French adjectives you need to know

French adjectives you need to know

by Louise Richard
September 27, 2021

Now that you’ve learned simple French phrases for beginners, you are starting to build more complex sentences. That’s when French adjectives come in! Adjectives will spice up your sentence and add a little detail that will make it great. Just like adding orange blossom water to your crêpes batter. In this article, we’ll tell you all about how to use adjectives, and their different forms. Read on!

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How to use adjectives in French

English adjectives are pretty straightforward whereas French adjectives reflect the gender and the number of the noun(s) they describe. That means one adjective can have four different forms depending on the noun they modify. They can be either: masculine, feminine, singular or plural. 

In general, the French adjectives come after the noun they describe, unlike the English adjectives. For example : A red car – Une voiture rouge

The form changes in adjectives

When you’re looking up an adjective in the dictionary, you’re likely to find the masculine singular form. But don’t worry, we will give you a list of French feminine adjectives as well!

That means you have to know the gender of the noun you are qualifying.

As a general rule, if you want to change a masculine adjective into a feminine one, you only have to add an -e at the end. If you want to change it from singular to plural, add an -s.

Il est petit (he is short)Elle est petite (she is short)
Ils sont petits (they are short)Elles sont petites (they are short)

Easy, right? When the masculine adjective ends with an -e, it’s even easier because you don’t need to change anything!

Marc est jeuneSarah est jeune
Le manteau est jauneL’écharpe est jaune
L’exercice est facileLes exercices sont faciles

Did you notice how close jeune (young) and jaune (yellow) are? Learn how to say the colors in French.

But of course, since it’s French we are talking about, there are other endings and variations!

Adjectives which double their last consonant

Some adjectives double their last consonant when they go from masculine to feminine. 

That’s the case for adjectives ending in -n, -l, -t and -s.

MasculineFeminineEnglish
italienitalienneitalian
bonbonnegood
paysanpaysannerural

cruelcruellecruel
gentilgentillekind
pareilpareilleidentical

muetmuettemute
netnetteneat

basbasselow
laslassetiring

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Adjectives ending in -f

Masculine adjectives that end in -f will have a -ve ending in their feminine form.

MasculineFeminineEnglish
neufneuvenew
actifactiveactive
naïfnaïvenaive

Adjectives ending in -er

Masculine adjectives that end in -er will have a -ère ending in their feminine form.

MasculineFeminineEnglish
premierpremièrefirst
cherchèredear or expensive

Adjectives ending in -x

Masculine adjectives that end in -x will have a -se ending in their feminine form.

MasculineFeminineEnglish
heureuxheureusehappy
amoureuxamoureusein love

Adjectives used to describe people in French

Now that you’ve seen the most common endings for French adjectives, you can practice using them in sentences. 

How about describing a person? Below are ten of the most common adjectives to describe people in French, in their masculine and feminine form and their translation, s’il vous plait!

MasculineFeminineEnglish
petitpetiteshort
grandgrandetall
grosgrossebig
mincemincethin
maigremaigreskinny
blondblondeblond
brunbrunebrunette
rouxrousseginger
jolijoliepretty
laidlaideugly

Adjectives used to describe personality

Jacqueline Bisset said it herself: “Character contributes to beauty”! How would you describe your best friend and why they are, indeed, the best? I’m sure it’s not because they have shiny hair (though, it is appreciable), but because they have this particular trait that makes them themselves.

MasculineFeminineMeaning of the word
gentilgentillekind
polipoliepolite
généreuxgénéreusegenerous
amusantamusantefunny
heureuxheureusehappy
curieuxcurieusecurious
intelligentintelligentesmart
intéressantintéressanteinteresting
loyalloyaleloyal
créatif créativecreative

And here is a list of less positive adjectives (masculine and feminine) because, let’s face it, nobody is perfect!

MasculineFeminineEnglish
ennuyeuxennuyeuseboring
paresseuxparesseuselazy
jalouxjalousejealous
égoïsteégoïsteself-centered
superficielsuperficiellesuperficial
arrogantarrogantearrogant
têtutêtuestubborn

Irregular French adjectives

I know we have already talked about irregular endings but how about irregular adjectives?

Some adjectives in French have an irregular form in the feminine. Unfortunately, they are quite common. Otherwise, where would be the fun in learning French?

MasculineFeminineMeaning of the word
beaubellebeautiful
nouveaunouvellenew
blancblanchewhite
douxdoucesoft
fraisfraichechilly
foufollecrazy

En conclusion !

There you go! Here are the main rules for French adjectives. Remember that in a lot of cases, you can just add an -e at the end of a masculine adjective to make it feminine, and an -s to make it plural. For the special cases, why not print out a table of examples and display it where you can see it? (Did someone say the bathroom? 🤫)Though it can look like there is a lot, you will soon see the pattern in the words and will be able to gracefully go from premier to première and from amoureux to amoureuse!

Révisez bien !

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Louise is a French teacher and courses director. She lives in Oxford, UK and loves to bike around this lovely city. She is a keen traveller (she lived in Europe, the United States and Australia) and loves meeting people from all over the world. She is also passionate about how learning a new language opens doors to so many different cultures, and this is what she wants to share with her students. She comes from Burgundy-Franche-Comté, a region in the East of France, and loves everything there is about it, from the Macvin to the cancoillotte! Find out more about her on her LinkedIn.