FR: adjective placement - before or after noun

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by lovelylucie10, Sep 24, 2006.

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  1. lovelylucie10 New Member

    English-England, living in Canada
    Hi! I am new is Lucie. Anyways, I'm in French Immersion, and I've only been in Intensive french for about 2 years, so I'm still learning. Well, I'm totally blank on this. In french, does the adjective come before or after the noun? I know it is usually after, but I've seen some cases before. For example, if I am trying to say "First goal of the year", do I say:
    "Premier but de l'année" or "But Premier de l'année"?

    Merci beaucoup,
  2. Gil Senior Member

    Français, Canada
    "Premier but de l'année" is O.K.
  3. lifehouse Senior Member

    English, Canada
    Gramatically, it would be 'Le premier but de l'année" but I'm not certain if it sounds "right" to the ear.

    Here's a link on adjectives that you might be interested in looking at:

    Edit: Guessed Gil clarified it :)
  4. KLeM Senior Member

    Paris, France
    French (France)
    First off, welcome to you, Lovely Lucie !

    The topic you're launching will not be easy to treat hehe
    Adjectives can be before the noun or after it, depending on idioms, context, and meaning.

    For example, colors are placed after the noun:
    You can say "un chien blanc" but you cannot say "un blanc chien".

    For size/length/etc, it is usually placed before the noun:
    "une grande maison". "un long chemin".

    However, if you're using several adjectives, they are usually placed after the noun
    "une maison grande et fonctionnelle". "un chemin long et douleureux".

    Sometimes, the adjective can be placed before the noun or after the noun, depending on the meaning. Figurative adjectives will more likely be placed before the noun, whereas the proper one will be after it.
    "un homme grand" = a tall man
    "un grand homme" = a great man
  5. Jalc Member

    French - France
    Here are some very usual adjectives that are placed before the noun:
    grand - petit- beau - joli - jeune - vieux- gros- bon - mauvais - nouveau
  6. lovelylucie10 New Member

    English-England, living in Canada
    Thank you all for your help! This info will be great for the rest of the year!
  7. frenchaholic New Member

    English United States
    Adjectives that have to do with Beauty, Age, Goodness, Size(BAGS) are generally placed before the noun.
  8. Tresley

    Tresley Senior Member

    Yorkshire / United Kingdom
    British English
    Sometimes the adjectives change their meaning if they are placed before or after the noun.

    I have a list. Here it is:

    The following common adjectives usually precede the noun:
    Bon/bonne (meilleur(e))
    Grand(e) (sometimes after – see below)
    Mauvais(e) (pire)
    Pauvre (sometimes after – see below)
    Petit(e) (moindre)

    Some adjectives vary in meaning according to position:

    Mon ancien professeur = my former teacher
    Un ancien élève = a former pupil, an ex-pupil
    Un ancient petit ami = ex-boyfriend
    Dans les temps anciens = in ancient times
    Les civilisations anciennes = ancient civilisations
    Une fabrique ancienne = an old factory

    Un brave homme = a good fellow
    Un homme brave = a brave man, a courageous man

    Un certain nombre de facteurs = a certain number of factors
    Un certain regard = a certain (type of) look
    Tirer des conclusions certaines = to draw certain (definite) conclusions
    Une victoire certaine = a certain (assured) victory
    La vérité certaine = the certain (absolute) truth

    Un cher ami = a dear friend
    Un livre cher = an expensive book

    Un chic type = a nice bloke
    Une robe chic = a smart/classy dress

    Décembre est le dernier mois de l’année = the last month of a series
    Le mois dernier = last month, the month just gone/past

    J'ai acheté un fameux vin = I bought a first-rate / excellent wine
    C'est un fameux problème = It's a real problem, quite a problem
    Comment s'appelle ton fameux frère ? = What is your much talked-about brother's name?
    Comment était le film ? Pas fameux = How was the movie? Not that great
    C'est un homme fameux = He's a famous/infamous man

    Un grand homme = a great man
    Un homme grand = a tall man

    La même chose = the same thing
    Le même livre = the same book
    Le même jour = the same day

