Easy Learning French

Word order with adjectives - Easy Learning Grammar French

1 The basic rules

  • When adjectives are used right beside the noun they are describing, they go BEFORE it in English. French adjectives usually go AFTER the noun.
l’heure exactethe right time
la page suivantethe following page
  • Adjectives describing colours, shapes or nationalities always go AFTER the noun.
des cravates rougesred ties
une table rondea round table
un mot françaisa French word
  • Some very common adjectives usually come BEFORE the noun.
beaulovely, beautiful, good-looking, handsome
bongood, right
grandtall, big, long, great
grosbig, fat
mauvaisbad, poor
petitsmall, little
une belle journéea lovely day
Bonne chance!Good luck!
  • There is a small group of common adjectives whose meaning changes depending on whether they come before the noun or go after it.
AdjectiveExample before nounMeaningExample after nounMeaning
ancienun ancien collèguea former colleagueun fauteuil ancienan antique chair
cherChère JulieDear Julieune robe chèrean expensive dress
proprema propre chambremy own bedroomun mouchoir proprea clean handkerchief
Tipdernier (meaning last) and prochain (meaning next) go AFTER nouns relating to time, for example, semaine (meaning week) and mois (meaning month). Otherwise they go BEFORE the noun.
la semaine dernièrelast week
la dernière fois que je t’ai vuthe last time I saw you
la semaine prochainenext week
la prochaine fois que j’y vaisthe next time I go there
Grammar Extra!When certain adjectives are used with certain nouns, they take on a meaning you cannot always guess. You may need to check these in your dictionary and learn them. Here are a few:
mon petit amimy boyfriend
les petits poispeas
les grandes vacancesthe summer holidays
une grande personnean adult, a grown-up

2 Using more than one adjective

  • In French you can use more than one adjective at a time to describe someone or something. If one of the adjectives usually comes BEFORE the noun and the other usually goes AFTER the noun, the word order follows the usual pattern.
une jeune femme blondea young blonde woman
un nouveau film intéressantan interesting new film
  • If both adjectives usually come AFTER the noun, they are joined together with et (meaning and).
un homme mince et laida thin, ugly man
une personne intelligente et drôlean intelligent, funny person
Key points
  • Most French adjectives go after the noun they describe.
  • Some very common adjectives usually come before the noun: bon/mauvais, court/long, grand/petit, jeune/nouveau/vieux, gros, haut, beau, joli, premier, meilleur.
  • The meaning of some adjectives such as ancien, cher and propre varies according to the position in the sentence.

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