Short and common adjectives that go BEFORE nouns (adjective position)

In French, the main rule regarding the position of adjectives is that they usually come AFTER the noun, [see Adjectives usually go AFTER nouns (adjective position)], but as always in French, there are exceptions

Here is a list of short and very common adjectives that go BEFORE the noun:

Masculine and feminine forms English
bon / bonne
good
mauvais / mauvaise
bad
beau / belle
beautiful, handsome
joli / jolie
pretty
vilain / vilaine
ugly, nasty/naughty
jeune
young
vieux / vieille
old
grand / grande
big, tall
petit / petite
small, little
gros / grosse
big, fat
faux / fausse
false
bref / brève
brief, short
long / longue
long
haut / haute
high
vaste
vast
nouveau / nouvelle
new

Here are some examples with these adjectives:

la belle fille
the beautiful girl

le petit chien
the small dog

la grande maison
the big house

la nouvelle voiture
the new car

une bonne idée
a good idea

un vieux pull
an old jumper

le long chemin
the long road

une brève réunion
a brief meeting

un joli chapeau
a pretty hat

une mauvaise blague
a bad joke

ATTENTION

As stated in Adjectives usually go AFTER nouns (adjective position), these adjectives will be AFTER the noun if :

- used with a long adverb (2 or more syllables) :

un bon vin, mais un vin extrêmement bon
a good wine, but an extremely good wine

- followed by a "complementary" group introduced by a preposition (à, de, pour, comme,...):

une bonne voiture, mais une voiture bonne pour la casse
a good car, but a car only good for scrap

 

These are not the only exceptions placed BEFORE the noun they refer to - see the more advanced lesson: Other adjectives that go BEFORE nouns 

 

See also how beau, vieux and nouveau are different: Beau, nouveau, vieux, fou, mou have two masculine forms and one feminine form and Beau, nouveau, vieux have different plural forms for masculine and feminine (adjectives)

See also Adjectives usually go AFTER nouns (adjective position)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

"French Grammar: Adjective Positions" by Transparent French


un joli chapeau
a pretty hat


un bon vin, mais un vin extrêmement bon
a good wine, but an extremely good wine


une haute barrière
a high fence


le long chemin
the long road


une brève réunion
a brief meeting


Sur le long chemin,
Tout blanc de neige blanche, 
Un vieux monsieur s'avance, 

On the long path,
All white with white snow, 
An old man advances,


un vaste territoire
a vast land


une mauvaise blague
a bad joke


une bonne voiture, mais une voiture bonne pour la casse
a good car, but a car only good for scrap


beau/belle (beautiful)


la belle fille
the beautiful girl


bon/bonne (good)


une bonne idée
a good idea


grand/grande (big)


la grande maison
the big house


nouveau/nouvelle (new)


la nouvelle voiture
the new car


petit/petite (small)


le petit chien
the small dog


vieux/vieille (old)


un vieux pull
an old jumper


Q&A

steven

Kwiziq community member

8 April 2018

2 replies

A useful acronym

An acronym that I like to use is BANGS, which stands for beauty, age, numbers, good/bad, and size.

Adjective relating to these categories usually come before the noun. If you compare this to the list of adjective in the lesson above, you'll see a lot of them fit. 

Chris

Kwiziq community member

9 April 2018

9/04/18

Hi Steven, that's a great idea. Gives you a good handle on adjective placement. 

-- Chris. 

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

14 April 2018

14/04/18

Nice! Thanks for sharing that Steven!

Inderpreet

Kwiziq community member

24 February 2018

1 reply

At times i also face this problem so i am repeatinf this again and again

Chris

Kwiziq community member

24 February 2018

24/02/18

What problem?

Alison

Kwiziq community member

10 January 2018

2 replies

"long/longue" coming before nouns --

This is tough to remember as an English speaker, since I am so familiar with a "chaise longue" -- is this the major exception to the rule that "long" generally comes before a noun? I see Aurelie's distinction that adjectives before nouns can be figurative and those after descriptive... but calling a chair "long" doesn't seem any more descriptive than calling a path "long," and yet from the lesson the long path is "le long chemin."

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 January 2018

11/01/18

I guess what Aurélie means with descriptive is what in English one would write with a hyphen. A "chaise-longue" would be a "long-chair" whereas a "longue chaise" would be a "long chair". Greetings, -- Chris.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

5 September 2018

5/09/18

Hi Alison,

That's a very good point but 'chaise longue' refers to a particular type of chair (between a chair and a bed) and is taken as meaning this particular item.

Normally long/longue would precede the noun as in:

C'était un long discours = It was a long speech 

C'était un ami de longue date = It/He was a long standing friend

If you look at Steven's contribution at the end of the lesson, He suggests a useful acronym to remember the adjectives that normally come before the noun.

Hope this helps!

