Descriptive Adjectives


Descriptive adjectives (les adjectifs qualificatifs) are the most commonly used kind of adjective, they are used to describe different qualities of the noun being modified. In French descriptive adjectives usually follow the nouns they modify. They may also follow forms of the verb être (to be) : il est gentil (he is nice); elle est jeune (she is young).

une amie gentille  a nice friend (f.)

un homme intéressant  an interesting man

un sac à dos pratique  a pratical backpack

elle est sportive  she is athletic


Agreement of adjectives in gender and number

In French, adjectives agree in both gender and number with the nouns they modify. The feminine form of adjectives usually ends in -e and the regular plural adds an -s :

un ami intelligent  a smart friend (m)                     des amis intelligents  some smart friends (m)

une amie intelligente  a smart friend (f)                 des amies intelligentes  some smart friends (f)

In addition to this first rule, you have to know that :

– if the masculine singular form of the adjective ends in -e, the ending remains the same in the feminine singular :

c’est un ami drôle  he’s a funny friend (m.)            c’est une amie drôle  she’s a funny friend (f.)

c’est un homme riche  he’s a rich man              c’est une femme riche  she’s a rich woman

– if the singular form of an adjective ends in –s or –x, the plural ending stay the same :

Robert est gros  Robert is fat                  ces garçons sont gros  these boys are fat

es-tu français ?  are you French ? (s.)     êtes-vous français  are you French (p.)

– if a plural subject or group contains one or more masculine objects or persons, the plural adjective is masculine :

Rachelle et David sont très grands  Rachelle and David are very tall

ma mère, ma soeur et mon frère sont intelligents  my mother, my sister and my brother are smart

– Also, some descriptive adjectives have irregular forms :

Masculine Feminine English
cher chère dear ; expansive
gentil gentille nice
gros grosse big ; fat
long longue long
naïf naïve naive
paresseux paresseuse lazy
sérieux sérieuse serious
travailleur travailleuse hardworking
vieux vieille old ; ancient


Adjectives of color :

If you don’t know the colors in French you can have a look here ! Here’s what you need to know about adjectives of color :

– They normally follow the noun and agree with it in gender and number :

un chat gris  a grey cat

des chemises bleues  blue shirts

des robes rouges  red dresses

– Two adjectives of color, blanc (white) and violet (purple) have irregular feminine forms blanc becomes blanche and violet becomes violette :

un chat blanc  a white cat

une chemise blanche  a white shirt

un chapeau violet  a purple hat

une voiture violette  a purple car

– Adjectives of color ending in silent -e (jaune, rouge, rose) are spelled the same in both masculine and feminine :

un canapé rouge  a red couch

une voiture rouge a red car

– Two adjectives of color (marron and orange) are invariable in gender and number : des chaussures marron (  brown shoes


Adjectives that precede the noun

As we’ve just seen, most descriptive adjectives follow the noun, but the following adjectives usually precede it :










big, fat









small, little


Examples :

un beau garcon                   a beautiful/ handsome boy

une bonne amie                  a good friend (f)

un gros chien                      a big dog

une vieille voiture             an old car

In addition, ordinal numbers always precede the noun :

le premier (1er) jour                                   the first (1st) day

le seizième (16ème) siècle                          the sixteenth (16th) century


Beau, nouveau and vieux

The adjectives beau (beautiful), nouveau (new) and vieux (old) are irregular : each has a second masculine singular form that is used before a vowel sound or mute h : beau becomes bel nouveau becomes nouvel vieux becomes vieil

un beau livre (a beautiful book)    un bel appartement (a beautiful apartment)

un nouveau chapeau ( a new hat)  un nouvel ami (a new friend)

un vieux téléphone (an old phone)  un vieil ordinateur (an old computer)

But this rule only applies to the masculine singular form of beau, nouveau and vieux. The masculine plural and the feminine singular and plural are regular and only have one form :

des beaux appartements

des nouveaux amis

des vieux ordinateurs 

“Magic” adjectives

A few adjectives that usually precede nouns can also follow them. This change of position causes a change in meaning sometimes :

mon ancienne maison                  my previous house

une maison ancienne                   an old house

une chère amie                              a dear friend

une voiture chère                         an expansive car

un pauvre étudiant                      an unfortunate student

un étudiant pauvre                      a poor (not rich) student


Now that you know how French adjectives work you should improve your vocabulary and learn more adjectives by clicking here !