Francés Lecciones

Temas

Adjective Arithmetic

We know you look to Yabla for language, not math, so apologies in advance to any arithmophobes out there. Yes, we're going to talk some numbers today, but you can count on us to go easy on you

Remember last time, when we talked about French adjectives that come before the noun they modify? Well, there's another category of adjectives that behave that way: numbers!

Parmi les expériences inoubliables des deux plongeurs...

Among the unforgettable experiences of the two divers...

Caption 20, Le Journal: Sillonner & photographier les océans

In this video about Pierre and Laurent's beautiful underwater photography, you see an example where the adjective deux (two) comes before the noun plongeurs (divers). It's just like in English: "two divers."

And staying on the numerical track, when an adjective indicates a place in a series, like premier (first), prochain (next), or dernier (last), it should also be placed in front of the noun it qualifies. For example, le premier président (the first president).

If you'd rather be on top of the water than underneath it, take a look at this lightning trip around the world in 50 days. Captain Bruno Peyron and his crew break Steve Fossett's record on their impressive catamaran.

Lorsque le jeune Bruno Peyron boucle le premier tour du monde en équipage et sans escale...

When the young Bruno Peyron completed the first trip around the world with a crew and without a stop...

Caption 13, Le Journal: Le record du Tour du Monde!

Notice the adjective premier (first) that precedes the noun tour (trip), because premier indicates a place in a series (the first place).

However, be aware that prochain (next) and dernier (last) do not always precede the noun they modify. In fact, they follow the noun when they indicate a notion of time, as when they are used with a week, month, or year. For example: le mois prochain (next month).

We hear an example in the video about French youth up in arms against the loi Fillon designed to reform French education.

Trois mille à Lyon, ils étaient deux fois plus la semaine dernière.

Three thousand in Lyon, they were twice as many last week.

Caption 7, Le Journal: Manifestation des lycéens - Part 1

In this instance, the adjective dernière (last) is placed after the noun semaine (week) because it indicates an expression of time: the protest is simmering down a bit compared to the previous week.

Finally, one last number-related point: a tip on where to place an adjective if, after all you've learned from the Yabla lessons, you still aren't quite sure where the darn thing should go. It's easy math: count and compare the number of syllables in the two words, adjective and noun. Most often, the qualifying adjective is placed in front of the noun if the noun is composed of a greater number of syllables than the adjective. In other words, if the adjective is shorter, it goes in front.

Corrine, a young and charming French woman, shows us an example of this when talking about the merits of her hometown.

On a la chaleur, on a, euh... peut-être la pollution, mais en tout cas, on a de beaux paysages.

We've got warm weather, we have, uh... maybe pollution, but in any case, we have beautiful landscapes.

Caption 16-17, Fanny et Corrine: Leurs origines

Notice how Corrine mentions Marseilles' beaux paysages (beautiful landscapes). The adjective beaux (beautiful) has fewer syllables than the noun paysages (landscapes), so beaux is placed before paysages.

Conversely, the adjective is usually placed after the noun if it has more syllables than does the noun. For example, you would say une voix horrible (a horrible voice); the noun voix (voice) has fewer syllables than the adjective horrible, so the noun comes first.

Le Journal tells the story of Claudia Rusch, a young Francophile who was one of the first to scramble over the falling Berlin Wall to join a friend on that memorable day, November 9th, 1989.

...escalade ce grillage insupportable qui les sépare...

...scales this unbearable fence which separates them...

Caption 23, Le Journal: Le mur de Berlin s'écroule

Here, because the adjective insupportable (unbearable) has a greater number of syllables than the noun grillage (fence), the adjective goes last.

See? It's as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Grammar

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