I was taught that a bâtiment is 'joli' not 'beau'. Is there a reason or rule that explains which adjective to use for different things?
Great question! "Beau/belle" and "joli/jolie" have different meanings, the same way "beautiful" and "pretty" do in English.
"Beau/belle" = "beautiful", so you would use it for describing something that possesses gracious, elegant, qualities of undeniable beauty.
Here are a few examples:
"Le Louvre est un beau bâtiment" (The Louvre is a beautiful building)
"La belle plage de Sète" (The beautiful beach in Sète)
"Les belles roses dans le jardin" (The beautiful roses in the garden)
"Joli/jolie" = "pretty", so you would use it for describing something that possesses visually pleasant, attractive and delicate qualities.
"Une jolie ferme à la campagne" (A pretty farmhouse in the countryside)
"Regarde mes jolies chaussures" (Look at my pretty shoes)
"C'est un joli service à thé" (This is a pretty tea set)
I hope this helps!
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