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I ran into some adjectives that end in e for both masculine singular and feminine singular. For example:

anonyme, énorme, mince, chauve, informe

Questions

  1. Can I safely assume that if an adjective ends in e for masculine singular, it will not take another e for feminine singular—except in the case of participles used like an adjective (e.g. informé but informée)? If my assumption is wrong and there are adjectives that take an extra e for feminine singular (thus ending in -ee), please give me some examples.

  2. Are there any tell-tale signs of an adjective that was going to have an e at the end for masculine singular?

For question 2, please imagine a beginning student in French who, on seeing une boîte noire, thinks to himself, "Ah, for masculine singular I will remove the e. For example, un stylo noir." This stratagem works for him until he runs into something like anonyme.

  • Interesting question. Just some leads as I cannot do the proper search right now. Concerning 1, you are correct. Concerning 2, for "mince", this is a question of pronunciation. For the others, I'd only say that I can't think of a word ending with M or V, so that it only seems natural to me to add an E afterwards. I wouldn't be surprised if there are exceptions to this rule of thumb though. – Chop Mar 22 '16 at 12:38
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For 1/, you are correct : ée is frequent in the feminine singular, but you'll never find ee at the end of an adjective ; some end with e even in the masculine singular, but will have the same ending in the feminine form. Actually, I can't think of any french word with a double e anywhere in it.

2/ is not so simple. As others have answered, there is no absolute rule to guess the masculine form of an adjective you don't know given its feminine form. Most often it is based on pronunciation : if the final consonant is pronounced even in the masculine form, it requires a mute e. I'm afraid this requires knowing how the masculine form is pronounced though, and it's not self-evident in many cases, as the pronunciation can change a lot between the two genders (e.g sain [sɛ̃] -> saine [sɛn]).

Some consonants are integrated with vowels and become muted (an is pronounced [ɑ̃], the n disappears), some are often muted in the end of words (s, t, sometimes d) and some aren't muted but don't require a mute e (l and r being the most common). But basically, ending a word with a consonant other than d, l, n, r, s or t is very unusual, most cases will require a mute e. Apart from these , you should be safe assuming that if the feminine singular ends with a "normal" consonant + e, the masculine singular will take an e too.

Do keep in mind, though, that French is quite an irregular language and that no rule of thumb will give reliable results : your dictionary remains your best friend.

  • 1/ There are however several English words embedding a double "e" that have been adopted by the French language, like week-end, spleen, green, pedigree. The latter being itself originally the French Pied de grue. – jlliagre Mar 22 '16 at 14:07
  • Is "green" used instead of "vert" commonly then, in informal French? Or did you mean some other meaning of "green" (informal for naive, for instance)? – Anupama G Mar 23 '16 at 11:38
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    In French, green means a golf course and is not used as a replacement for the colour. Likewise, spleen isn't the organ, but a term coined by Baudelaire to describe a mixture of depression, sadness and melancholy. – DaWaaaaghBabal Mar 23 '16 at 12:28
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I understand your matter , unfortunatly there is no general rule in french which can help us to distinguish between "feminine singular" adjectives and "masculin singular" with "e" at the end , but for sure you'll never find a case of an adjective with an extra "ee"

the common rule if you have a "masculin singular" adjective without "e" at the end you have to add one for its "feminin singular" like :

"noir" "noire"

but it's not a general rule you can have the following case, which doesn't follow this rule:

"blanc" "blanche"

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