Some adjectives can come either before or after the noun, but they change their meaning according to their position

French has a handful of 'dual-purpose' adjectives that have two meanings contained in the same word. These two meanings are related, but somehow distinct from each other, and usually correspond to two different words in English

The most common, and most important, are the pair dernier and prochain.
The other most frequent and useful ones are...




Before the noun
After the noun
former old
Mon ancienne amie
My old friend, my former friend, the friend I used to have
Dans les temps anciens il n'y avait pas d'électricité.
In ancient times there was no electricity.
Mon ancienne maison
My old house, the house I used to live in
Les maisons anciennes sont plus belles que les maison modernes.
Very old houses are more beautiful than modern ones.
Tiens ! C'est ton ancien petit ami.
Look! It's your old boyfriend.
(Look! It's your ex-boyfriend.)
Les civilisations anciennes était souvent violentes.
Ancient civilisations were often violent.

Ce sont mes anciennes amies.

Un bâtiment ancien.

Tip: notice how 'ancien' before the noun, meaning 'former', is often used with possessives (mon, ton, son, etc.).

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Before the noun
After the noun
dear, close, precious dear, expensive, costly
Ma chère amie, ne t'inquiète pas!
My dear friend, don't worry!
C'est une maison très chère.
It's a very expensive house.
Cher Christophe,
Dear Christopher, [in a letter]
Je cherche un petit restaurant pas trop cher.
I'm looking for a small inexpensive restaurant.
Ce sont mes plus chers amis.
They're my closest friends.

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Before the noun
After the noun
same very
C'est la même chose.
It's the same thing.
Des fleurs ! C'est la chose même que je voulais le plus.
Flowers! The very thing I wanted most.
Tu portes la même chemise que moi.
You're wearing the same shirt as me.
" Vive le roi! " Ce sont ses paroles mêmes.
'Long live the king' Those were his very words.

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Before the noun
After the noun
poor, unfortunate, pitiful poor, broke, moneyless, impecunious
Mon pauvre ami! Elle n'est pas la seule femme dans le monde, tu sais.
My poor friend! She's not the only woman in the world, you know.
Marianne, c'est une amie pauvre. Elle ne paie jamais ses dettes.
Marianne is a friend who's poor. She never pays her debts.
Je suis un raté ! Je suis un misérable, un pauvre rien du tout !
I'm a failure! I'm a poor, miserable nobody!
Si on n'aide pas les familles pauvres, nous allons perdre les élections.
If we don't help poor families, we will lose the election.

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Before the noun
After the noun
own clean
Un jour, je vais acheter ma propre maison.
One day I'm going to buy my own house.
Mes parents habitent dans une maison très propre.
My parents live in a very clean home.
Non ! Mange ton propre déjeuner, et laisse-moi seul.
No! Eat your own lunch and leave me alone.
Ce sont des enfants très propres.
They are very clean children.

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Before the noun
After the noun
only lonely, alone, on his/her own
J'ai une seule amie, mais nous sommes très proches.
I have only one friend, but we're very close.
Depuis leur divorce, il est devenu un homme très seul.
Since their divorce he's become a very lonely man.
La seule chose qui me manque à l'université, c'est mon chat.
The only thing I miss at university is my cat.
Hier soir, il y avait beaucoup d'hommes seuls dans le café.
Last night there were lots of men on their own in their café.

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