French adjective irregularities: adjectives that double the -n in the feminine

In our overview of the form of French adjectives, we look at two regular rules: adding -e in the feminine and -s in the plural.

For adjectives with certain endings, there are also a few other rules that come into play. On this page, we look at a rule that it is important to know early on, because it affects various common adjectives relating to nationalities (Italian, Canadian etc). The rule is generally as follows:

An adjective generally doubles the final -n in the feminine if it ends in -en or -on.

(Note that this isn't every vowel: adjectives ending in -in or -un don't double the final -n: the feminine of brun (brown) is brune. Many adjectives ending in -an also don't have the doubling.)

The rule applies to both feminine singular and plural forms. As mentioned, various adjectives affected by this rule relate to nationalities and inhabitants of cities, including:

australien Australian
autrichien Austrian
brésilien Brasilian
breton Breton, from Brittany
canadien Canadian
chilien Chilian
européen European
indien Indian
italien Italian
parisien Parisian

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Examples:

un livre italien
an Italian book

une voiture italienne
an Italian car
(feminine form, because voiture is feminine, so we double the n)

des livres italiens
(some) Italian books
(although we're adding an ending, it isn't a feminine ending, so we don't double the n)

des voitures italiennes
(some) Italian cars
(feminine plural form: we also double the n)


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Practise using n-doubling adjectives

In this exercise, you can practise using adjectives such as those above. Remember: if you're using an adjective with a feminine noun, then you'll need to double the -n.

Next: adjectives ending in -f

On the next page, you can learn about and practise another type of French adjective: adjectives ending in -f.

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