TNs, U10: Adjectives 1 (Agreement, Placement, Figurative, Euphony)


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.

Adjective Placement

In French, most adjectives appear after the nouns they modify. For instance, colors follow the noun, as in le chat noir. However, some adjectives precede the noun. You may find it helpful to remember many these types of adjectives using the mnemonic BANGS.

  • B is for beauty: beau, joli. Une belle femme — A beautiful woman
  • A is for age: nouveau, jeune, vieux. Une jeune fille — A young girl
  • N is for number. Deux hommes — Two men
    • This can also be for rank: Le premier/dernier mot — The first/last word
  • G is for good or bad: bon, mauvais. Un bon garçon — A good boy
  • S is for size: petit, grand, gros, court, long, large, haut, vaste. Un gros chat — A fat cat

There are a few things to keep in mind. BANGS is not a grammar rule and later on you may encounter a few adjectives that would seem to fit in a BANGS category, but in fact follow the noun. It is a mnemonic device to help you remember many of the common, short adjectives that do precede nouns in French.

However, 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.

Figurative Adjectives

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/unfortunate 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


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"). You may also encounter fou which becomes fol ("crazy" or "mad") in front of a vowel sound. "A mad hope" is un fol espoir.

Note that this doesn't occur to feminine adjectives because they usually end in silent vowels.

Important: If you find any errors in the Tips and Notes, have questions related to the grammar points above, or would like to discuss the topic in depth, please feel free to comment below. We ask that you keep your comments on topic so that this post stays educational and everyone can benefit from them. Any spam or unrelated comments will be deleted.

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December 10, 2018


and you can add : fou => fol => "un fol espoir me prit" but it is not very used (?)

December 10, 2018

Thank you Bal!
I've added it and your example.

(On dirait, "not used very often".) :-)

December 10, 2018

Thanks a lot ! ;-)

December 10, 2018

Why is this thread not sticky anymore ?

December 27, 2018

Bonjour !

This thread is not intended to be sticky, but you can find the master post with direct links to all the grammar posts so far including this one here.

December 27, 2018

Yes I meant the master post, why is it not sticky anymore. The thread is the most important thread on Duolingo, seriously helped so many people learning French including me, so it should be sticky forever. Continuez votre bon travail, admins ! Merci beaucoup. :D

December 27, 2018

Je vous en prie ! Not to worry. The master post is still stickied in the French forums. If you click on the French Discussions and then "popular" it should be at the top.

December 28, 2018

This "BANGS" mnemonic is somewhat new to me, and it doesn't quite ring true. After all, the only of those five categories that always precedes the noun is the N, numbers. Really, it's only the shortest, most common adjectives in the other categories that precede the noun, right?

For comparison, this page reflects the way I first learned this rule much more closely:

January 8, 2019

The mnemonic "BANGS" is by no means a hard and fast rule, but rather a way for French students to memorize some of the most common adjectives that precede nouns rather that follow the noun as most adjectives do. The list is not intended to be comprehensive or account for the few "exceptions to the exception". French is not so accommodating. As you know, some adjectives that would seem to fit under BANGS in fact follow the noun. Ex. un chien méchant

You make a good point and I may rewrite the post to clarify that BANGS is NOT a rule.

As with any mnemonic aide, if it is helpful, use it. If what you are using is working for you, use that.

January 9, 2019
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