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What does it mean when a word is "invariable" ?

In many discussions during our skills, students and moderators refer to certain words being "invariable." Does this mean the word "does not change" (1) it's placement in a sentence, or (2) the form of the word "does not change", (3) or the meaning "does not change"; (4) or some other reason? I cannot find a definitive answer. If someone can explain and give me some examples, I would really appreciate it. Thank you!

July 13, 2020



It’s number 2. The context is adjectives that vary based on (grammatical) gender and number. There are a few adjectives that don’t do this, and they are called “invariable”. I’m sorry I can’t think of any examples right now. Bonne chance !

EDIT: A quick search of the forum revealed this earlier discussion with a couple of examples of colors. I hope it’s helpful.

Timor mortis conturbat me.


Merci beaucoup! Between your response and others I've received, this mystery is finally solved! I am so grateful!


"The French adjective marron (brown) is invariable: it does not take the usual s in the plural."

(That's from Wiktionary - I couldn't think of a quick example either. :)


Thank you, Davey! The other discussion I found mentions marron and orange. Lingot for you!


It's not just colors, but certain colors that refer to a noun (like saying the color of an orange, the color of a pistachio) are some great examples.

Words like chaque, deux, and cool don't change to match the noun's grammatical gender (M or F) or number (singular / plural). https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/invariable-adjectives/

So many color words, Vicky, in case you move to France and want to paint your rooms all different shades! https://www.thoughtco.com/invariable-french-adjectives-1368796


WOW, what a great response! You have opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of French grammar! I cannot thank you enough. I have recently completed the English to French DL tree and almost all of the French to English DL Tree and have struggled with many aspects of French grammar. Thanks to you and these links, I feel I have new resources for understanding. Merci beaucoup!! Voici des lingots!


So kind of you to say and do! Thank you very much, Vicky!


Sitesurf gives a lot of examples of invariable adjectives here: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/348940

*" (...)for your info: vide, fade, dupe, rare, âcre, apre, pire, sage, sage, fixe, pauvre, large, calme, arabe, tiède, raide, acide, aride, avide, beige, belge, rouge, riche, moche, sale, ovale, noble, frêle, drôle, ample, digne, terne, jaune, avare, sobre, obèse, dense, lisse, leste, juste, vague, brave...

...are adjectives ending in -e when masculine and identical when feminine - and only with 4 or 5 letters. So, be prepared to meet many more like them! "*

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