Gender rules of Qualifying Adjectives in French

The Rules – Gender (masculine & feminine) of Qualifying Adjectives

A qualifying adjective is a variable word that precedes or follows a noun or pronoun.

It gives information about the character of a person, his appearance, the colour of an animal or an object, for example:

Luc est grand – Luc is tall 

Mon chien est noir et blanc – My dog is black and white

Je suis nerveux – I am nervous

In French, the qualifying adjective agrees in gender (masculine, feminine) and in number (singular or plural) with the noun or pronoun it specifies, for example:

Ma voisine a acheté une nouvelle voiture, et de nouvelles chaussures pour ses enfants.

My neighbor bought a new car, and new shoes for her children.

Mes anciens élèves sont tous devenus bons en français.

My former students have all become good at French.

A qualifying adjective is an epithet adjective when it is placed directly next to the noun or pronoun it qualifies. It can be removed from a sentence, for example:

J’aime les fleurs vertes – I like green flowers

J’ai des petits poissons dans mon aquarium – I have small fish in my aquarium

A qualifying adjective is an attribute of the subject when it is separated from the noun or pronoun it qualifies by a verb of state (to be, to seem, to become, to remain, to make, to appear…). It agrees in gender and number with the subject and it cannot be deleted from the sentence.

Cet homme est heureux – This man is happy

Il semble fatigué – He seems tired

So you just need to remember:

A qualifying adjective is an epithet adjective when it is placed directly next to a noun that it qualifies.

A qualifying adjective is an attribute of the subject when it is separated from the noun by a state verb.

The different feminine form of French adjectives

The feminine form of adjectives in French is most of the time formed by adding an “e”.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
grand grande big/tall
petit petite small
rond ronde round

 

The adjectives ending with an “e” at the masculine form in French, do not change at the feminine.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
calme calme calm/quiet
solide solide solid/strong
timide timide shy

 

For the adjectives ending with the vowels “i”, “ai”, “u”, etc., you just need to add an “e” at the feminine form.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
poli polie polite
têtu têtue stubborn
vrai vraie true

 

For the adjectives ending with “on” and “ien”, we double their final consonant and add an “e” at the feminine form.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
bon bonne good
ancien ancienne old/former
aérien aérienne aerial

 

The adjectives ending with “el”, “ul” and “eil”, also double their final consonant and add an “e” at the feminine.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
bel belle handsome/beautiful
nul nulle bad/rubbish
vieil vielle old

 

The adjectives ending with “et”, also double their final consonant and add an “e” at the feminine.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
coquet coquette coquettish
muet muette mute
net nette clean/clear

 

However, we have exception for some masculine adjectives ending with “et” such as complet, désuet, discret, inquiet… They are ending with “ète” instead of “ette”, for example:

  • complet – complette – complète (full)
  • inquiet – inquiette – inquiète (worry)
  • discret – discrette – discrète (discreet)

 

For the masculine adjectives ending with “ot”, the feminine form ends with “ote”, except pâlot, sot, vieillot…. which end in “otte”.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
idiot idiote idiot/stupid
petiot petiote little one
vieillot vieillotte old-fashioned

 

For the masculine adjectives ending with “s”, the feminine form ends with “se”, except for bas, épais, gros which end with “sse” at the feminine. To make it more complicated there is another exception, frais (fresh), becomes fraîche at the feminine, not fraise or fraisse.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
gris grise grey
bas basse low
gros grosse fat

 

The French masculine adjectives ending with “x”, end with “se” at the feminine form, except doux, faux, roux…. which end with “ce” or “sse”.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
nerveux nerveuse nervous
doux douce soft/sweet
roux rousse redheaded

 

The masculine adjectives ending with “er”, end with “ère” at the feminine form.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
premier première first
laitier laitière dairy
dernier dernière last

 

The masculine adjectives ending with “f”, end with “ve” at the feminine form.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
neuf neuve new
abrasif abrasive abrasive
dépressif dépressive depressive

 

The French masculine adjectives ending with “c” are often ending with “che” at the feminine.

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
franc franche frank
blanc blanche white
sec che dry

 

The masculine adjectives, beau (beautiful), nouveau (new), fou (crazy), mou (soft), vieux (old) become the following at the feminine form:

Masculine Form Feminine Form English
beau belle beautiful
nouveau nouvelle new
fou folle crazy
mou molle soft
vieux vieille old

 

But if the masculine adjectives, beau, nouveau, vieux are followed by a noun beginning with a vowel or silent “h” at the singular, they are pronounced the same way as the feminine form, but different spelling.

Un beau garçon, un bel homme, une belle femme. A beautiful boy, a beautiful man, a beautiful woman.

Un vieux garçon, un vieil homme, une vieille femme – An old boy, an old man, an old woman.

Un nouveau canapé, un nouvel ordinateur, une nouvelle table – A new sofa, a new computer, a new table.

 

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