Languages › French French Attributive Adjectives Adjectifs épithètes Share Flipboard Email Print Westend61/Getty Images French Grammar Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Resources For Teachers by ThoughtCo Updated February 07, 2019 Attributive adjectives are used to describe or emphasize some attribute (characteristic) of the noun they modify. Known as épithètes in French, attributive adjectives are a subcategory of qualifying (descriptive) adjectives. The defining characteristic of attributive adjectives is that they are joined to the noun they modify - immediately preceding or following it with no verb in between. une jeune fille young girlun nouveau livre new bookune question intéressante interesting questionun restaurant célèbre famous restaurant An attributive adjective emphasizes some aspect of the noun which is essential to the meaning of the noun but not necessarily to the sentence. That is, the épithète can be dropped without changing the essential meaning of the sentence: J'ai acheté un nouveau livre rougeJ'ai acheté un nouveau livreJ'ai acheté un livre Both nouveau and rouge are attributive adjectives, and both can be dropped without hurting the essential meaning of the sentence: I bought a book. Including new and red simply provides additional information about the book that I bought. Types There are three types of attributive adjectives: Épithète de nature - indicates a permanent, inherent qualityun pâle visage - pale faceune pomme rouge - red appleÉpithète de caractère - describes an individual, distinguishing qualityun cher ami - dear friendun homme honnête - honest manÉpithète de circonstance - expresses a temporary, current qualityune jeune fille - young girlun garçon triste - sad boy Agreement Attributive adjectives must agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify. Placement Like all descriptive French adjectives, the majority of épithètes follow the noun they modify. However, épithètes precede the noun when: the adjective + noun is considered a single unit of meaningthe adjective is describing rather than qualifying (limiting) the meaning of the nounit just "sounds better" As you can see, there are no hard and fast rules for determining whether an épithète should precede or follow the noun it modifies, but there are some general guidelines that can help: Precede the noun Follow the noun Épithètes de nature Épithètes de circonstance Figurative or subjective meaning Literal or objective meaning Size and beauty(petit, grand, joli...) Other physical qualities(rouge, carré, costaud...) Single-syllable adjective +multi-syllable noun Multi-syllable adjective +single-syllable noun Ordinal adjectives(premier, deuxième...) Categories + relationships(chrétien, français, essentiel...) Age(jeune, vieux, nouveau...) Present participles and past participlesused as adjectives (courant, lu...) Goodness(bon, mauvais...) Modified adjectives(un raisin grand comme un abricot) Continue Reading Understanding and Using French Adjectives French Object Pronouns Explained French Adjectives in Front of a Vowel or Mute H The Placement of a French Adjective Can Change a Phrase's Meaning Learn About French Determiners French Numerical Adjectives - Adjectifs numéraux French Superlative Adverbs - Adverbs Superlatifs French Articles Can Be Confusing — Here's How to Make Sense of Them What Is Every French Personal Pronoun? What are Antecedents and Pronouns in French? Do You Know How to Use French Prepositions 'En' and 'Dans' What Is Grammatical French Agreement? The Differences Between Confusing French Pairs In French, If You're Getting Dressed, You're Using a Pronominal Verb These Are the 10 Most Common Intermediate-Level French Mistakes How Many French 'Couleurs' Can You Name?