Learning French may seem challenging at first but after you learn some basic verbs, nouns and adjectives – things will get easier. Yes, there are still conjugations and syntax to learn, not to mention trying to pronounce everything, but memorizing words will benefit you overall. Even if it comes out backwards the French will get the gist of what you’re trying to say if you just spit out some words you remember from class and guides like this one. I’m not saying this is the recommended way to go about conquering the language, but if you have to fumble a bit in the beginning don’t be ashamed. One thing to watch out for though are French accents that can completely change the meaning of a word. For example sale and sale. Sale, as is described below means empty. However, salé, means tired or drained. Just make sure you include appropriate accents so you don’t end up saying something like I’m so empty when you mean to say I’m so tired. Check out this French Grammar for Beginners for the scoop on more grammatical errors to avoid.
An adjective is an important element to any language. These words tell the listener or the reader what something looks, feels, smells or sounds like. Adjectives are known as descriptive words. Let’s say you are trying to describe your car to your friend. You might say things like “it’s small and red”. The words small and red are descriptive words, or adjectives. Depending on the gender of the noun or subject, the adjective will take on a different ending. Typically, if the noun is female, the adjective will take an ‘e’ at the end. For masculine nouns, there is no additional ending. For example, take the French word sain and saine. They both mean healthy but sain is healthy for a male and saine is healthy for a female. There are a lot of little nuances like this in French and you can learn about them in learn French fast.
Obviously adjectives are an important part of expressing ourselves; without them language would be dull – and we couldn’t even say things like dull. The list below contains some commonly used French adjectives. Equip yourself with them so when need them they will be there.
40 Common Adjectives
1. Âgé – elderly
Son père est âgé. –> His father is old.
2. Bas – low
Son nom est tout en bas. –> His name is right at the bottom.
3. Beau – handsome; beautiful (with masculine noun)
C’est un beau garçon. –> He is a good-looking boy.
4. Belle – beautiful (with feminine person or noun)
C’est une belle femme. –> She is a beautiful woman.
une belle journée –> a beautiful day
5. Bien chaud – warm
Il faudra prévoir une tenue bien chaude. –> You should dress warmly.
6. Bon – good; right
Le tabac n’est pas bon pour la santé. –> Smoking isn’t good for your health.
7. Chaud – hot
Emportez des vêtements chauds. –> Take some warm clothes.
8. Clair – clear, bright (light); thin (soup etc)
Soyez plus clair. –> Can you be a bit clearer?
9. Content – happy, satisfied
Elle m’a dit qu’elle était contente de mon travail. –> She told me she was pleased with my work.
10. Court – short
ça fait un peu court –> It’s not very long
11. Difficile – difficult
Son accent est difficile à comprendre. –> His accent is difficult to understand.
12. Facile – easy
facile à faire –> easy to make
13. Faible – weak (person, object)
Je me sens encore faible. –> I still feel a bit weak.
14. Fatigue – tired
Vous êtes fatigué. –> You’re tired.
15. Fort – strong
Le café est trop fort. –> The coffee’s too strong.
16. Frais – fresh; chilly; wet (paint)
Il fait un peu frais ce soir. –> It’s a bit chilly this evening.
17. Froid – cold
Est-ce que tu as froid? –> Are you cold?
18. Gentil – kind, nice
Nos voisins sont très gentils. –> Our neighbours are very nice.
19. Grand – large, tall
Il est grand pour son âge. –> He’s tall for his age.
20. Haut – high, tall
haut de 10 mètres –> 10 metres high
21. Heureux – happy
J’ai été très heureux de vous rencontrer. –> It was very nice to meet you.
22. Humide – damp, wet
L’herbe est humide. –> The grass is damp.
23. Jeune – young
faire jeune –> to look young
24. Long – long
C’est encore long jusqu’à Noël. –> It’s still a long time till Christmas.
25. Lourd – heavy
Mon sac est très lourd. –> My bag’s very heavy.
26. Malade – ill
Sa jambe malade le faisait souffrir. –> His bad leg was hurting him.
27. Mauvais – bad; wrong; poor
Il est en mauvaise santé. –> He is in poor health.
Je suis mauvais en allemand. –> I’m bad at German.
If you want to say that somebody is poor, as in not wealthy, use pauvre. Mauvais means poor as in bad health.
28. Nouveau – new
Elle a une nouvelle voiture. –> She’s got a new car.
29. Pauvre – poor
Sa famille est pauvre. –> His family is poor.
30. Petit – small, short
Sonia habite une petite ville. –> Sonia lives in a small town.
This can also be used when referring to a small or short person, tree, etc.
31. Plein – full
La rue est pleine de gens. –> The street is full of people.
32. Proche – near
Il habitait dans un village proche. –> He lived in a nearby village.
33. Riche – rich
nouveau riche –> newly rich
This term is often used in English, too. It’s used to describe those who have recently come into wealth and are not of “old money”.
34. Sain – healthy
Elle a une alimentation saine. –> She has a healthy diet.
sain et sauf –> Safe and sound.
35. Salé – salty
La soupe est trop salée. –> The soup’s too salty.
The French word sale is different from the word salé. Sale means dirty or nasty.
36. Sec – dry
Mon jean n’est pas encore sec. –> My jeans aren’t dry yet.
37. Sympathique – nice, friendly
Ce sont des gens très sympathiques. –> They’re very nice people.
38. Vide – empty
vide de sens –> devoid of meaning
vide de –> empty of
This is not to be confused with vidé which means tired or drained.
39. Vieille – old (feminine)
une vieille dame –> an old lady
40. Vieux – old (masculine)
Il fait plus vieux que son âge. –> He looks older than he is.
These verbs are is just the tip of the iceberg for all of the adjectives you’ll need to memorize to speak fluent and articulate French. Spend some time learning these and understanding both the male and female version of the word. Write them out on flashcards so you can quiz yourself before moving on to a new set of adjectives. Want to learn more? If you’re at the beginner level you can check out this great course for French beginners. If you’re at the not quite a beginner, but not quite at the intermediate level, there’s a course for you too. It’s Beginner French Part Two and you can apply some of the adjectives you just learned! These are great tools to help you as you dive further into the language.