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21 French Suffixes to “-Fix” Your French From Novice to Fluent

Just like home renovations, suffixes can transform your French vocabulary from “bland and shaky” to “strong and colorful.”

Specifically, they allow you to quickly acquire new words based on your existing vocabulary, since French suffixes are added to nouns, verbs and adjectives.

They’re also great for brevity. For example, it’s much less of a mouthful to say une poissonnerie (a fish market) than  un endroit où se trouve du poisson en vente (a place where one finds fish for sale).

And, because suffixes in French are derived from Latin or Greek like their English counterparts, many French and English suffixes are the same (except for minor variations in spelling).

Basically, your French reading comprehension and writing will quickly improve once you learn more suffixes.

Below, I’ve put together a list of common ones that you’re bound to come across no matter where you are in your French learning adventure.

On y va ! (Let’s go!)

Contents

1. -able 

Type of suffix: adjectival (i.e., the suffix turns words into adjectives)

Gender: neutral

Use: can only be added to verbal stems—that is, verbs minus their -er, -ir or -re endings. Denotes the possibility or ability to be done.

Example:

laver (wash) + -able →  lavable (washable)

Cette chemise est lavable à l’eau chaude. (This shirt can be washed in hot water.)

2. -age

Type of suffix: nominal (i.e., the suffix turns words into nouns)

Gender: masculine

Use: refers to the “action or result of X-ing” or the “state of being a(n) X”

Example:

esclave (slave) + -age →  esclavage (the state of being a slave or, more succinctly, slavery)

L’esclavage est horrible.  (Slavery is horrible.)

3. -ain(e)/-ais(e)/-ois(e)/-éen(e)

Type of suffix: nominal or adjectival

Gender: adding e to the suffix makes it feminine

Use: describes someone or something by their place of origin (i.e., a diminutive noun)

Examples:

A person, place or thing from la Jamaïque (Jamaica) is jamaïcain / jamaïcaine (Jamaican).

Il y a un nouveau restaurant jamaïcain dans le quartier.  (There is a new Jamaican restaurant in the neighborhood.)

Note: Jamaïcain can also be spelled as jamaïquain , although this spelling isn’t as popular.

A person, place or thing from  la France (France) is français / française (French).

Sa femme est française. (His wife is French.)

J’ai une voiture française. (I have a French car.)

A person, place or thing from  le Danemark (Denmark) is danois / danoise (Danish). 

A person, place or thing from l’Europe (Europe) is européen / européene (European). 

4. –aire

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: neutral

Use: added to words to convey a relationship or connection to the base word (e.g., profession, quality or characteristic)

Example:

volonté (drive or will) + -aire →  volontaire (voluntary)

Elle est volontaire ici depuis deux ans. (She’s been a volunteer here for two years.)

5. -al/-ale

Type of suffix: adjectival

Gender: -al is masculine, while -ale is feminine

Use: indicates a relationship or characteristic shared with the root word

Example:

nation  (nation) + -ale →  nationale (national)

C’est une compétition nationale.  (It’s a national competition.)

6. -ance

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: feminine

Use: indicates a state, quality or action

Example:

ignorer  (ignore) + -ance → ignorance (ignorance)

L’ignorance n’est pas une excuse.  (Ignorance is not an excuse.)

7. -ant/-ante

Type of suffix: verbal (i.e., forms a verb) and adjectival

Gender: -ant is masculine, while -ante is feminine

Use: forms present participle verbs and adjectives

Example:

étudier (study) + -ant →  étudiant (student)

Je suis étudiant. (I am a student.)

8. -ateur/-atrice

Type of suffix: nominal or adjectival

Gender: -ateur is masculine, while -atrice is feminine

Use: signifies actors or agents

Examples:

dévaster (devastate) + -ateur →  dévastateur (something that devastates or is devastating, as in un ouragan dévastateur or “a devastating hurricane”)

Elle a une maladie dévastatrice.  (She has a devastating illness.)

ventiler (ventilate) + -ateur →  ventilateur (a fan)

J’ai besoin d’un ventilateur pour cette pièce. (I need a fan for this room.)

Note: In this word, we see the word vent (wind), which is a nice addition to your weather-related French vocabulary.

9. -eau/-elle

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: -eau is masculine, while -elle is feminine

Use: has a diminutive function

Examples:

Un petit lapin  (a little rabbit, as in a young one) can be condensed to  un lapineau (a little rabbit).

Le lapineau a perdu sa mère.  (The young rabbit lost its mother.)

Une petite rue (a little street) can be shortened to une ruelle (a little street or alley).

J’ai entendu un hurlement dans une ruelle.  (I heard a scream in an alley.)

10.

Type of suffix: nominal, verbal or adjectival

Gender: neutral

As a suffix, this acute accent can perform many roles, such as:

Forming the past participle

This suffix is used to construct the past participle of -er verbs, where -é replaces the -er.

The past participle of  manger (eat) is mangé (ate).

J’ai mangé tard. (I ate late.)

La viande, mangée par les mouches, est dans la poubelle. (The meat, eaten by the flies, is in the trash.)

Forming adjectives

If the root is a noun, the suffix  can be added to produce an adjective that signifies “possessing X” or “resembling X.”

