neuf/nouveau

What’s the difference between neuf and nouveau?

French has two words for new: neuf and nouveau. However, they are not interchangeable. Read on to find out when to use neuf and when to use nouveau, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

Le vélo de Maxence est cassé.

S’il n’arrive pas à le réparer, il devra acheter un nouveau vélo.

Celui-là, c’était un vélo d’occasion. La prochaine fois, il achètera un vélo neuf.

neuf vs. nouveau

The key difference between the adjectives neuf and nouveau lies in the idea of objectivity and subjectivity. Neuf describes something that is objectively new, whereas nouveau describes something that is new to the speaker.

neuf

  • The adjective neuf describes something that is objectively brand new; it has only existed for a short time and has never, or barely, been used. With abstract things such as ideas or methods, neuf means original.
  • The opposite of neuf is vieuxold or usagéused.
  • Neuf generally comes after the noun it is describing.
    Examples:
    Gabriel a déjà déchiré son pantalon tout neuf.Gabriel has already ripped his brand new trousers.
    Nous aimons les vieilles maisons en pierre mais nous avons décidé d’acheter une maison neuve pour ne pas avoir à faire trop de travaux.We like old stone houses, but we have decided to buy a new house so that we don‘t have to do too much work.
    J’ai retapissé mon vieux canapé, maintenant il est comme neuf !I’ve reupholstered my old sofa, now it’s like new!

nouveau

  • The adjective nouveau describes something that is new to the speaker. It implies the idea of a new development, a replacement or something that is different to how it was previously. A thing can be nouveau, but also a person, a situation, etc. When nouveau refers to something abstract, it means previously unseen.
  • The opposite of nouveau is ancienold, former.
  • Nouveau generally comes before the noun it is describing.
    Examples:
    Il y a un nouvel élève dans notre classe.There’s a new student in our class.
    Cela fait 10 ans que je porte le même manteau en hiver, il est temps d’en acheter un nouveau.I’ve been wearing the same winter coat for ten years, it’s time to buy a new one.
    Est-ce que tu as trouvé un nouvel appartement ?Have you found a new flat?
    Cette situation est nouvelle pour moi, il faut que je m’y habitue.This situation is new for me, I have to get used to it.

Info

Remember! The adjectives nouveau and neuf have different endings when they describe a feminine noun.

Nouveau

Masculine Feminine
Singular nouveau nouvelle
Plural nouveaux nouvelles

Neuf

Masculine Feminine
Singular neuf neuve
Plural neufs neuves