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Is there a particular order of adjectives in French (I don't mean BAGS)?

I know of BAGS. But what if there are more than two adjectives that go before or after the noun?

For example:

a beautiful big car

"Une belle grande voiture" or "une grande belle voiture"

a short French story

"une histoire courte française" or "une histoire française courte"

Does the order of the adjectives matter?

In English, there is a grammatically correct order for adjectives.

Determiners, opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material, purpose.

So, in English, the order of adjectives in the phrase "big beautiful car" is wrong; "beautiful big car" is grammatically correct, since opinion comes before size.

"Short French story" is correct; "French short story" is incorrect. Shape is before origin.

Are there any rules like this in French?

July 17, 2017



It's funny that your two English examples both happen to be questionable, in spite of the general rule. Did you find them somewhere, or come up with them yourself?

"Short story" is a set phrase, as it's a popular fiction format, so "French short story" will be more idiomatic in many circumstances.

And "big beautiful" has for some reason taken hold as an idiomatic ordering as well. Search the internet for "big beautiful" and "beautiful big", and you'll come up with millions of hits for the former, and hardly any for the latter. You'll also find "big beautiful" more common nowadays in books, according to Google's Ngram Viewer.

(In fact you can do the same searches for "French short story" and "short French story". The latter is rare on the internet and doesn't even show up on the Ngram Viewer.)

The general rule is overridden for set phrases and other idiomatic pairings.


There are rules, a lot of them actually, and different orders can be correct but completely change the meaning of your sentence. This is pretty advanced for someone who started learning French.
Nevertheless, if you really want to delve into those subtleties I can only advise you to pick up a French grammar book or look up "ordre des adjectifs en français".

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syntaxe_de_l%27adjectif_en_fran%C3%A7ais can give you a little avant-goût (foretaste) of the subject.

PS: For your examples, the correct order is
"Une belle grande voiture" .
"Une courte histoire française" (for a story that happens to be short).
"Une histoire courte française" (if you are talking about a subcategory of stories which is "short stories", I reckon there would be the same nuance in English with "a French short story".


Indeed, and I think we would say 'une grande et belle voiture' to avoid 'belle grande'.

  • Un beau jeune homme
  • Un grand et beau jeune homme
  • Un jeune homme beau, grand et distingué
  • Un homme jeune, beau, grand et distingué

Even BAGS adjectives end up after the noun when there are more than two or three ('jeune' can be considered as part of the term 'jeune homme' in the first three phrases, but in my last version, it is one of the adjectives).


I always separated the adjectives with ''et'' to avoid having to think about this grammatical rule. Work-arounds and easy ways, I love them. :p


Thanks for the help!


Can the meaning vary depending on whether the adjective is before or after the noun it's modifying?


Yes, in some cases. Like 'un grand homme' (a great man, a major figure) and 'un homme grand' (a tall man).


Thank you for the link!



I can help you because I'm French! ;)

So, in French, there is not really the order of adjectives. Therefore, there aren't rules like in English. But it's better to put conjunctions like: " mais, ou, et, or, ni".

So, I hope I could help you! (And I hope my English was correct)

Translation in French:


Je peux vous aider parce que je suis française! ;)

Alors, en Français, il n'y a pas vraiment d'ordre d'adjectifs. Donc, il n'y a pas de règles comme en Anglais. Mais c'est mieux de mettre des conjonctions de coordination entre les adjectifs comme "mais, ou, et, or, ni" sinon la phrase est trop chargée!

Alors, j'espère que j'ai pu vous être utile! ( Et j'espère que mon anglais était correct)!


Thank you! Also, just some corrections!

Past tense of can = could (not canned)/ Passé de can = could (pas canned)

or conditional = can (pourrais)

English is spelled with an 's' and needs a capital letter since it's a proper noun.


And sorry for the errors! ;)


rule of thumb

the adjective that is most related to the noun it modifies should be placed closest to the noun, and so on.


une voiture vert foncé

here the most important adjective is vert

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