FR: noble - place de l'adjectif

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by bjankovic, Jul 15, 2008.

  1. bjankovic Member

    Toronto, Canada
    As far as I understand you can place the french adjective noble before or after the noun. What is the difference in meaning.

    Un noble ami./Un ami noble.
    Un noble souhait./Un souhait noble.
  2. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    If you take a look at the entry in the TLFi you will often see differences in placement for figurative vs. literal usages. Note that I say "often" and not "always"!

    un ami noble = a friend who is a member of the nobility (literal)
    un noble ami = an excellent/superior/noble/honorable/etc. friend (figurative)

    Remember that adjectives usually appearing afterwards can be moved in front of the noun for stylistic reasons. Therefore, the mere fact that the adjective appears before the noun does not automatically mean it is being used figuratively. Une noble famille could just as well be a family of the nobility

    On the other hand, un souhait = a wish, and it cannot be a member of the nobility. Therefore you are using the adjective noble figuratively... and so you will probably put it in front of the noun.

    In other words, it is often possible to take a habitually post-posed adjective move it to an ante-posed position without changing the its literal meaning... but I can't think of any examples where you could take an ante-posed figurative adjective and move it to a post-posed position without converting it to its literal sense.

    I'm sorry it's not cut and dried, but I hope that helps a bit. :)
  3. bjankovic Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Thank you. Your explanation is very helpful. I will print it out for any future reference on this subject.
  4. binhle410 Senior Member

    sorry, but is this also true ?

    une femme noble => a woman who is a member of the nobility (from noble bloodline)
    un ami noble => a friend who is a member of ..............................................

    and I also heard that
    une femme noble is just a woman who is imposing and respected not necessarily from families of noble bloodline
  5. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    As mentioned earlier in this thread, in a figurative sense, noble is usually placed before the noun. It is however sometimes also placed after the noun with the same meaning.

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