French adjective irregularities: adjectives that end in -f

On this page, we look at the form of French adjectives where the masculine form ends in -if. In general:

If the masculine form of an adjective ends in -f, then the feminine form will change this to -ve.

This rule affects various French adjectives ending in -if, and which therefore change this to -ive in the feminine. The French feminine form of these adjectives is often actually used in English (sometimes with minor spelling alterations). For example:

French masculineFrench feminineEnglish
actifactiveactive
assertifassertiveassertive
agressifagressiveaggressive
créatifcréativecreative
pensifpensivepensive, thoughtful

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As expected, the rule applies both in the singular and plural. So the French for creative girls would be des filles créatives: you change the -f to -ve and then add -s for the plural. Note that with the plural, we're always adding des meaning "some", even though you could miss it out in English.

Note the accent on créatif and that in French, agressif is spelt with a single g.

The rule also affects various other adjectives that either don't end in -if (they have a different vowel before the f), or which aren't strictly based on the suffix -if (and where a completely different word is likely to be used in English):

French masculineFrench feminineEnglish
juifjuiveJewish
neufneuvebrand-new
sauf*sauveintact, unharmed
veufveuvewidowed
vifvivelively

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*Used mainly in the expression sain et sauf/ saine et sauve (="safe and sound") and in a few other set expressions.

Note also the following, which has a grave accent in the feminine but otherwise follows this rule:

French masculineFrench feminineEnglish
brefbrèvebrief

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Practise adjectives ending in -f

In this exercise, you'll practise making some phrases with adjectives that end in -f. Remember:

  • change the -f to -ve in the feminine (singular or plural);
  • click the vocabulary button (the top picture to the left of the questions) if you're not sure of a French word;
  • if a plural is asked for ("some"), always but des in French, even though "some" is optional in English (as indicated by the brackets in the questions).

Next: adjectives ending in -et

On the next page, we look at French adjectives ending in -et.

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.