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French Adjectives

Lessons on everything you need to know about French adjectives: meaning, usage, placement, and types.

Introduction to French Adjectives
An adjective is a word that modifies a noun by describing it in some way: shape, color, size, nationality, etc. French adjectives are very different from English adjectives in two ways: agreement and word order.

Adjectives with special forms
Since French adjectives usually have to agree with the nouns they modify in gender and number, most of them have up to four forms. But there are several French adjectives that have an additional variation: a special form that is used when the adjective precedes a word that begins with a vowel or mute H.

Fickle French Adjectives
There are a number of French adjectives which have different meanings depending on where they are placed. Generally speaking, when the adjective precedes the noun, it has a figurative or subjective meaning, whereas the adjective which follows the noun has a literal or objective meaning.

Adverbial Adjectives ~ Adjectifs adverbiaux (Bas, Bon, Cher...)
By now you know that French adjectives normally agree with the nouns they modify, but you've probably seen a few cases where they don't. There are a number of French adjectives which are often used as adverbs (that is, they modify verbs rather than nouns), and when used in this way, these "adverbial adjectives" are invariable.

Attributive Adjectives - Épithètes
Attributive adjectives describe or emphasize some characteristic of the noun they modify. Known as épithètes in French, attributive adjectives are a kind of qualifying (descriptive) adjectives which immediately precede or follow the noun they modify.

Exclamative Adjectives - Adjectifs exclamatifs (Quel, Quelle...)
Exclamative adjectives ask the question which. The French equivalent of which, quel, must be used whenever there is more than one noun that you are choosing between.

Demonstrative Adjectives - Adjectif démonstratif (Ce, Cet, Cette, Ces)
Demonstrative adjectives (this, that, these, those) are words used in place of articles to indicate a specific noun. In French, they must agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify.

Determiners - Adjectifs déterminants
The grammatical term determiner refers to a word, either an article or a certain type of adjective, which introduces and simultaneously modifies a noun. Determiners are much more common in French than in English - some sort of determiner is nearly always required in front of each noun.

Faux Adjectives ~ Les adjectifs occasionnels
In French, there are a number of words which are not actually adjectives but may be used as adjectives. These "occasional adjectives" or "faux adjectives" are always invariable - they do not agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify. There are three different types of words that may be used as adjectives.

Indefinite Adjectives - Adjectifs indéfinis (Autre, Certain, Chaque)
French indefinite adjectives, sometimes called affirmative indefinite adjectives, are used to modify nouns in an unspecific sense. Learn all about French indefinite adjectives like autre, certain, chaque, divers, and tout.

Interrogative Adjectives - Adjectifs interrogatifs (Quel, Quelle...)
Interrogative adjectives ask the question which. The French equivalent of which, quel, must be used whenever there is more than one noun that you are choosing between.

Invariable Adjectives - Adjectifs invariables
In French, adjectives normally have to agree with the nouns they modify in gender and number. However, there are numerous adjectives which don't agree - they have a single form that does not change to reflect the gender or number of the noun.

Negative Adjectives - Adjectifs négatifs (Ne... aucun, nul, pas un)
French negative adjectives, sometimes called indefinite negative adjectives, are made up of two parts which surround the verb. Negative adjectives negate, refuse, or cast doubt on a quality of the noun they modify.

Numerical Adjectives
Numerical adjective is the grammatical term for numbers. There are three types of numerical adjectives, each used for a different purpose.

Past Participle - Participe passé (Assis, Fatigué...)
The French past participle, equivalent to the -ed form of English verbs, may be used as an adjective.

Possessive Adjectives - Adjectifs possessifs Mon, Ma, Mes, Ton, Ta...
Lesson and quiz on my, your, his, etc.

Present Participle - Participe présent (Amusant, Intéressant...)
The French present participle, which ends in -ant, is equivalent to the -ing form of English verbs and is sometimes used as an adjective.

Relative Adjectives - Adjectifs relatifs (Lequel)
Relative adjectives are placed in front of nouns to indicate a link between that noun and an antecedent. In both English and French, relative adjectives are used mainly in legal, administrative, or other highly-formal language.

French Adjectives and Pronouns
French has six types of adjectives with corresponding pronouns, meaning that the adjective plus noun can be replaced by an equivalent pronoun.

Bon vs Bien, Mauvais vs Mal
The French words bon and bien, mauvais and mal are often mixed up - study this lesson to straighten them out.

Deuxième vs Second
They both mean "second" but what's the difference?

Meilleur vs Mieux
Like bon and bien, meilleur and mieux can be confusing for French students. Meilleur is the comparative and superlative form of the adjective bon (good), while mieux is the comparative and superlative form of the adverb bien (well). When translating into English, there is no difference between meilleur and mieux, hence the confusion.

Même
The French word même can be an indefinite adjective, indefinite pronoun, or adverb, and is also used in a number of expressions, making it an extremely versatile and useful French word.

Nouveau vs Neuf
English speakers sometimes find it difficult to translate "new" into French, due to confusion over the French words nouveau and neuf. In fact, the French adjectives have distinctly different meanings; the problem is actually caused by the fact that the English "new" has more than one meaning.

Quelque
Quelque is an indefinite adjective and adverb that is found in numerous indefinite terms and expressions.

Tel Telle Tels Telles
The French word tel can be a qualifying adjective, an indefinite adjective, or an indefinite pronoun, and is also used in a number of expressions and conjunctions, making it an extremely versatile and useful French word.

Tout, Tous, Toute, Toutes
Learn all about the French adjective tout.

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