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Grammar: Adjectives

Regular formation

Spelling

Most adjective changes occur in the following manner:

  • Feminine: add an -e to the masculine form
    • un garçon intéressant –> une fille intéressante
    • un ami amusant –> une amie amusante
    • un camion lent –> une voiture lente
  • Plural: add an -s to the singular form
    • un garçon intéressant –> des garçons intéressants
    • une fille intéressante –> des filles intéressantes

Pronunciation

Generally, the final consonant is pronounced only when it comes before an -e. Most adjectives, such as those above, are affected by this rule.

  • Masculine Pronuciation: intéressan, amusan, len
  • Feminine Pronunciation: intéressant, amusant, lent

Irregular formation

Irregular plural formation

Examples
M Sing.–>M. Pl.Masc. Singular–>Masc. PluralNotes
No change-s-sun plafond bas
un gros porc
des plafonds bas
des gros porcs
-x-xun homme généreux
un garçon furieux
des hommes généreux
des garçons furieux
-z-zun gaz dangereuxdes gaz dangereux
__x-au-auxun journaldes journauxExceptions:landau (landaus), sarrau (sarraus)
-eu-euxun pieudes pieuxExceptions:bleu (bleus), pneu (pneus)
-eau-eauxun châteaudes châteaux
-al-auxun journaldes journauxExceptions:bal, cal, carnaval, chacal,
festival, pal, récital et régal take an ‘s’
-ou-ouxun bijoudes bijouxNotes:While most -ou adjectives have an s added in
the plural form, seven are the exception. These are:
un bijou (des bijoux, jewel), un caillou (des cailloux, stone)),
un pou (des poux, louse), un joujou (des joujoux, toy ), un chou
(des choux, cabbage), un hibou (des hiboux, owl), un
genou (des genoux, knee)

Irregular feminine formation

Examples
Masc.–>Fem.Masculine–>FeminineNotes
No change-e-eégoïste, populaire, sociable, timide,
énergique, dynamique, sympathique
* When the masc. form ends in an -e, there is no change.
* The final consonant is pronounced on the masc. form.
Final
Consonant
Doubled
-el-ellecruelcruelleWhen an adjective has one of these endings, the ending of
the feminine form is doubled. There is no change of
pronunciation when changing from -el to -elle.
-il is pronounced “ee” (as in keen), while -ille is similar, with a final yod (pronounced like “ee” in keen with a “y” on the end: [ij] ).
-on is pronounced ohhn and -onne is pronounced uhhne.
-en is pronounced euhn and -enne is pronounced ehne.
-os is pronounced oh and -osse is pronounced ohse.
-as is pronounced ah and -asse is pronounced ahse.
-il-illegentilgentille
-on-onnebon
breton
bonne
bretonne
-en-enneancien
parisien
ancienne
parisienne
-os-ossegrosgrosse
-as-assebasbasse
-eux
change
-eux-eusefurieux
généreux
furieuse
généreuse
-eux is pronounced euhh and -euse is pronounced euhsse.
-if
change
-if-ivesportif
actif
sportive
active
er
change
-er-èreétranger
cher
étrangère
chère
-er is pronounced ay and -ère is pronounced air, though exceptions such as “cher” exist in which both forms are pronounced with an ending similar to the word “air”.
-et
change
-et-èteinquiet
complet
inquiète
complète
-et is pronounced ay and -ète is pronounced ette.

Special rules

Adjectives that precede nouns

List

Adjectives that are used frequently before nouns. These are:

  • beau (belle)
  • joli(e)
  • nouveau (nouvelle)
  • vieux (vieille)
  • jeune +
  • bon(ne) +
  • gentil (gentille)
  • mauvais(e)
  • vilain(e)
  • grand(e) +
  • petit(e)
  • court(e) +
  • long(ue)
  • gros(se) +
  • large
  • haut(e)
  • affreux (affreuse)
  • dernier (dernière) +
  • méchant(e) +
  • meilleur(e)
  • pauvre
  • autre

+ sometimes placed after a noun, and may change in meaning

When these adjectives appear before an indefinite plural noun, they will change the article associated with it:

  • des garçons courageux / de beaux garçons

Changes in meaning

When grand goes before a noun, it means great. However, when it goes after the noun, it means tall. Likewise, when pauvre goes before a noun, it means unfortunate. When it comes after the noun, it means financially poor. This rule works most of the time, but be careful, “pauvre” can mean “financially poor” even when used before the nouns.

Beau, nouveau, and vieux

These three adjectives behave differently when placed before a singular masculine noun starting with a vowel or silent h:

Masc. Sing. Cons.Masc. Sing VowelMasc. PluralFem. Sing. (all)Fem. Plural
Beauun beau garçonun bel individude beaux garçonsune belle fillettede belles fillettes
Nouveauun nouveau camionun nouvel ordrede nouveaux ordresune nouvelle idéede nouvelles idées
Vieuxun vieux camionun vieil ordrede vieux camionsune vieille idéede vieilles idées

Possessive adjectives

In English, we say “her car” when the owner of the car is a woman and “his car” when the owner is a man. In French, they say “sa voiture” even if the owner is a male. It is not the owner who determines the gender of the possessive adjective but the object owned.
First person singular – mon, ma, mes
Second person singular (informal) – ton, ta, tes
Third person singular – son, sa, ses

First person plural – notre, notre, nos
Second person plural (and polite form) – votre, votre, vos
Third person plural – leur, leur, leurs

Note: Exception. When a feminine noun starts with a vowel you should utilize “Mon” instead of “Ma”. Example:

Mon ami = ok
Ma amie = error!
Mon amie = ok.

Content is available under GNU Free Documentation License Source: Wikibooks


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