Le sens refers to sense (as in common sense) or reason, so the adjective sensé refers to something or someone reasonable or possessing sense/reason.

Ses propos sont sensés. (His remarks are reasonable.)

Forming nouns

The suffix  can be added to nouns to denote “the state of X.”

In French,  un parent denotes not only a mother or a father, but a relative in general.  La parenté refers to kinship, (family) relationship or relatedness.

Quel est ton lien de parenté avec elle ? (What is your relationship to her?)

11. -ée

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: neutral

This multipurpose suffix can be added to nouns or verbs to make new nouns with different meanings.

“A __ful of” something:

Une poignée (a fistful) derives from un poing (a fist).

J’ai mangé une poignée de dates ce matin. (I ate a fistful of dates this morning.)

Result of an action, purpose:

Une donnée  (a piece of data or information) comes from the verb donner (give).

La société stocke ses données sur un serveur. (The company keeps its data on a server.)

A location:

Une entrée (an entrance) derives from the verb entrer (enter).

L’entrée du bâtiment est ouverte. (The building’s entrance is open.)

Period of time:

Une matinée (the morning hours) comes from le matin (the morning).

J’ai lu toute la matinée. (I read all morning.)

12. -erie

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: feminine

Use: denotes “a specialty in X.” In many cases, it also denotes “a place that sells X.”

Examples:

Une poissonnerie  (a fish market) is a place that specializes in or sells  du poisson (fish).

J’ai acheté ce flet dans une poissonnerie. (I bought this flounder at the fish market.)

Une bijouterie  (a jewelry store) is a place that specializes in or sells  des bijoux (jewelry).

Jean a acheté un cadeau pour sa femme dans une bijouterie. (Jean bought a present for his wife at a jewelry store.)

13. -esse

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: feminine

Use: indicates a quality or state of being

Example:

jeune (young) + -esse →  jeunesse (youth; young people)

La jeunesse a des problèmes.  (The youth have problems.)

14. -et/-ette

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: -et is masculine, while -ette is feminine

Use: has a diminutive function, making the noun smaller. Think of this suffix as synonymous with un petit X (a little X).

Examples:

Un petit garçon (a little boy) can also be referred to as  un garçonnet (a little boy).

Le garçonnet court après le ballon.  (The little boy is running after the ball.)

Une petite fille  (a little girl) can also be referred to as  une fillette (a little girl).

La fillette porte une robe jaune. (The little girl is wearing a yellow dress.)

15. -eur/-eresse

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: -eur is masculine, while -eresse is feminine

Use: indicates a person or thing that performs a specific action

Example:

agir  (act) + -eur →  acteur (actor)

Joe est un mauvais acteur.  (Joe is a bad actor.)

16. -if/-ve

Type of suffix: adjectival

Gender: neutral

Use: turns a noun into an adjective that embodies the noun’s characteristics

Example:

créer (create) + -if →  créatif (creative)

C’est un motif très créatif. (It is a very creative design.)

17. -isme

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: masculine

Use: refers to doctrines, ideologies or belief systems. It’s added to adjectival stems that often end in -iste.

Examples:

Une doctrine nationaliste  (a nationalist doctrine) can be condensed to  nationalisme (nationalism).

Le nationalisme est en pleine croissance en France.  (Nationalism is spreading quickly in France.)

Une doctrine socialiste (a socialist doctrine) can be shortened to  socialisme (socialism).

Le socialisme est un système politique et économique. (Socialism is a political and economic system.)

18. -issime

Type of suffix: adjectival

Gender: neutral

Use: has an augmentative function, making the adjective stronger. Think of -issime as synonymous with the adjectives très (very) and extrêmement (extremely).

Examples:

Très grand  (very big) can be simply put as  grandissime (very big).

La maison du Charles est grandissime.  (Charles’ house is very big.)

Très grave (very serious) can be shortened to gravissime (very serious).

La maladie est gravissime. (The illness is very serious.)

19. -iste

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: neutral

Use: refers to nouns that conform to certain doctrines or schools of thought

Example:

Someone or something (e.g., a book) that adheres to the doctrine of  fascisme (fascism) is  fasciste (fascist).

Le gouvernement de Benito Mussolini était fasciste.  (Benito Mussolini’s government was fascist.)

20. -ite

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: neutral

Use: indicates that a noun takes on a certain quality. If applied to a person, it can denote a follower of a certain belief or religion.

Examples:

curieux (curious) + -ite →  curiosité (curiosity)

Sa curiosité est sans fin.  (His curiosity is without end.)

bouddhisme (Buddhism) + -ite →  bouddhiste (Buddhist)

J’ai toujours voulu être bouddhiste.  (I have always wanted to be a Buddhist.)

21. -tion, -ation, -ition

Type of suffix: nominal

Gender: feminine

Use: indicates an action, process or state

Example:

traduire (translate) + -tion →  traduction (translation)

J’ai terminé la traduction. (I finished the translation.)

Now that you’ve seen some of the more common suffixes in French, you can take things to the next level by exposing yourself to authentic French media on a language learning platform like FluentU.

Where to Practice French Suffixes

Below are some resources on French suffixes that will keep you ahead in the vocabulary game.

And that’s just the beginning. Now, it’s up to you to stay ahead!

And one more thing...

If you like learning French vocabulary on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

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Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:

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For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:

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