Making adjectives agree - Easy Learning Grammar French
1 The basic rules
- In dictionaries, regular French adjectives are usually shown in the masculine singular form. You need to know how to change them to make them agree with the noun or pronoun that they are describing.
- To make an adjective agree with the noun or pronoun it describes, you simply add the following endings in most cases:
|with masculine noun||with feminine noun|
|un chat noir||a black cat|
|une chemise noire||a black shirt|
|des chats noirs||black cats|
|des chemises noires||black shirts|
2 Making adjectives feminine
- With most adjectives you add an -e to the masculine singular form to make it feminine.
- un chat noir a black cat → une chemise noire a black shirt
- un sac lourd a heavy bag → une valise lourde a heavy suitcase
- If the adjective already ends in an -e in the masculine, you do not add another -e.
- un sac jaune a yellow bag → une chemise jaune a yellow shirt
- un garçon sage a good boy → une fille sage a good girl
- Some changes to endings are a little more complicated but still follow a regular pattern. Sometimes you have to double the consonant as well as adding an -e. On the next page there is a table showing these changes.
|Masculine ending||Feminine ending||Example||Meaning|
- un bon repas a good meal → de bonne humeur in a good mood
- un homme cruel a cruel man → une remarque cruelle a cruel remark
TipIf a masculine adjective ends in a vowel (a, e, i, o or u), its pronunciation does not change when an -e is added to form the feminine. For example, joli and jolie are both pronounced the same.If a masculine adjective ends with a consonant that is not pronounced, such as -d, -s or -t, you DO pronounce that consonant when an -e is added in the feminine. For example, in chaud (meaning hot, warm), you cannot hear the d when it is said out loud; in the feminine form chaude, you can hear the d sound.This is also true when you have to double the consonant before the -e is added, for example, gros (meaning big, fat), where you cannot hear the s, and the feminine form grosse, where you can hear the s sound.Some masculine adjectives, such as bon (meaning good) or italien (meaning Italian), end in what is called a nasal vowel and an -n. With these words, you pronounce the vowel ‘through your nose’ but do not say the n. When the consonant is doubled and an -e is added in the feminine – bonne, italienne – the vowel becomes a normal one instead of a nasal vowel and you do pronounce the n.
- Some very common adjectives have irregular feminine forms.
|Masculine form||Feminine form||Meaning|
|doux||douce||soft, sweet, mild, gentle|
|frais||fraîche||fresh, chilly, cool|
- mon sport favori my favourite sport → ma chanson favorite my favourite song
- un ami grec a Greek (male) friend → une amie grecque a Greek (female) friend
- A very small group of French adjectives have an extra masculine singular form that is used in front of words that begin with a vowel (a, e, i, o or u) and most words beginning with h. These adjectives also have an irregular feminine form.
|Masculine form in front of a word beginning with a consonant||Masculine form in front of a word beginning with a vowel or most words beginning with h||Feminine form||Meaning|
|beau||bel||belle||lovely, beautiful, good-looking, handsome|
|un bel appartement||a beautiful flat|
|le Nouvel An||New Year|
|un vieil arbre||an old tree|
3 Making adjectives plural
- With most adjectives you add an -s to the masculine singular or feminine singular form to make it plural.
- un chat noir a black cat → des chats noirs black cats
- une valise lourde a heavy suitcase → des valises lourdes heavy suitcases
TipWhen an adjective describes a masculine and a feminine noun or pronoun, use the masculine plural form of the adjective.
|La maison et le jardin sont beaux.||The house and garden are beautiful.|
|Sophie et son petit ami sont très gentils.||Sophie and her boyfriend are very nice.|
- If the masculine singular form already ends in an -s or an -x, you do not add an -s.
- un fromage français a French cheese → des fromages français French cheeses
- un homme dangereux a dangerous man → des hommes dangereux dangerous men
- If the masculine singular form ends in -eau or -al, the masculine plural is usually -eaux or -aux.
- le nouveau professeur the new teacher → les nouveaux professeurs the new teachers
- le rôle principal the main role → les rôles principaux the main roles
TipAdding an -s or an -x does not change the pronunciation of a word. For example, noir and noirs sound just the same, as do nouveau and nouveaux.When the -s or -x ending comes before a word starting with a vowel or most words starting with h, you have to pronounce the s or x on the end of the adjective. It sounds like the z in the English word zip.
|les anciens élèves||the former pupils|
|de grands hôtels||big hotels|
4 Invariable adjectives
- A small number of adjectives (mostly relating to colours) do not change in the feminine or plural. They are called invariable because their form NEVER changes, no matter what they are describing. These adjectives are often made up of more than one word – for example, bleu marine (meaning navy blue), or else come from the names of fruit or nuts – for example, orange (meaning orange), marron (meaning brown).
|des chaussures marron||brown shoes|
|une veste bleu marine||a navy blue jacket|
- To make an adjective agree with a feminine singular noun or pronoun, you usually add -e to the masculine singular. If the adjective already ends in an -e, no further -e is added.
- Several adjectives ending in a consonant double their consonant as well as adding -e in the feminine.
- beau, fou, nouveau and vieux have an irregular feminine form and an extra masculine singular form that is used in front of words that begin with a vowel and most words beginning with h: bel, fol, nouvel, vieil.
- To make an adjective agree with a masculine plural noun or pronoun, you usually add -s to the masculine singular. If the adjective already ends in an -s or an -x, no further -s is added.
- If the adjective ends in -eau or -al, the masculine plural is usually -eaux or -aux.
- To make an adjective agree with a feminine plural noun or pronoun, you usually add -es to the masculine singular.
- Some adjectives relating to colours never change their form.