Describing People in French

Instructor: Marcy Farrell
Are you optimistic? Athletic? Serious? Lazy? Realistic? What about your friends and family members? In this lesson, you'll learn how to describe someone in French by using adjectives.

Masculine and Feminine Adjectives

To describe a person, we use adjectives such as tall, short, nice, funny, smart. In French, you need the masculine form of an adjective when talking about a boy or man. You need the feminine form when talking about a girl or woman.

For instance, a smart boy is intelligent (pronounced: ahn-tell-ee-jahn). A smart girl is intelligente (pronounced: ahn-tell-ee-jahnt). Notice that the feminine form is the same as the masculine form, plus an e added to the end of the word. Many (but not all) adjectives follow this pattern. A funny boy is amusant (pronounced: ah-mew-zahn) and a funny girl is amusante (pronounced: ah-mew-zhant). The pronunciation of each form is different. For the masculine words, the final consonant is silent. But we hear that final consonant with the feminine forms. Other adjectives that follow this pattern are:

French Word English Meaning Pronunciation
grand/grande tall 'grahn'/ 'grahnd'
petit/petite short 'puh-tee'/ 'puh-teet'
fort/forte strong 'for'/ 'fort'
intéressant/intéressante interesting 'ahn-tay-ray-sahn'/ahn-tay-ray-sahnt'
patient/patiente patient 'pah-see-ahn'/ 'pah-see-ahnt'

Some masculine adjectives end with é (pronounced: ay). For these adjectives, an e is added to the feminine forms. But the pronunciation does not change. A tired man is fatigué, a tired woman is fatiguée. Both forms are pronounced 'fah-tee-gay'. Other words that use this pattern include:

French Word English Meaning Pronunciation
r&eacuteservé/r&eacuteservée reserved 'ray-sayr-vay'
distingé/distinguée distinguished 'dee-stang-ay'
aimé/aimée loved 'em-ay'

Other Common Masculine and Feminine Endings

There are some other patterns as well. The masculine ending -if changes to -ive for the feminine form. You might describe someone as sportif/sportive (athletic) or créatif/créative (creative). Again, the pronunciation changes. A man is sportif (pronunced: spor-teef) or créatif (pronounced: cray-ah-teef); a woman is sportive (pronounced: spor-teeve) or créative (pronounced: cray-ah-teeve).

Another common pattern uses the endings -eux (masculine) and -euse (feminine). A happy man is heureux (pronounced: euhr-euh), a happy woman is heureuse (pronounced: euhr-euhz) The x on the masculine form is silent, but we hear the s for the feminine form. Some other adjectives in this group are:

French Word English Meaning Pronunciation
curieux/curieuse curious 'kyur-ee-euh'/'kyur-ee-euhz'
sérieux/sérieuse serious 'say-ree-euh'/say-ree-euhz
paresseux/paresseuse lazy 'pah-reh-seuh'/pah-reh-seuhz'

Some Words Have Only One Form

Although most French adjectives have two forms (one for masculine, one for feminine) there are several common adjectives that only have one form. We can say a man or a woman is:

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