Stevenson

Kwiziq community member

18 November 2017

2 replies

"long adverb" VS "adverb with 2 or more syllables"

Suggestion: If "long adverb" means one with 2 or more syllables, then this should be clearly stated in the explantion. Thx

Ron

Kwiziq community member

19 November 2017

19/11/17

Bonjour Stevenson, There is a «grammar rule» that says for adjectives that are longer words, they can be placed before the word without changing the sense of the adjective; however, I don't find a lesson that addresses this issue. I also have not heard it defined about having 2 or more syllables, but that quantification certainly fits. There is; however, a mention about other adjectives that precede the noun: https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/my-languages/french/view/2989 Bonne chance.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

19 November 2017

19/11/17

Bonjour Stevenson ! I agree with you, and have now updated the lesson accordingly :) Bonne journée !

Susan

Kwiziq community member

15 February 2017

1 reply

Could you explain what a 'complement' is in this context?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

13 March 2017

13/03/17

Bonjour Susan ! Thank you for this question: the term "complement" is indeed a bit vague here! What we meant here was "a complementary group introduced by a preposition (à, pour, comme, ...)". I've now updated the lesson accordingly. Merci et à bientôt !

Cameron

Kwiziq community member

15 December 2016

3 replies

I don't have a Kwiz on this subject. Why is that?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

16 December 2016

16/12/16

Bonjour Cameron ! Could you be more specific as to what your issue is here? Are you talking about the microKwizzes not appearing on the page? Please let me know and I'd be happy to help!

Cameron

Kwiziq community member

16 December 2016

16/12/16

Yes, that is what the problem is. One lesson's microKwizz did show up but not the other one I was having a problem with. It is the lesson, Short and common adjectives that go BEFORE the noun. Where the quiz should be it says 1 of 0 and the rest is a blank box.

Andre

Kwiziq community member

29 December 2016

29/12/16

not appearing for me either

sue

Kwiziq community member

8 September 2016

2 replies

video

Thankyou for the video. There were some errors of English on the video. for example twards the end it is written before the noon, rather than noun.Also the pronunciation of good in English was unrecognisable

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

8 September 2016

8/09/16

Bonjour Sue ! Thanks for letting us know, we've decided to remove that not-so-great video from this lesson. Merci et à bientôt !

sue

Kwiziq community member

10 September 2016

10/09/16

thank you I think your site is fantastic, but is let down by some of the video quality on the following lesson it had içi for ici, is this a spelling error or an alternative spelling?

sue

Kwiziq community member

8 September 2016

3 replies

Grand

Again grand before or after the noun. Le grande homme I am told means the great man, one who is respected etc, whereas l' homme grand is the tall man. If we want to speficy that a person is tall do we have to place grand after the noun. thank you

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

9 September 2016

9/09/16

Bonjour Sue ! You are correct as for the use of "grand" with "homme" or "femme", but this disctinction doesn't apply to objects or animals, for which you will always place "grand" before to indicate a physical characteristic: un grand ours une grande chaise I hope that's helpful!

sue

Kwiziq community member

10 September 2016

10/09/16

Salut Aurélie again a great answer

Max

Kwiziq community member

21 September 2018

21/09/18

Somehow I missed that in 1963!

sue

Kwiziq community member

8 September 2016

2 replies

Jeune

Hi Laura You have Jeune before the noun, but it can be placed before or afterwards. The example i was given is un jeune professeur and a professeur jeune. The first meaning he was not long a professeur and the second that he was a professeur who was young in age. If this is the case can we always assume that jeune before the noun means young in age?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

8 September 2016

8/09/16

Bonjour Sue, This lesson at an earlier level gives you the main rule for positions of adjectives in French, but of course (and as always with French!), there are further subtleties. Generally speaking, a lot of adjectives can be used either before or after the noun and here the nuance: "after" adjectives' meaning is more literal, objective or based on neutral observation (un prof jeune is a statement on his age) whereas "before" adjectives take on more of a subjective, figurative or based on opinion meaning (un jeune prof can be as much about an evaluation of his age as of his inexperience). I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !

sue

Kwiziq community member

10 September 2016

10/09/16

Yes thankyou very much it really helps

Joakim

Kwiziq community member

8 September 2016

1 reply

Placement of "long"

"long" is listed here and elsewhere as an adjective that goes before the noun, so how come there are approximately the same number of hits on google for "longs cheveux" and "cheveux longs" (including quotation marks to preserve order) ?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

9 September 2016

9/09/16

Bonjour Joakim, This lesson at an earlier level gives you the main rule for positions of adjectives in French, but of course (and as always with French!), there are further subtleties. Generally speaking, a lot of adjectives can be used either before or after the noun and here the nuance: "after" adjectives' meaning is more literal, objective or based on neutral observation ("des cheveux longs" is a basic statement on a physical characteristic) whereas "before" adjectives take on more of a subjective, figurative or based on opinion meaning ("de longs cheveux" contains already a positive (or negative) appreciation, and personal opinion). Obviously, in that specific case, these nuances are very subtle ;) I hope that's helpful!
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