectives that end in silent  -e  do not change in the feminine singular form :

Le garçon triste.
The sad boy.

La fille triste.

The sad girl.

(b) Masculine adjectives that end in  -er  form the feminine by changing the  -er  to  -ère :

Le chapeau est cher.

The hat is expensive.

La robe est chère.

The dress is expensive.

(c) Masculine adjectives that end in  -f  form the feminine by changing the  -f  to  -ve :

Denis est sportif.

Dennis is athletic.

Denise est sportive.

Denise is athletic.

(d) Masculine adjectives that end in  -x  form the feminine by changing the  -x  to  -se :

Papa est généreux.

Dad is generous.

Maman est généreuse.

Mom is generous.

(e) Some masculine adjectives that end in a consonant form the feminine by doubling that final consonant before adding  -e :

actuel (masculine) : current / present-day
actuelle (feminine) : current / present-day

ancien (masculine) : old / ancient / former
ancienne (feminine) : old /ancient / former

bas (masculine) : low
basse (feminine) : low

bon (masculine) : good
bonne (feminine) : good

canadien (masculine) : Canadian
canadienne (feminine) : Canadian

cruel (masculine) : cruel

cruelle (feminine) : cruel

gentil (masculine) : kind / nice
gentille (feminine) : kind / nice

gros (masculine) : large / big / fat
grosse (feminine) : large / big / fat

mignon (masculine) : cute
mignonne (feminine) : cute

(f) And just to make life interesting, some masculine adjectives have irregular feminine forms:

blanc (masculine) : white
blanche (feminine) : white

complet (masculine) : complete
complète (feminine) : complete

doux (masculine) : sweet / gentle / mild
douce (feminine) : sweet / gentle / mild

faux (masculine) : false / fake

fausse (feminine) : false / fake

favori (masculine) : favorite

favorie (feminine) : favorite

frais (masculine) : cool / fresh

fraîche (feminine) : cool / fresh

franc (masculine) : frank / open / candid

franche (feminine) : frank / open / candid

long (masculine) : long

longue (feminine) : long

secret (masculine) : secret

secrète (feminine) : secret

(g) The masculine adjectives beau, nouveau, and vieux change respectively to bel, nouvel, and vieil in front of a masculine singular noun that begins with a vowel or a silent letter ‘h’.  The feminine form is derived by doubling the final ‘l’ of bel, nouvel, or vieil and adding  -e :

beau (masculine: beautiful / handsome

Le beau village: The beautiful village

bel (masculine) : beautiful / handsome

Le bel homme : The handsome man

belle (feminine) : beautiful / handsome

La belle maison : The beautiful house

(masculine) : new

Le nouveau roman : The new novel

nouvel (masculine) : new

Le nouvel appareil photo : The new camera

nouvelle (feminine) : new

La nouvelle voiture : The new car

vieux (masculine)
: old

Le vieux bâtiment : The old building

vieil (masculine) : old

Le vieil acteur : The old actor

vieille (feminine) : old

La vieille femme : The old woman


Robert est un étudiant sérieux?
Is Robert a serious student?

Oui, Robert est un étudiant sérieux et Anne est une étudiante sérieuse aussi.

Yes, Robert is a serious student and Anne is a serious student, also.

Qui est ton acteur favori?

Who is your favorite actor?

Tom Hanks est mon acteur favori et Meryl Streep est mon actrice favorie.

Tom Hanks is my favorite actor and Meryl Streep is my favorite actress.

Comment est le frère idéal?

What is the ideal brother like?

Le frère idéal est gentil, généreux et amusant.

The ideal brother is kind, generous and funny.

Est-ce que vous avez une grande famille?

Do you all have a big family?

Non, nous avons une petite famille.

No, we have a small family.

Comment s’appelle ton nouvel ami?
What is your (informal) new friend’s name?

Mon nouvel ami s’appelle Édouard.
My new friend’s name is Edward.


Creative Commons LicenseThe LEAF Project
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike