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I've heard my colleague say:

ma ville japonaise préférée

{Instead of}: ma ville préférée japonaise

Which has made me wonder why in this particular instance, it is preferable to place the country adjective "japonaise" before the adjective "préférée", ...

une expression péjorative japonaise

des plats traditionnels japonais

... since in most cases a country adjective "japonaise, française, etc" comes after an adjective such as "péjorative, traditionnels, etc".

Is it because we should consider "préférée" Participe Passé rather than an adjective?

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"Préféré" here is not just an adjective, it is to be understood in combination with the possessive that begins the groupe nominal (in your example, ma) in order to indicate a specific person's superlative preference for the thing being qualified. For example, une ville préférée by itself doesn't really have meaning — by whom is it preferred?

In other words Mon (quelque chose) préféré, ma (quelque chose) préférée, son (quelque chose) préféré, etc. is an expression the order of which cannot be changed — préféré must come last in the groupe nominal, and if there are qualifiers that are necessary to indicate the universe among which the thing is preferred, they need to come before.

I don't know if there are any other adjectives besides préféré that combine with the possessive pronoun to form a similar construction where the adjective comes last, but it could be thought of as similar to the way that the order needs to be maintained in mon meilleur (quelque chose) or mon pire (quelque chose).

  • 1
    Maybe bien-aimé(e)... ma sorcière bien-aimée sth. Cheers! – user3177 Sep 8 '17 at 2:53
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I will try to expose my (french) opinion

The position of adjectives in French follows an increasing order in terms of precision:

ma ville japonaise préférée

  1. It is a city
  2. Among all the cities, I place it in Japan
  3. Among all the Japanese cities, this is my favorite

ma ville préférée japonaise

  1. It is a city
  2. Among all the cities, this is my favorite
  3. Among all my favorite cities (only one ...), it is a Japanese one

I have just highlighted the weirdness that could feel a native speaker on the second sentence. In the second case, a french speaker will hear Ma ville préférée est japonaise

It's not exactly the same meaning.

  • As french too, my opinion is different (but it is only an opinion). Hearing "ma ville préférée japonaise", I interpret "my favorite city in Japan", meaning there are other cities elsewhere that may be more favorite. Concerning "ma ville japonaise préférée", I hear "we're talking about cities in Japan and the favorite among them", so here no suggestion about a more favorite elsewhere. – lemon Sep 12 '17 at 9:27
  • I think "ma ville préfére japonaise" is equivalent to "ma ville préfére au Japon". Do you agree ? – Loïc Di Benedetto Sep 13 '17 at 10:50
  • Loïc, yes I do. – lemon Sep 13 '17 at 10:54

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