In the eye of the beholder Posted by Tim Hildreth on Jun 20, 2017 in Grammar, Music
Belle isn’t just the name of the main character in Disney’s latest film. Belle is also a French adjective that means beautiful, lovely, pleasant, or agreable (unlike joli/jolie – pretty, belle doesn’t only pertain to appearances).
Ok, so that’s not entirely true. In another oddity of the French language, belle is technically not its own word. It is the feminine singular version of the adjective beau (which you can think of as handsome, but that’s a bit of an oversimplification). Beau and belle (and bel and beaux) all mean ‘attractive, aesthetically pleasing, visually pleasing’ and like all French adjectives, they agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify.
Two other words follow a similar pattern, so I’m going to outline them here as well. See below the table for example sentences.
* bel, vieil, and nouvel are variations on the masc. singular forms that you use in front of words that start with a vowel or silent h.
** vieux always ends with an ‘x’ whether in the singular or plural.
|Pierre est beau. Il est un bel homme.
||Peter is handsome. He is a handsome man.|
|Monique est très belle. Elle est une belle femme.
||Monica is very pretty. She is a beautiful woman.|
|Elle a de beaux*** yeux bleus.
||She has beautiful blue eyes.|
|J’aime les belles voitures.
||I love beautiful cars.|
|Je me sers souvent de mon vieux livre de français.
||I use my old French book often.|
|Nous avons des nouveaux voisins.
||We have some new neighbors.|
|Charles-Henri est un vieil ami de mon père.
||Charles-Henry is an old friend of my father’s.|
*** Remember that certain consonants which are not normally pronounced at the end of words (like beaux) are pronounced when they are followed by another word that begins with a vowel. You can click the play button after any of the examples above to hear the sample sentences pronounced.
Here’s another fun song from Claude François that is relevant to this week’s lesson. Pay particular attention to the way he pronounces comme (like, as) in the chorus (‘belle commE l’amour’/’belle commE le jour’).
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Image Credit: By Walter Crane – unbekannt, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55126635