Learning the formation and the placement of the French adjectives is quite a mental sport. French adjectives change to agree in gender and number with the nouns that they modify, which means there can be up to four forms of each adjective whether the noun is feminine, masculine, feminine plural or masculine plural. There are also different categories of adjectives with different endings
When learning the different components of a French sentence, it may at times be difficult to identify the adjective. As a reminder: an adjective is a word which modifies a noun by describing it. These words are descriptions such as colours, sizes, nationalities, moods, and more. For example, have a careful look at the following phrase: La belle langue française (the beautiful French language). In this short phrase, there are 2 words describing the language: belle and française. Notice where these 2 adjectives are placed and how they are formed: the adjective française after the noun, whereas in English, it would be placed before, and an e was added to française because it has to agree with the feminine word langue.
1) Let’s start with an example of a regular French adjective:
Etre content (to be happy):
Elle est contente = She is happy
Il est content = He is happy
Elles sont contentes = They (female only) are happy
Ils sont contents = They (man only or mixture of female and male) are happy.
Note how we simply add an e to agree with a feminine subject and a s to agree with plural subjects.
Other examples are adjectives such as joli (pretty); petit (small); grand (big, tall); chaud (hot/warm); froid (cold); intelligent (smart/intelligent); préféré (preferred); anglais (English).
2) Some masculine adjectives, already ending with an e, don’t change in the feminine form.
drôle = funny
comique = comic/funny
triste = sad
sale = dirty
malade = sick
jeune = young
adorable = lovely.
-triste (sad) : il est triste ; elle est triste ; ils sont tristes ; elles sont tristes
-malade (sick) : il est malade ; elle est malade ; ils sont malades ; elles sont malades
-jeune (young ): il est jeune ; elle est jeune ; ils sont jeunes ; elles sont jeunes.
3) When the French adjective ends in er, we need to add an accent grave (è) on the e of er for the feminine form. Many of them are used to describe a profession, in which case the word can be used both as a noun as well as an adjective.
boulanger (baker) : boulangère
infirmier (nurse) : infirmière
fermier (farmer) : fermière
étranger (foreigner) : étrangère
régulier (regular) : régulière
premier (first) : première.
Note: to form the plural form of all of the above, you just need to add a s: boulangers, boulangères.
4) When the adjective ends in eur, which also happens often for professions, but not exclusively, it becomes more complex, since for some of them the ending changes to euse and for others it becomes rice in the feminine form.
-Feminine ending in euse:
vendeur (salesperson) : vendeuse
conteur (story teller) : conteuse
serveur (waiter) : serveuse
menteur (liar) : menteuse.
-Feminine ending in rice:
directeur (director) : directrice
acteur (actor) : actrice
instituteur (primary school teacher) : institutrice
dessinateur (designer) : dessinatrice.
Note: the adjectives of profession that end in er or eur can also be used as a noun (see above).
Marc est fermier (Marc is a farmer), BUT: le fermier du village est Marc (the farmer of the village is Marc).
Juliette est actrice (Juliette is an actor), BUT: l’actrice principale du theâtre est Juliette (the main actor of the theatre is Juliette).