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Position of adjectives

I'm battling to improve my French ahead (as they say in newspapers) of moving to France and was surprised by the title of the book Le Club des Incorrigibles Optimistes. I would have expected "Incorrigibles" to follow "Optimistes". Thanks in advance to anyone who can shed some light on this.
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Re: Position of adjectives

When you put an adjective in front of a noun, that would usually follow the noun, the effect is to emphasise the adjective. So the club is specifically for INCORRIGIBLE optimists. It's the incorrigibleness of them that's interesting, not their optimism.

It's a subtlety that you have to get used to really, by seeing it done. An "affreux événement" is somehow more shockingly awful than an "événement affreux".

IMHO.
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Re: Position of adjectives

Many thanks. I'd never come across this before. Yet another subtlety to add to the long list.
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Re: Position of adjectives

 EuroTrash wrote:
When you put an adjective in front of a noun, that would usually follow the noun, the effect is to emphasise the adjective. So the club is specifically for INCORRIGIBLE optimists. It's the incorrigibleness of them that's interesting, not their optimism. It's a subtlety that you have to get used to really, by seeing it done. An "affreux événement" is somehow more shockingly awful than an "événement affreux". IMHO.


Not only that, ET, there is also the fact that incorigibles is a long word.  Usually, the adjectives that are placed in front of nouns are short; bon, vieux, neuf, etc.  The "long" ones, with several syllables, intelligent, international, etc tend to be the ones put behind the nouns.

So, your explanation seems to be excellent.  The adjective here takes centre placeIdea [I]  Thank you, ET, and thank you Al for asking the question.

Apprendre une langue, c'est faire un voyage différent chaque jour.
from Fle pour les curieux
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Re: Position of adjectives

This is quite a good article:

http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/adjectives_4.htm

Placement after the noun
Most descriptive adjectives are placed after the noun they modify. These normally have an analytical meaning, in that they classify the noun into a certain category. These types of adjectives include shape, color, taste, nationality, religion, social class, and other adjectives that describe things like personality and mood.

Placement before the noun
Certain adjectives are placed before the noun, some which you can memorize with the acronym "BAGS":

   Beauty
   Age
   Good and bad
   Size (except for grand with people - see 3, below)

These descriptors - and a few others - are considered inherent qualities of the noun:

   une jolie fille - pretty girl
   un jeune homme - young man
   une nouvelle maison - new house
   un bon enfant - good child
   un petit problème - small problem
   les sincères condoléances - sincere condolences
   les vagues promesses - vague promises

. Placement depends on meaning
Some adjectives have both a figurative and an analytic (literal) sense and can thus be placed on either side of the noun. When the adjective is figurative, it goes before the noun, and when it's analytic, it goes after the noun.



Figurative:  mes vertes années   my green (fruitful) years
Literal:  des légumes verts   green vegetables

Figurative:  un grand homme   a great man
Literal:  un homme grand   a tall man

Figurative:  un triste individu   a sad (mean or bad) person
Literal:  un individu triste   a sad (crying) person

Figurative:  mon ancienne école   my old (former) school
Literal:  mon école ancienne   my old (aged) school

Figurative:  un certain regard   a certain (type of) look
Literal:  une victoire certaine   a certain (assured) victory




The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
- Bertrand Russell
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Re: Position of adjectives

Yes, I remember particularly the grand homme one.

I used to say Charles de Gaulle est un grand homme qui est aussi un homme grand to make my French teacher smile.

I am mostly OK with adjectives but adverbs I do find a bit tricky sometimes:  to place before or after the verb?

Apprendre une langue, c'est faire un voyage différent chaque jour.
from Fle pour les curieux
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Re: Position of adjectives

Bags is my new watchword, Norman. Thank you. I should probably have done a little more research myself but thought the topic might be of interest to others and knew you guys would have some useful insight. It's all quite fascinating.
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Re: Position of adjectives

So, un grand homme grand or un petit homme petit? Thinkng of de Gaulle and Sarkozy.
Too thick for a PhD!
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