I tried to make up a sentence of the following meaning:

You have a strange habit to enter the room without knocking on the door.

and I ended up with such one (with some help of google translate):

Tu as une étrange habitude d'entrer dans une chambre sans frapper à la porte.

And my question is: do you usually put any adjective (I do not mean the adjectives that are normally placed before the noun i.e. beau, grande etc.) before noun in such complex sentences where we have a compound phrase (here: une habitude d'entrer dans une chambre)? Is there any rule on this or this is just the matter of intuition?

  • 1
    Beware the articles, especially the second one: Tu as l'étrange habitude d'entrer dans la chambre sans frapper à la porte.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 9, 2018 at 10:19
  • thing that tickle me in this sentence is étrange, as a french native would often use Tu as la drôle d'habitude larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/dr%C3%B4le/26853/locution
    – ekans
    Feb 16, 2018 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


I'm a french native and i think there is no fixed rules about that.

Normally, small adjective (beau, joli, sale, etc.) are before the noun, regardless of the complexity of the sentence.

But, I think it's also guided by intution. We said blackboard: un tableau noir, even if noir is a small word.

It can be really complex, because the position of the adjectif have an incidence on its meaning.

For example:

Un homme grand => a tall man

Un grand homme => a great man

But, this is a special case for homme, femme ou personne. Un grand chat have the same meaning as un chat grand: a tall cat.

But other adjectives vary their meanings with all nouns.

ma propre chambre => my own room

ma chambre propre => my cleaned room

mon propre vélo => my own bike

mon vélo propre => my cleaned bike


un sacré livre => a great book

un livre sacré => a sacred book

Moreover, the familiar verb form differs from the sustained written form. For example, we said:

une habitude étrange, un repas succulent, un homme beau

but in a book, you will read more often:

une étrange habitude, un succulent repas, un bel homme.


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