French Adjectives That Go Before the Noun

In French, most adjectives follow the noun they modify. However, there are notable exceptions. This article will look into the adjectives that precede the noun, adding a distinctive flavor to French grammar.


Common Adjectives That Precede the Noun

Certain adjectives are placed before the noun they describe. These often relate to beauty, age, goodness, and size. In English these are commonly abbreviated as BAGS (beauty, age, goodness, size). Here are some of the most frequently used ones:

  • Beau (beautiful, handsome)
  • Joli (pretty)
  • Jeune (young)
  • Vieux (old)
  • Bon (good)
  • Mauvais (bad)
  • Grand (tall, big)
  • Petit (small)
  • Gros (fat, big)
  • Nouveau (new)


Examples in Sentences

Understanding how these adjectives work within sentences can be helpful. Below are examples showcasing each adjective:

  • Beau: Elle a un beau jardin. (She has a beautiful garden.)
  • Joli: C’est une jolie fleur. (It’s a pretty flower.)
  • Jeune: Il est un jeune homme. (He is a young man.)
  • Vieux: C’est un vieux livre. (It’s an old book.)
  • Bon: C’est un bon repas. (It’s a good meal.)
  • Mauvais: Il a eu une mauvaise note. (He got a bad grade.)
  • Grand: C’est une grande maison. (It’s a big house.)
  • Petit: Elle a un petit chien. (She has a small dog.)
  • Gros: Il a un gros chat. (He has a big cat.)
  • Nouveau: Voici un nouveau film. (Here is a new movie.)


Irregular Adjective Placement

While BAGS adjectives typically precede the noun, there are exceptions. Some adjectives change meaning depending on their placement before or after the noun. Here are a few examples:

  • Ancien:
    • Before the noun: Mon ancien professeur (My former teacher)
    • After the noun: Un livre ancien (An ancient book)
  • Cher:
    • Before the noun: Mon cher ami (My dear friend)
    • After the noun: Une robe chère (An expensive dress)
  • Propre:
    • Before the noun: Mon propre bureau (My own office)
    • After the noun: Un bureau propre (A clean office)


Special Cases

Some adjectives can precede the noun for stylistic reasons or to add emphasis. Poetry and literary texts often play with adjective placement to achieve a particular rhythm or focus.

Additionally, certain quantifiers and demonstratives, such as autre (other), chaque (each), quelque (some), and tel (such), also precede the noun:

  • Autre: Nous avons visité un autre musée. (We visited another museum.)
  • <strong>Chaque: Chaque enfant a reçu un cadeau. (Each child received a gift.)
  • Quelque: Quelques amis sont venus. (Some friends came.)
  • Tel: Un tel événement est rare. (Such an event is rare.)