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How to form adjectives in French like a pro

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Let’s say you’d like to describe someone in French. To do that, you’re going to need words that qualify or specify a noun, a.k.a. adjectives (like “red” in “red lipstick”). And here’s the thing: using them is a bit more tricky in French than in English.

That’s because adjectives need to agree with the noun they refer to, both in gender (masculine or feminine) and in number (singular and plural).

Not to worry, though – while mastering the use of adjectives does need a little bit of attention in the beginning, using them correctly can quickly become second nature.

In French, adjectives usually have different forms depending on the gender of the noun they modify. That means that in most cases, you’ll have to memorize more than one word when you learn a new adjective. The good news is that they are pretty easy to remember, because word endings tend to come in pairs.

Masculine and feminine adjectives

In other words, adjectives usually have a masculine and a feminine equivalent:

masculine adjectivefeminine adjectivetranslation

What does that mean in practice? It means that by learning these pairs, you’ll be able to form the masculine form if you know the feminine form (and vice versa).

There is one type of adjective you’ll need to be careful with, though: some of them don’t have separate masculine and feminine endings. Make sure you don’t stick an extra letter to those!

Adjectives that have the same masculine and feminine form

Some adjectives don’t require an extra “e” at the end of a feminine adjective. That means that the masculine and feminine forms are identical.

These include adjectives ending in:

  • -able (e.g. aimable, capable),
  • -ique (athlétique, charismatique, sympathique),
  • -iste (idéaliste, conformiste),
  • -ère (sincère), or
  • -e (calme, habile, humble)

Important: Some masculine adjectives end in “e”, even though that’s the very letter you need to add to some adjectives to form the feminine version of the word. When in doubt, you should remember to check the masculine form of an adjective to see whether that extra “e” belongs to the masculine form or not.

If you don’t check it, you might end up extracting an “e” from a masculine adjective that simply doesn’t exist in French without that “e” added. (All the more so if it happens to work fine as an English word. That happens!)

If the two genders are identical, you’ll still have to pay attention to plurals you’ll need the extra “s” if your subject is nous, vous, and ils/ elles. Which brings us to our next point:

How to form plural adjectives in French

In addition to learning the feminine and masculine forms, you’ll have to learn to distinguish singular and plural forms. Good news again: for the most part, this is pretty straightforward.

(As with any rule, there are a few exceptions to the examples shown below, but those can wait for the time being.)

Forming plurals by adding an “s” or an “x”

Most plural forms simply require an extra “s” at the end of the word. This is true for all feminine adjectives (e.g., créative / créatives), and many masculine ones, like intelligent / intelligents.

For adjectives ending in “-eau”, you add an “x” to form the plural: nouveau (m), nouveaux (m pl).

masculine, singularmasculine, pluraltranslation

Forming plurals by changing the ending

You’ll have to do a tiny bit more work when it comes to masculine adjectives ending in “-al”.

The ending of most “-al” adjectives will change to “-aux” in the plural: occidental/ occidentaux.

Keep in mind, however, that most exceptions fall into this category. Some “-al” adjectives will have regular “+s” endings, such as banal/ banals, naval/navals.

Others have two correct forms, with both “-als” and “-aux” being acceptable plural endings: idéal (singular) = idéals OR idéaux (plural).

masculine, singularmasculine, pluraltranslation
banalbanalscommonplace / banal
natalnatalsof sy’s birth / native
idéalidéals OR idéauxideal
jovialjovials OR joviauxjovial
glacialglacials OR glaciauxfreezing

Singular form = plural form

Masculine adjectives that end in “s” or “x” don’t change in the plural. You don’t have to add anything, the singular and the plural form looks (and sounds) exactly the same:

masculine, singularmasculine, pluraltranslation

Okay, so how does adjective agreement work in French? pronoun + adjective

Let’s say the adjective of your choice is ambitieux.

– Comment est-elle? = What is she like?

Elle est ambitieuse. = She’s ambitious.

You’ll first need to choose your subject (I, you, he/she, we, you, they). Like we’ve said before, the adjective needs to agree with the noun it modifies. That means you’ll have to use the form of the adjective that corresponds with it.

Same goes for pronouns: if you have a simpe sentence, like “she‘s affectionate”, you’ll have to make sure that the adjective agrees with the pronoun (elle est affectueuse). In this case, the adjective must match the pronoun elle.

For instance, the adjective ambitieux, or ambitious, exists in these four different forms, and you need to choose the one that agrees with the pronoun/noun it refers to:

ambitieux (m, singular)
ambitieuse (f, singular)
ambitieux (m, plural – the same as in the singular)
ambitieuses (f, plural – an extra “s” is added)

So your sentence will look like this, depending on your subject:

Subject: I

Je suis ambitieux. (If je – “I” – is a man/male.) / Je suis ambitieuse. (If je is a woman/female.) = I am ambitious.

Subject: you

Tu es ambitieux. (If tu is a man/male.) / Tu es ambitieuse. (If tu is a woman/female.) = You are ambitious.

Subject: he/she/it

Il est ambitieux./ Elle est ambitieuse. = He/ She is hard-working.

Subject: we

Nous sommes ambitieux. (If there is at least one man/male in the group.)/ Nous sommes ambitieuses. (If it’s an all-female group.) = We are ambitious.


On est ambitieux. (If there is at least one man/male in the group.)/ On est ambitieuses. = We are ambitious.

Subject: you (plural)

Vous êtes ambitieux. (If there is at least one man/male in the group.)/ Vous êtes ambitieuses. = You are ambitious.

Subject: they

Ils sont ambitieux. (If there is at least one man/male in the group.)/ Elles sont ambitieuses. = They are ambitious.

With single-form adjectives

Elle est charismatique./ Il est charismatique.

Elles sont charismatiques./ Ils sont charismatiques.

(With on est: On est charismatique./ On est charismatiques. Find out more about on vs nous here.)

That’s it! Thanks for reading. This also means it’s time for the well-deserved cat picture:

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