French Adjectives

By optilingo

Learn how French adjectives work, including French comparative adjectives and French superlative adjectives

Understanding how to place adjectives will help you achieve fluency. Adjectives change based on the gender and number of the noun they describe. Fortunately, the case does not change based on the case of the noun, so you only need to learn a few rules [How to Learn French Grammar] and memorize a number of common exceptions.

Singular Adjectives

The easiest way to remember how to use the right adjective for French gendered nouns is to memorize the rules for feminine because adjectives do not change for the masculine form. When you have a noun that is feminine, in most instances you will add “-e” to reflect the gender.

A great nation une grande nation

It is possible that an adjective already ends in “-e,” in which case you do not need to change it as the masculine and feminine versions will be the same.

A sad story une histoire triste

A red dress une robe rouge

There are (of course) exceptions. As a general rule of thumb, the following adjective endings change in the feminine case:

Masculine

Feminine

-eux heureux (happy)

-euse heureuse

-er cher (dear)

-ère chère

-el naturel (natural)

-elle naturelle

-ien ancient (ancient)

-ienne ancienne

-if actif (active)

-ive active

Plural Adjectives

In French, you pluralize both the noun and the adjective. Fortunately, it is pretty much the same pluralization – add “-s.”

English Singular Plural
the great boulevard le grand boulevard les grands boulevards
the green dress(es) la robe verte les robes vertes
the green hat le chapeau vert les chapeaux verts

There are two exceptions for plural masculine nouns.

1. Adjectives ending in “-s” and “-x” are not changed.

Singular Plural
un chapeau gris (a grey hat) deux chapeaux gris (two grey hats)
Il est vieux (he is old). ils sont vieux (They are old).

2. Adjectives ending in “-eau” use “-x” for their plural form.

Singular Plural
Un nouveau train (a new train) deux nouveaux trains (two new trains)

Irregular Adjectives

About the only way to deal with irregular adjectives is to memorize them since they do not follow any rules or guidelines.

Adjective

Masculine

Feminine

White

Blanc

Blanche

Fresh

Frais

Fraîche

Dry

Sec

Sèche

Sweet

Doux

Douce

False

Faux

Fausse

Good

Bon

Bonne

Unfortunately, there are three adjectives that are more complex because the masculine version also varies, depending on the beginning of the noun they describe.

Adjective

Masculine

Feminine

Before a consonant

Before a vowel or h

New

Nouveau

Nouvel

Nouvelle

Old

Vieux

Vieil

Vieille

Beautiful

Beau

Bel

Belle

Adjective Placement

Adjective placement in French is reversed from what you are accustomed to in English. Where you are used to putting the adjective directly before the noun, you will need to start training yourself to place it directly after the noun when thinking or speaking in French. This needs to become your default though process for dealing with most adjectives.

There are a few adjectives that almost alwaysprecede the noun. The following list is one to memorize. It is likely best to simply note these for now and choose other adjectives that follow the usual sequence (after the noun) so that you get accustomed to placing the adjective after the noun – this is going to be far more common than the few adjectives that do not follow this pattern.

Adjective

Masculine

Feminine

Singular

Plural

Singular

Plural

Beautiful

Beau (Bel)

Beaux

Belle

Belles

Nice

Gentil

Gentils

Gentille

Gentilles

Good

Bon

Bons

Bonne

Bonnes

Bad

Mauvais

Mauvais

Mauvaise

Mauvaises

Better/best

Meilleur

Meilleurs

Meilleure

Meilleures

Dear

Cher

Chers

Chère

Chères

Big/great

Grand

Grands

Grande

Grandes

Young

Jeune

Jeunes

Jeune

Jeunes

Old

Vieux (Vieil)

Vieux

Vieille

Vieilles

New

Nouveau (Nouvel)

Nouveaux

Nouvelle

Nouvelles

Pretty

Joli

Jolis

Jolie

Jolies

Long

Long

Longs

Longue

Longues

Little

Petit

Petits

Petite

Petites

Demonstrative Adjectives

Demonstratives are used to point to specific objects without naming them: “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those.” French uses these as well. “This” and “that” are interchangeable with the words “ce,” “cet,” and “cette.” “These” and “those” are both covered with the word “ces.”

this/that building cette montagne
this/that mountain cette montagne
this/that tool cet outil
these/those buildings ces bâtiments
these/those mountains ces montagnes

You can place emphasis to the noun by adding “-ci” (this/these) or “-là” (that/those).

this building ce bâtiment-ci
that mountain cette montagne-là
this tool cet outil-ci
those buildings ces bâtiments-là
these mountains ces montagnes-ci

Comparatives and Superlatives

In English, you either use the words “more” or “less” before a noun, or add “-er” to the end of a word to show how it compares to something else.

This shirt is shorter than the one I’m wearing.

The area is larger than my last sales area.

He is more obstinate than his brother.

This village is less interesting than the one we visited earlier.

The French language is the same, use “plus” or “moins.”

This shirt is shorter than the one I’m wearing.

Cette chemise est plus courte que celle que je porte.

The area is larger than my last sales area.

La zone est plus grande que ma dernière zone de vente.

He is more obstinate than his brother.

Il est plus têtu que son frère.

This village is less interesting than the one we visited earlier.

Ce village est moins intéressant que celui que nous avons visité auparavant.

Similarly, superlatives use the words “most” and “least” before a noun, or add “-est_ to the end of a word.

That was the prettiest lamp in the store.

My sister is the most optimistic person I know.

The least pleasant experience offers a valuable lesson.

The rarest samples weren’t available to the public.

In French, you add the article then “plus” or “moins.”

That was the prettiest lamp in the store.
C’était la plus jolie lampe du magasin.

My sister is the most optimistic person I know.
Ma soeur est la personne la plus optimiste que je connaisse.

The least pleasant experience offers a valuable lesson.
L’expérience la moins agréable offre une leçon précieuse.

The rarest samples weren’t available to the public.
Les échantillons les plus rares n’étaient pas disponibles au public.

Finally, there are irregular comparatives and superlatives, and the ones you are likely to use are the same in French as in English.

Base

Comparative

Superlative

Bon (good)

Meilleur (better, masculine)

Meilleure (better, feminine)

Le Meilleure (best, masculine)

La Meilleure (best, feminine)

Bien (well)

Mieux (better)

Le Mieux (best)

Mal (bad)

Pire (worse)

Le Pire (worst)