So let’s finish up Hour 2 of Alpha Teach Yourself French in 24 Hours (ATYF). All we have left is adjectives and numbers (which are themselves adjectives).
In French, when you want to describe a quality of a noun – big, red, dark, handsome, whatever it be – you use an adjective, much as you would in English. However, unlike English, French adjectives change form so that they agree in gender with the noun they are associated with. And even odder for a native English speaker, adjectives can both precede and follow a noun (those that precede the noun would follow any article).
ATYF suggests that there are five kinds of adjectives, and that this Hour only covers “descriptive” adjectives. I look forward to learning what the other categories are! In any case, we will here look at the formation of the feminine from the masculine, irregular adjectives, and “typical” placement.
The following rules will help in forming the feminine form of adjectives, starting with the masculine:
- Masculine forms ending in a consonant group form the feminine by adding an -e.
- Those ending in -eur or -eux form the feminine by replacing that ending with -euse.
- Those ending in -teur form the feminine by replacing -teur with -trice.
- Those ending in -f form the feminine by replacing -f with -ve.
- Those ending with a vowel followed by a consonant (such as -on) form the feminine by doubling the consonant and adding -e (in our example, -onne).
- Those ending with -er replace -er with -ère to form the feminine.
- Plurals of both adjectives and nouns, masculine and feminine, are formed by adding an -s to the end of the gender-appropriate singular. There are, of course exceptions:
- When the singular form ends in -s or -x, the plural does not change.
- When the singular ends in -eau, the plural replaces -eau with -eaux.
- When the singular ends in -al, the plural replaces the ending -al with -aux.
ATYF offers two different sets of “irregular” adjectives. The first set I will list here have a special form used when directly before masculine singular nouns beginning with a vowel or an unaspirated h (here labeled #2):
The second set of “irregular” adjectives are those that simply don’t follow the “rules” for forming the feminine from the masculine. The book did not provide the plurals, which I will do here – though I am simply following the plural rules from above, so don’t quote me:
There are no hard-and-fast rules for placement of adjectives. They may appear both before and after nouns they modify. Typically, those with a long syllable count or that describe color or nationality are placed after the noun. Adjectives that are short, or deal with BAGS (beauty, age, goodness and size), typically precede the noun. Common examples of these up-front adjectives are beau “handsome”, bon “good”, gentil “gentle”, long “long”, nouveau “new”, joli “pretty”, mauvais “bad”, grand “great”, and petit “small”.
Some adjectives have a variation in their meaning when placed before the noun rather than following it. Typically, the adjective following a noun has a more literal meaning, while the one that precedes a noun is more figurative. Vieux is one such, where following it retains the literal meaning of “old”. Before the noun it can take on the connotation of “long-lasting”.
Also unlike English, it is not common to connect one noun to another directly as in “the car door”. French would instead use a preposition, such as de or à to connect the nouns – la porte de la voiture. This is not so much a rule about either noun gender or adjectives, but is pertinent to the way French modifies nouns.
Following will be the numbers, from 11 to 69. These are cardinal numbers, counting numbers. Ordinal numbers, like “first”, “second”, and “third”, are formed by adding the ending -ième (those numbers that end in -e would need this -e removed, first). Thus we have douzième, 12th and trentième, 30th. The number 1 has a special form for the ordinal, masculine premier and feminine première. Ready to count?
onze, douze, treize, quatorze, quinze, seize, dix-sept, dix-huit, dix-neuf, vingt, vingt et un, vingt-deux, vingt-trois, vingt-quatre, vingt-cinq, vingt-six, vingt-sept, vingt-huit, vingt-neuf, trente, trente et un, trente-deux, trente-trois, trente-quatre, trente-cinq, trente-six, trente-sept, trente-huit, trente-neuf, quarante, guarante et un, quarante-deux, quarante-trois, quarante-quatre, quarante-cinq, quarante-six, quarante-sept, quarante-huit, quarante-neuf, cinquante, cinquante et un, cinquante-deux, cinquante-trois, cinquante-quatre, cinquante-cinq, cinquante-six, cinquante-sept, cinquante-huit, cinquante-neuf, soixante, soixante et un, soixante-deux, soixante-trois, soixante-quatre, soixante-cinq, soixante-six, soixante-sept, soixante-huit, soixante-neuf.