Adjective Endings in French grammar

What do I need to know about adjective endings in French?

In French, the adjective ending (la terminaison de l’adjectif) agrees in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) with the noun it is describing.

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Example

Philippe et Justine sont les gentils maîtres de Felix. Félix est un chat blanc. Il est sur le fauteuil jaune et dort. Il rêve du bon lait qu’il a envie de boire. Il a vraiment très soif et pense à un grand bol de lait. Sur la boîte de sa marque préférée il y a une jolie vache.

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Singular

  • The masculine form is the base form of the adjective.
    Example:
    Félix est un chat blanc.Félix is a white cat.
  • The feminine form is usually constructed by adding an -e to the base form.
    Examples:
    Félix pense à une grande boîte de lait.Félix is thinking about a big container of milk.
    Félix pense à un grand bol de lait.Félix is thinking about a big bowl of milk.
  • If the masculine form of the adjective already ends with -e, it remains the same in the feminine form.
    Examples:
    Félix est sur le fauteuil jaune.Félix is in the yellow armchair.
    Félix est sur la chaise jaune.Félix is on the yellow chair.

Exceptions

  • If an adjective refers to multiple nouns, of which at least one is masculine, the adjective takes the masculine plural ending.
    Example:
    Philippe et Justine sont les gentils maîtres de Félix. Philippe and Justine are the kind owners of Félix.
    feminine + masculine = masculine plural adjective
  • Some adjectives remain unchanged in the feminine and plural forms. These include:
    • adjectives made from nouns (exceptions: rose, fauve and mauve)
      Example:
      Il aime les fauteuils orange.He likes orange armchairs.
    • multi-word colours
      Example:
      Il aime les fauteuils jaune citron.He likes lemon-yellow armchairs.
    • the following colloquial adjectives: chic, super, sympa
      Example:
      Il aime les fauteuils chic.He likes fancy armchairs.
  • Many adjectives have a particular feminine ending.
Masc. ending Fem. ending Example
-el -elle naturel – naturellenatural
-er -ère premier – premièrefirst
-g -gue oblong – oblongueoblong
-en -enne moyen – moyennemedium
-on -onne bon – bonnegood
-eur -euse flatteur – flatteuseflattering
-f -ve passif – passivepassive
  • For adjectives that end with x, c, et, or s in their masculine form, there are various feminine endings. It’s best to look up these exceptions in the dictionary. Here are a few examples:
Masculine Feminine
faux faussefalse
chanceux chanceuseêtre chanceux = to be lucky
doux doucesweet, mild
public publiquepublic
grec grecqueGreek
franc franchefrank
violet violetteviolet
inquiet inquièteworried
frais fraîchefresh
gras grassefatty
  • The adjectives beau, vieux, nouveau and fou are special exceptions. They also change their masculine form when the following word begins with a vowel or a silent h.
Masculine before a consonant Masculine before a vowel or a silent h Feminine
un beau chata beautiful cat un bel enfanta beautiful child
un bel hommea handsome man
une belle femmea beautiful woman
un vieux chatan old cat un vieil immeublean old building
un vieil hommean old man
une vieille femmean old woman
un nouveau chata new cat un nouvel enfanta new child
un nouvel hommea new man
une nouvelle femmea new woman
un chat foua crazy cat un fol enfanta crazy child
un fol hommea crazy man
une femme follea crazy woman

Plural

  • The masculine plural form is constructed by adding the ending -s.
    Example:
    Il pense à de bons repas.He’s thinking about delicious food.
  • If the adjective already ends with -s or -x, it remains the same in the plural.
    Examples:
    J’aime le fromage français.I like French cheese.
    J’aime les fromages français.I like French cheeses.
    C’est un homme sérieux.He is a serious man.
    Ce sont des hommes sérieux.They are serious men.
  • The feminine plural form is constructed by adding the ending -es. If the adjective already ends with -e, we only add an -s.
    Examples:
    Il est assis sur une chaise jaune.He is sitting on a yellow chair.
    Ils sont assis sur des chaises jaunes.They are sitting on yellow chairs.
  • If the adjective ends in -al, the masculine plural form is constructed by adding the ending -aux (the feminine plural form ends in -ales).
    But note: For the following adjectives, bancal, fatal, final, natal, naval and banal, we only add an -s to form the plural.
    Example:
    Le musée nationalThe national museum → Les musées nationauxThe national museums
    but: Un manteau banalA mundane jacket → Des manteaux banalsMundane jackets