Les Petites Noires Chaussures? Ou Les Petites Chaussures Noires? (Adjective Placement in French) Posted by Elizabeth Schmermund on Dec 5, 2016 in Grammar
So, which one is right? Les petites noires chaussures? Or … les petites chaussures noires?
Believe it or not, there are rules governing proper adjective placement in English, too, although we are not typically aware of them. Native English speakers typically can “feel out” whether something is correct or not by how it sounds. This is why you might not be able to say exactly why the sentence “I bought a large round table” sounds correct, while the sentence “I bought a round large table” sounds wrong. (Simply: adjectives of dimension precede adjectives denoting in English.)
This is why it can be hard for a non-native French speaker to know the correct order of adjectives. While a certain order might just sound “off” to a native French speaker, it might be more difficult for non-native speakers to judge this. So here are some handy-dandy rules to help you construct a perfectly ordered French sentence using adjectives:
Most adjectives come after the noun they are modifying in French. However there are certain adjectives that should come before the noun. A good way of remembering these adjectives is through the acronym BAGS (Beauty, Age, Goodness, or Size). Adjectives that fall into these four categories should go before the noun, while adjectives that do not fit into these categories should be placed after the noun.
So let’s take a look at our example above. This sentence uses two adjectives (petites and noires) to describe the noun (chaussures). Petites means “small” in the feminine plural and thus fits into the category of size. We can then identify that petites should precede the noun (chaussures). The second adjective, noires, means “black” in the feminine plural. It does not fit into the category of beauty, age, goodness, or size. Rather, noire is a description of color. This means that noires should follow the noun (chaussures).
Thus, the correct word order would be: les petites chaussures noires.
Did you get it right?
As always, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Méchant (mean), âgé (old), and laid (ugly), although they fit into the categories of, respectively, goodness, age, and beauty, should ALWAYS follow the noun. Thus, you would say: c’est une personne âgée and never c’est une âgée personne. (It just doesn’t sound right!)
Now, to make this even trickier, there are some adjectives in French that actually change meaning depending on whether they precede or follow a noun. We’ll be going over these next week.
In the meantime, can you construct sentences from the following nouns and adjectives in the correct order?
maison, veille, grise
vin, bon, rouge
animaux, pauvres, petits
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