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French Adjectives: A Sure Sign of Fluency in the Language

Using French adjectives is like adding spice to a bland dish. They add texture, sensation and descriptive qualities to your communication. Adjectives will help others to visualize what you are trying to communicate.
When you use adjectives you are showing that you really understand what you are talking about to the point that you wish to further define it. This is why using adjectives is a sure sign of fluency in French. You can use adjectives to add eloquence and precision to your spoken words and written work in French.

Placement Rules

In French, the placement of adjectives varies, which can make it tricky when you first start using them. Most French adjectives are placed after the noun they describe. Take for example, “une maison brune”, which means a brown house. The adjective “brune” goes after the noun “maison”.
Here is another example: “an arbre vert”  (a green tree). There are exceptions though. Adjectives that express beauty, age, number, goodness and size go before the noun they describe. Here are two examples where the adjective goes after the noun:
“Une belle femme” – A beautiful woman
“Un gros sandwich” – A big sandwich
Other adjectives that go before the noun in French include “bon” (good), “nouveau” (new), “petit” (small), “grand” (tall), “jeune” (young), “vieux” (old), “mauvais” (bad) and “joli” (pretty).

Agreement Rules

Adjectives change depending on whether the noun they describe is masculine, feminine, singular or plural. For regular adjectives the masculine form is the default spelling of the adjective and you would add an “e” if the noun is feminine, “s” if it is plural and both an “e” and an “s” if the noun is both feminine and plural.
Here is an example of the agreement rules for the adjective grand, which means tall:
Masculine singular: “grand”
Feminine singular: “grande”
Masculine plural: “grands”
Feminine plural: “grandes”
If your adjective already ends in “e” to begin with, it would have the same masculine and feminine form. A few examples of adjectives that end in “e” in French include “jeune” (young), “difficile” (difficult), “facile” (easy) and “formidable” (terrific or great).

French Adjectives On Their Own

“J’ai acheté une nouvelle robe rouge.” – I bought a new red dress.
“Formidable! C’est très mignonne!” – Terrific! It’s very cute!
Just as in the exchange here, responding using an adjective can express excitement and show enthusiasm. With just one word like “formidable” (terrific), “magnifique” (spendid) or “génial” (brilliant) you can let someone know that you are happy for them, you agree with them, or that you are excited about what is going on.
You can also show disapproval of a situation using adjectives such as “terrifiant” (terrible), “désagréable” (dreadful) or “horrible” (horrible). Using adjectives on their own like this is a quick way to add more to a conversation by only learning a few new French words.

Describe a Picture Using Adjectives

They say that a picture is worth 1000 words, so let’s see how many adjectives you can come up with when you look through the pictures in your phone.
Tagging pictures with short sentences that contain adjectives is a fun way to practice making agreements and practicing the placement rules for adjectives in French. Adding a few adjectives to a brief sentence can take a sentence from boring and underrated to exciting and fresh. Perhaps you have a picture of an umbrella. Here is how you can elevate a description of that umbrella using adjectives.
“J’ai un parapluie.” – I have an umbrella.
“J’ai un parapluie avec tons vifs de bleu et orange.” – I have an umbrella with bright tones of blue and orange.

Practice Writing With Adjectives

If you are looking to add more adjectives to your vocabulary in French, try writing a descriptive narrative showcasing adjectives. Pick a topic you are passionate about and really love. Sports, food, music, whatever you are into.
First make a thought web to brainstorm all the ways you could describe your topic in detail. Then write a few paragraphs using as many adjectives as you can to describe your topic. Try to include all five of your senses in your description: touch, taste, smell, sound and sight. Really make your reader visualize and see a clear and precise image in their mind of what you are writing about. Make it fun and interesting by using the most descriptive adjectives that you can think of.
Here is an example of a descriptive narrative based on the experience of a classical music concert.
To start off with, I first came up with a list of adjectives I could use to describe the sound and feeling of the concert:
“Beau” (Beautiful)
“Magnifique” (Terrific)
“Douce” (soft or gentle)
“Tranquille” (Tranquil)
“Sensass” (Sensational)
“Remarquable” (Remarkable)
“Apaisant” (Soothing)
Here is a brief descriptive narrative of a classical music concert:
Les musiciennes remarquables jouent sur les beaux violons. La musique est tranquille et douce. Les décorations dans la salle sont magnifiques! Le violoncelle est sensass! J’ai une sensation apaisante quand j’écoute de la musique.
The remarkable musicians play on their beautiful violins. The music is tranquil and soft. The decorations in the room are magnificent! The cello is sensational! I have a soothing feeling when I listen to the music.

Why Use Adjectives?

When you use adjectives you are showing that you have a firm grasp of the language. Adjectives allow you to be descriptive and precise in your communication. Even when you use adjectives on their own to respond to someone, you are able to express approval or disapproval and you only have to learn a few new French words.
Although learning the placement rules and remembering the agreements for gender and number can be tricky, the payoff for learning new adjectives is well worth it when it comes to increasing your conversation skills in French.


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