French Descriptive Words

Instructor: Pascale Bert

Pascale is a bilingual French teacher. She has a bachelor degree in Education and an master degree in Sciences.

We use descriptive words all the time. They are used to describe people, objects and even feelings. Descriptive words help add details to a narration and give a better view of a situation when you exchange opinions.

Using Descriptive Words

After seeing the action-filled 'Fast and Furious,' two friends sit down to chat about the movie. Éric said he liked the cars and street racing, while Laura was more interested in the characters and the story. As they discuss, Éric and Laura both use a lot of descriptive words to get their opinions across.

In this lesson, we will learn how to use descriptive words in a sentence, and learn some key words to describe persons, feelings and objects.

Describing People

Laura loves the characters in action movies. She's remembering all the details of the story when she talks to Éric. Here are some descriptive words she uses to talk about some of the characters.

French Pronunciation Translation
noir nwh-ruh black
cheveux shö-vö hair
petit puh-tee small
grand gron tall (for a person)
musclé  müs-klay  muscular

Laura says, Fernando est petit et a les cheveux noirs. (Fernando is small and has black hair.)

She adds, Hobbs est grand et musclé. (Hobbs is tall and muscular.)

In these sentences, the descriptive words petit, grand and musclé describe physical traits of the persons. They are separated from the noun by a verb, like in English.

Also, les cheveux noirs describe a physical trait of Fernando. The adjective noir is use to describe the color of Fernando's hair. It is placed next to the noun it describes. You can note that in French, the descriptive word is placed after the noun it describes and not before like in English. This is the most common way to use a descriptive word when next to a noun, but it is not the only way; we will see exceptions later in this lesson.

Laura's favorite character in the movie was Dom. Here are some words she uses to describe Dom's feelings in the movie.

French Pronunciation Translation
décevoir day-suh-vwah-ruh to disappoint
content cohn-tahn happy
fier fee-ruh proud

Laura says, Dom était déçu d'avoir perdu la course. Fernando était content et fier. (Dom was disappointed to have lost the race. Fernando was happy and proud.) (Déçu is pronounced deh-sü).

The sentence's structure is the same as before and identical to the one used in English.

Describing Objects

Éric went to see the movie because he likes cars. He noticed every detail about the automobiles. Here are some descriptive words Éric and Laura use to describes cars and trucks.

French Pronunciation Translation
long (m) / longue (f) lohn / lohn-guh long
beau (m) / belle (f) boh / bay-luh beautiful
grand gron big (for an object)
la voiture lah vwah-tü -ruh the car
le camion luh kah-meeohn the truck

Éric says, J'aime la voiture de Dom, elle est longue et belle. (I like Dom's car, it is long and beautiful.)

Laura replies, Le camion, lui aussi, était bien long et beau. (The truck was also very long and beautiful.)

In French, to create the feminine form of a descriptive word, you have to add an 'e' at the end of the masculine descriptive word. Here long finishes with a 'g', so we have to add a 'u' so the pronunciation matches the spelling longue. There are some exceptions to this rule; beau and belle for example. You still need to add an 's' at the end of words if the noun is plural.

Adding Shade to the Description

In French, the most common way to add shade to a description is to add words before the descriptive word.

Here are some examples:

French Pronunciation Translation
très treh very
plus plü more
moins mwuhn less

Translation: the truck is very long.

Eric says, La voiture de Brian est moins grande. (Brian's car is smaller.)

Translation: The white car is smaller, the orange car is bigger.
car size

Where to place the descriptive word in a sentence

Here, Laura jumps in--as much as she likes to discuss Dom and other characters, she also has opinions on cars. Here are some descriptive words she uses.

French Pronunciation Translation
magnifique mah-ny-fee-kuh magnificent
rapide rah-pee-duh fast

Laura says, Quelle magnifique voiture!! ( What a magnificient car!!)

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