French Adjectives


As mentioned earlier, an adjective is a word that describes a noun. Unlike in English, French adjectives agree with the noun’s gender and number.  An adjective is an important element to any language. These words tell the listener or the reader what something looks, feels, smells or sounds like. Adjectives are known as descriptive words.

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An adjective is a descriptive word. It describes a noun or a pronoun. In the English sentences below, the adjective is italicized and the word that it is describing is underlined.

 I have a big dog.

I love this yellow birdhouse.

She is so energetic!

In French, there are several forms of adjectives. As usual, they are either in their masculine, feminine, plural, or preceding-vowel form depending on what is being described. The most common form of writing adjectives in French is to start with the masculine singular form and add letters to the end of the word where needed. This concept is outlined in the table below with the example intelligent.

Intelligent – Intelligent/Smart

Masculine SingularDefaultIntelligentIl est intelligent!
Feminine SingularAdd -e to masculine singular formIntelligenteC’est une fille intelligente.
Masculine PluralAdd -s to masculine singular formIntelligentsLes élèves sont très intelligents!
Feminine PluralAdd -es to masculine singular formIntelligentesLes deux sœurs ne sont pas intelligentes.

Note: Before, the gender of plural nouns was not important for choosing definite/indefinite/partitive articles. However, you should know the gender of the plural nouns that you wish to describe as their adjective spellings will change for each.

Other Adjective Rules:

Masculin adjective ending in…Change to… in order to make it feminineExamples Masc. → Fem.Translation
-l-llegentil → gentillenice
-et-èteinquiet → inquièteworried
-teur-tricemanipulateur → manipulatricemanipulative
-fiveactif → activeactive/sporty
-x-seheureux → heureusehappy
-er-èrecher → chèreexpensive
-el-ellecruel → cruellecruel
-an, -en, -on-anne, -enne, -onnebon → bonnegood

Note: There are several other adjective forms as well as a variety of irregular adjective spellings (which don’t follow any rule/pattern).

Adjective Placement

Unlike in the English examples above, the French adjective most often follows the word that it is describing. Look how these French sentences would translate literally to English:

Le héros courageux a sauvé le peuple.

Literal English translation: The hero courageous saved the people.

Actual meaning: The courageous hero saved the people.

J’étudie (study) avec les garçons drôles de la classe.

Literal English translation: I study with the boys funny of the class.

Actual meaning: I study with the funny boys of the class.

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