Ancien = former / old (adjectives that change meaning according to position)

Note that certain adjectives change their meanings depending if they appear before or after the noun.

Look at these uses of ancien:

L'ancienne maison où j'habitais 
The former house where I lived

La maison ancienne où j'habite 
The old house where I live

Mon ancien petit copain
My ex-boyfriend

Ce tableau ancien
This ancient painting

Before the noun, ancien means 'former' / 'ex-' / no longer 

After the noun it means 'ancient' / 'old'

-> Note that the adjective ancien in the sense of "ancient" is not really used for people.  



Remember that generally adjectives appear after the noun, but some very common adjectives go before.
See Adjectives usually go AFTER nouns (adjective position) and Short and common adjectives that go BEFORE nouns (adjective position).

 

See also: 

Propre = own / clean (adjectives that change meaning according to position) 

Cher= dear / expensive (adjectives that change meaning according to position) 

Certain = specific / sure (adjectives that change meaning according to position) 

Dernier = final / previous (adjectives that change meaning according to position)

Vrai = real / true (adjectives that change meaning according to position)  

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources


La maison ancienne où j'habite 
The old house where I live


Un vase ancien
An ancient vase


L'ancienne maison où j'habitais 
The former house where I lived


Ce tableau ancien
This ancient painting


Un ancien collègue
A former colleague


Mon ancien petit copain
My ex-boyfriend


Q&A

David

Kwiziq community member

17 August 2018

0 replies

But it could be an old computer and not an ex computer which might even be a new computerw

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

6 January 2017

2 replies

Susan suggested a great mnemonic to remember this lesson !

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

6 January 2017

6/01/17

"Thought of a simple way to keep straight how "ancien/ne" changes meaning:
When beFore a word, it means Former.
Not the most graceful mnemonic in the world, but it helped until I had mastered the difference."

Dorell

Kwiziq community member

28 May 2017

28/05/17

And when 'A'fter a word, it means Aged. :)
Thinking...