French Help With Adjectives
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Unlike English adjectives, French adjectives must agree in number and gender with the nouns that they modify. A black dog is un chien noir, but a black dress is une robe noire. Also, remember that some adjectives have the same masculine and feminine form, especially those ending in a silent -e (e.g. riche).
When used with pronouns, adjectives agree with the noun that has been replaced. This is particularly tricky with the formal vous: to a singular man, you would say vous êtes beau, but to plural women, you would say vous êtes belles.
In French, most adjectives appear after the nouns they modify. For instance, le chat noir. However, some adjectives precede the noun. You can remember these types of nouns using the mnemonic BANGS.
B is for beauty. Une belle femme — A beautiful woman A is for age. Une jeune fille — A young girl N is for number. Deux hommes — Two men This can also be for rank: Le premier mot — The first word G is for good or bad. Un bon garçon — A good boy S is for size. Un gros chat — A fat cat All determiner adjectives (e.g. possessives, interrogatives, and demonstratives) appear before the noun, e.g. mon livre ("my book") and ce cochon ("that pig"). You will learn these later.
A few adjectives can come both before and after the noun depending on their meaning. The most common example is grand, which is a BANGS adjective for everything but people. For people, it comes before a noun when it means "important" and after the noun when it means "tall". For instance, Napoleon was un grand homme ("a great man"), but not un homme grand ("a tall man").
Usually, figurative meanings will precede the noun, while literal meanings will follow the noun.
un pauvre homme — a pitiful man un homme pauvre — a poor man un certain nombre — a certain (particular) number une victoire certaine — a certain (guaranteed) victory ma propre voiture — my own car ma voiture propre — my clean car un cher ami — a dear friend une montre chère — an expensive watch Euphony
As you have already learned, elisions, contractions, liaisons, and enchaînements are all designed to prevent consecutive vowel sounds (which is called hiatus). This quest for harmonious sounds is called euphony and is an essential feature of French. It has, however, created some unexpected rules.
For instance, the masculine beau ("beautiful") changes to bel if its noun begins with a vowel sound. A beautiful man is un bel homme. The other two common changes are vieux to vieil ("old") and nouveau to nouvel ("new").
Note that this doesn't occur to feminine adjectives because they usually end in silent vowels.