French Vocabulary: Popular Adjectives


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French Vocabulary: Popular Adjectives

In French, adjectives (describing words) have to agree in gender and number with the noun they modify. In other words, if an adjective describes a feminine noun, the feminine form of the adjective must be used; if an adjective describes a plural noun, the plural form must be used, and sometimes the feminine plural differs from the masculine plural form.


The feminine form of an adjective is often formed by adding an e to the masculine form. Here are a few examples:

petit – petite (small)
grand – grande (big, great)
lourd – lourde (heavy)
long – longue (long): note that a letter u precedes the e to preserve the hard sound of the g.

Some masculine adjectives double the final consonant before adding the e. This is especially the case with adjectives ending in -n and -l:

gentil – gentille (kind)
bon – bonne (good)

The masculine form of the adjective may already end in -e, in which case the feminine form will be the same as the masculine, for example:

facile – easy
difficile – difficult
rouge – red
jaune – yellow

and so on.

Masculine adjectives ending in -x will change the x to -se, e.g.,

heureux – heureuse (happy)
dangereux – dangereuse (dangerous)

Masculine adjectives ending in -f will change the f to -ve, for example:

actif – active (active)
vif – vive (lively)

Adjectives ending in -er in the masculine form will end in -ere in the feminine:

premier – première (first)
cher – chère (dear, expensive)

Masculine adjectives ending in -eau will end in -elle in the feminine, e.g.,

beau – belle (beautiful, handsome, good-looking)
nouveau – nouvelle (new)

The two adjectives above may be considered irregular. Other irregular adjectives include the following:

blanc – blanche (white)
vieux – vieille (old)
fou – folle (mad)

There are a few adjectives that have a special masculine form that is used immediately before a noun beginning with a vowel or silent h:

un bel homme – a handsome man
un vieil abri – an old shed
un nouvel appartement – a new flat
un fol acteur – a mad actor

With thanks to Elizabeth Allen

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