    La chose même = the very thing
    Le livre même = the very book
    Le jour même = that very day
    Ces paroles mêmes = his very words

    Une pauvre femme = an unfortunate woman, a wretched woman
    Un pauvre rien du tout = a miserable nobody
    Une femme pauvre = a poor (penniless) woman
    Les familles pauvres = poor families

    Ma proper maison = my own house
    Mon propre frère = my own brother
    Ma maison très propre = my very clean house
    Mon mouchoir propre = my clean handkerchief

    Sacré imbecile! = Damned fool
    Sacrebleu! = God damn it!
    Les ordres sacrés = holy orders

    Une simple question de… = simply/just a matter of…
    La simple verité = the plain truth
    Une question simple = a simple question

    j’ai un seul ami = I have only one friend
    Le seul problème = the only problem
    Une femme très seule = a very lonely woman
    Beaucoup d’hommes seuls dans le café = Lots of men on their own in the café

    Une verte réprimande = a sharp reprimand, a real telling off
    Une voiture verte = a green car

    I hope this helps.
  9. Stefan Ivanovich Senior Member

    Paris, France
    premier but = first goal, is the regular construction for premier + noun
    but premier = initial goal, is a set phrase, by which you emphasize premier. Similarly: objectif premier.
  10. frenchaholic New Member

    English United States
    Oui, merci!
  11. Jacques Hughes Member

    Nouvelle-Écosse, Canada
    Great Britain, English
    Toute la sainte journée / un jour saint

    I'm not entirely sure if I'm allowed to be posting observations here, and I'd appreciate it if one of the moderators could put me straight about that ... but I was preparing a lesson about French adjectives that go before or after the noun, and saw that neither of these expressions was included on the database...

    I would translate the first as 'all flipping day' (or some may say 'all bleeding day' or worse); the second would be a holy day...
  12. Tararam Senior Member

    Hey everybody,

    I find this issue quite confusing sometimes and I was hoping you guys could help me to finally master it.

    I know that beauty and size adjectives go before the noun, which other adjectives do so? (if there's a rule to it).

    Last edited: May 13, 2008
  13. Monsieur Hoole Senior Member

    Canada English
    not really a rule, but there is a little song for the adjectives that go first

    vieux jeune nouveau
    vilain joli beau
    court long
    mauvais bon
    grand petit gros

  14. johnp

    johnp Senior Member

    Some say this acronym "BANGS"

  15. marget Senior Member

    J'aime bien ton système:)
  16. Tararam Senior Member

    If I'm not mistaken, there are other adjectives that go before the noun.

    I could be wrong though...
  17. Kyroso Fetola Member

    I was personally taught BAGS, being an acronym for beauty, age, good and bad, size.
  18. janpol

    janpol Senior Member

    France - français
    Tararam, on ne peut pas dire qu'il y ait une règle... Je dirais plutôt qu'il existe plusieurs règles... et le mot "règles" est sans doute exagéré...
    Les adjectifs dont le caractère objectif n'est pas douteux sont normalement post posés : un fil électrique", par exemple... On ne peut pas dire un "électrique fil" mais, avec les adj. de couleur, ce principe ne marche pas très bien...
    La position de l'adj. peut éviter un hiatus ou un jeu de mots... (un bar ne peut guère être beau, que l'on mette l'adj. avant ou après).
    Bien des adj. peuvent être avant ou après et, pour compliquer un peu les choses, certains changent de signification en changeant de place.
    Bon, il ne faudrait pas que tout cela te décourage : il y a des choses plus difficiles que ça en français...
  19. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA

    The members have outlined the basic guidelines in their posts above, but these "rules" are exceedingly flexible and have many exceptions. We can't possibly go over the placement options for all adjectives. Please see the articles we recommend in the Grammar Resources sticky at the top of this form, notably:
    Then if you have questions about the placement of a specific adjective, do a quick search for threads here in the Grammar forum containing that word in the title. If you don't find what you need, feel free to open a new thread for each word you're wondering about.

    Thanks for understanding. :)

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