Adjective Placement within Sentences

Most adjectives in French follow the noun they modify, for example, la maison blanche (the white house).

A few short, descriptive adjectives, usually expressing beauty, age, goodness, and size (you can remember this with the acronym “BAGS”), generally precede the nouns they modify:

  • Beauty: beau (beautiful, handsome), joli (pretty)
  • Age: nouveau (new), vieux (old), jeune (young)
  • Goodness (or lack of it): bon (good), gentil (nice), mauvais (bad)
  • Size: grand (large, big), petit (small, little), court (short), long (long), gros (fat)

Other common adjectives that precede the noun but do not fall into the BAGS categories include the following:

  • autre (other)
  • chaque (each, every)
  • dernier (last)
  • plusieurs (several)
  • quelques (a few)
  • tel (such)
  • tout (all, whole, every)

Consider the following examples:

  • un gros livre (a thick book)
  • une jolie robe (a pretty dress)
  • une autre histoire (another story)
  • plusieurs idées (several ideas)
  • une telle aventure (such an adventure)

In addition, tout precedes both the noun and the definite article ( le, la, l', les)

  • tous les hommes (all the men)
  • toutes les femmes (all the women)

To use more than one adjective in a description, place each adjective according to whether it precedes or follows the noun. Two adjectives in the same position are joined by et (and).

  • une femme forte et athlétique (a strong, athletic woman)
  • un grand et mauvais loup (a big, bad wolf)
  • une petite voiture rouge (a small, red car)

Note that you may use past participles as adjectives, and they must agree with the nouns they modify:

  • C'était un plaisir inattendu. (It was an unexpected pleasure.)
  • Cette table est réservée. (This table is reserved.)