How to form French adjectives (masculine, feminine, plural forms etc)
In French, the form of an adjective potentially depends on the noun it corresponds with. The form of the adjective, or at least its spelling, usually changes depending on the gender (whether the noun is masculine or feminine) and on the number (whether it is singular or plural).
As far as spelling is concerned, the most general rules are as follows:
These two rules combine, so that a feminine plural adjective ends in -es (imagine adding an -e and then adding an -s).
The "basic" form of an adjective— e.g. the one that you'll find listed in a dictionary— is generally the masculine singular form. The other forms are then made by applying rules to this basic form.1
On the next page, you'll be able to practice French adjectives that use the above rules. First, let's look at some complete examples.
Example with the adjective vert
The adjective meaning green is
Note also in these examples that we had to pick the correct form of the article:
Example with adjectives already ending in an -e or -s
Now, we'll look at examples of adjectives where one or other of the above rules doesn't need to be applied. Remember that the overall pattern is still the same: a feminine adjective needs to end in -e and a plural adjective needs to end in -s, and a feminine plural adjective in -es. But:
If the form we're about to add an ending to already has that ending, then we don't add it again.
Example with the adjective français
So firstly, here is an example with the adjective français, meaning French, where the basic masculine form ends in an -s. Because the masculine form already ends in -s, no new -s is added in the masculine plural form. Note that one is still added in the feminine plural because, once the feminine -e ending is added, the word no longer ends in -s:
Example with the adjective rouge
The French adjective rouge, meaning red, ends in an -e. This means that in the feminine, we won't add another -e. But in the plural, we will still add an -s. So this gives the following forms:
It's worth taking a moment now to read through the above and make sure you've understood it. On the next page, you'll be able to practise what you're learnt with the first French adjective exercise.
If you'd rather not do the exercises just now, then you may want to go on and have a look at a special case of adjectives ending in -n which double the -n in the feminine.
You may also want to look in more depth at how to form the plural in French: there are a few cases where the simple rule of adding -s is actually not enough.
1. In principle, we could see things the other way
round (e.g. with the rule listed here, we could list the feminine form as the "basic" form and then say "remove the -e
to get the masculine form"). But there are one or two reasons for treating the masculine form as
the "base" form. Firstly, a practical one: practically all dictionaries and vocabulary books treat
the masculine as the base form. And from a theoretical point of view, the masculine form is in some
sense the "basic" or "unmarked" form, since it's the one that speakers fall back on when there's no
obvious reason to pick either masculine or feminine— for example, when referring to a mixture of
masculine and feminine nouns, when referring to "no noun in particular" (c'est grand,