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-et / -ette - French Suffix

Learn about the French suffix -et / -ette

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Suffix: -et / -ette

Type of suffix: nominal, adjectival

Gender of words with suffix: -et masculine / -ette feminine

The French suffix -et and its feminine -ette is a diminutive that can be added to nouns, verbs (to make nouns), adjectives, and names.

Nouns
When added to a noun, the suffix -et refers to a smaller version of that noun.

   un livret - booklet
   (added to un livre - book)

   un jardinet - little garden
   (added to un jardin - garden)

   une cigarette - cigarette
   (added to un cigare - cigar)

   une fillette - little girl
   (added to une fille - girl)

Note: the English word "brunette" actually means une petite brune - "short female with dark hair." It's the French noun brune (female with dark hair) plus the diminutive -ette. What English speakers call a "brunette" would just be une brune in French.


Verbs
Verbs may drop their infinitive ending and take -et or -ette to make a noun related to that verb.

   un fumet - aroma
   (added to fumer - to smoke, cure)

   un jouet - toy
   (added to jouer - to play)

   une amusette - amusement, diversion
   (added to amuser - to amuse, have fun)

   une sonnette - bell
   (added to sonner - to ring)


Adjectives
-et softens adjectives, so that the new one means "kind of, sort of, somewhat" plus whatever the original adjective means. Note that the suffix is added to the feminine form of the original adjective.

   gentillet / gentillette - fairly nice, kind of nice
   (added to gentille, feminine form of gentil - nice)

   jaunet / jaunette - yellowish, yellowy, slightly yellow
   (added to jaune - yellow)

   mignonnet / mignonnette - small and cute, kind of cute
   (added to mignonne, feminine form of mignon - cute)

   mollet / mollette - somewhat soft
   (added to molle, feminine form of mou - soft)


Names
It was once common for both masculine and feminine names to have -et or -ette added, respectively. Today, the masculine diminutives are mostly family names, whereas suffixed feminine names are still in common usage as given names. In addition, -ette may be added to traditionally masculine names to make them feminine.

   Annette   (added to Anne)

   Jeannette   (added to Jeanne)

   Pierrette   (added to Pierre)

   Guillaumet   (added to Guillaume)

   Huguet   (added to Hugues)

French names


Spelling notes:
  • When the suffix -et / -ette is added to a verb, the infinitive ending is removed first: jouer > jouet.
  • Any silent letters at the end of a word are dropped before adding the suffix: mignonne > mignonnet, Hugues > Huguet.

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