In a comment to this question, it was pointed out that some adjectives should be placed before quelque chose, while other adjectives should be placed after. For example:

un petit/vrai/authentique quelque chose de beau/grand/spécial.

This doesn't seem to follow the usual adjective placement rule, where beau and grand would be placed before the noun, while authentique would be placed after. What is the rule for which adjectives should go before quelque chose? Is there a (hopefully small) list?

  • 2
    There is a difference between the two places. for example, quelque chose de petit is 'something small' while un petit quelque chose is 'a little something'. The determiner plays a role as well as the places...
    – GAM PUB
    Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 19:04

3 Answers 3


Any adjective can go after quelque chose de:

Quelque chose de petit/de vrai/d'authentique/de beau/de grand/de spécial.

Not all adjectives can go before what they refer to and often, the meaning is different depending on this location. Most of the adjectives appearing in the question might be used before quelque chose though.

Un petit quelque chose is a common set expression.

Un vrai quelque chose, un authentique quelque chose, un beau quelque chose, un grand quelque chose are less common but correct.

The only one in the list that doesn't work is spécial, but that's because spécial is always after the word it qualifies.

See Quand peut-on mettre un adjectif avant ou après un nom ? — When do adjectives go before or after a noun? and a francaisfacile.com page that talks about adjectives position.

About the difference between quelque chose de petit and un petit quelque chose:

— Je lui ai offert un petit quelque chose pour Noël.

I gave him/her a little thingy for Christmas. Here what matters is the intention: to offer a gift.

— Je lui ai offert quelque chose de petit pour Noël.

I gave him/her something small for Christmas. Here what matters is the physical size of the present. Maybe the recipient had to travel afterward and/or has not enough room to store presents, thus something big would have been cumbersome.


Pour commencer, "authentique" peut être placé avant un nom, donc "quelque chose de" ne change pas la règle...

Il y a une tournure de phrase qui est "quelque chose de {adjectif} {dans|chez|avec} ..." et cette tournure impose la place de l'adjectif utilisé (grand, pourri, sublime...). On peut en plus pondérer le "quelque chose" par un adjectif qui sera forcément placé devant et, coïncidence, ceux qui font sens à cet endroit sont pour la plupart des adjectifs qu'on peut placer avant le nom... et les autres, on évite de s'en servir...



Adjectives before or after quelque chose are not caracterising the same thing.


  1. Here,

    les mises en scène qu’il réalise plutôt, ont toutes un petit quelque chose de dérangeant

    petit is about this quelque chose not about the "mises en scène". We are quantifying how much the "mises en scène" are weird.

  2. While there,

    Le petit, avec cette naïveté qui confine à la fulgurance, veut réaliser quelque chose de grand.

    grand is about what the kid want to achieve. We are qualifying what this person is doing.


An adjective :

  • before quelque chose is quantifying the adjective after quelque chose;
  • after quelque chose is qualifying what quelque chose stands for.

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