19th-century French poet Charles Baudelaire as soon as wrote Le beau est toujours bizarre. (The beautiful is always bizarre). Although he wasn’t talking around the word beau itself, the might also have been.

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Beau and its feminine form, belle, median “beautiful” or, depending on the context, “handsome”. That seems pretty straightforward. Yet the an ext you use them or watch them used, the much more you realize the there are a lot of rules they don’t follow, and also a the majority of other rules the exist only for them and a handful of other bizarre adjectives.

Intrigued? Let’s delve into every one of the strangeness of beau/belle.


Table the Contents
just how do you speak “beautiful” in French?
Some common expressions v beau/belle
Other means to say “beautiful” in French
What do the French think is beautiful?

How perform you to speak “beautiful” in French?

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Beau/belle is the only exact equivalent for “beautiful” in conventional French. 

That may seem surprising for a language that’s connected with romance and also seduction. But as you gain to recognize the language and culture better, you will do it realize the this is because of the French’s love the precision. If you desire to say someone or something is beautiful in a general way, that’s one thing. However there are many other native to describe an facet or degree of the beauty. We’ll look at those a small later on.

So, currently that it is cleared up, psychic that beau explains a woman noun, and also belle explains feminine noun.

For example: 

Cet arbre est très beau en automne. (This tree is beautiful in autumn.) 

Quelle belle robe ! (What a beautiful dress!)

If you didn’t know that this pair was just the masculine and feminine variation of the same adjective, don’t feeling bad. ~ all, typically in French, when an adjective modifies a singular noun, it continues to be the same if the nouns is masculine, or one “e” is added if the noun is feminine. Because that example: un conversation bleu/ une climbed bleue (a blue cat/a blue rose).

Not so for beau and also belle, masculine and also feminine creates that look really different indigenous one another!

But once it comes to beau/belle’s strangeness, that’s just the beginning.

Beau/belle comes prior to the noun it modifies

In the 2nd example a couple of paragraphs back, you may have actually noticed an additional bizarre thing about beau/belle: Although many French adjectives follow the noun(s) lock describe, beau/belle comes before the noun the describes, no after. 

So, you would never see miscellaneous like, un garçon beau or une fille belle – the would constantly be composed or stated un beau garçon or une belle fille.

Beau changes in the many form 

We’re not finished with beau/belle’s bizarreness just yet!

Beau changes its appearance once agreeing with various kinds of nouns. 

Normally in French, if one adjective modifies a plural noun or team of noun where even one is masculine, an “s” is tacked onto it. If the noun/group of noun is feminine, you add “-es” to the end, and also call that a day.

For example: des renards malins/des souris malines (clever foxes/clever mice).

Belle, the feminine form of beau, adheres to these rules simply fine. If you have actually a feminine noun, simply use belle as-is, because it’s already feminine. If yes sir a plural noun or a team of all-feminine nouns, just include an “-s” to it.

For example: Hélène est belle, et ses sœurs Rachel, Laure, Sarah, et Christine sont belles aussi. (Helene is beautiful, and her sister Rachel, Laure, and also Christine room beautiful, too.)

Or : C’est une belle maison./Ce sont de belles maisons.* (That’s a beautiful house./Those space beautiful houses.)

But, like so many romantic heroes it might be used to describe, beau is a rebel. 

When beau modifies a singular mrs noun, it continues to be as-is, since it’s already in its mrs form.

But once it modifies a many masculine noun or a group of nouns where at the very least one of the nouns is masculine, girlfriend add, not an “s”, yet an “x” in ~ the end. 

For example: Jean-Charles est beau, et ses frères Henri, Loïc, et Romain sont beaux aussi. (Jean-Charles is handsome, and also his brothers Henri, Loïc, and also Romain space handsome, too.)

Or: C’est un beau tableau./Ce sont de beaux tableaux.* (That’s a beautiful painting./These are beautiful paintings.)

Okay, this isn’t actually that strange; beau simply follows a dominance of pluralizing French words that finish in “-eau” v an “x”, rather of one “s”. Still, that is one much more thing to pay fist to as soon as you’re making use of it in writing. 

Beau alters to bel when it’s complied with by a noun that starts v a vowel

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Beau isn’t constantly the same even when it’s editing and enhancing a singular noun.

When it precedes a singular woman noun the starts with a vowel, beau becomes bel. 

Here space a few examples:

un bel oiseau (a beautiful bird)

un bel oeuf (a beautiful egg)

notre bel Étienne (our lovely/handsome Étienne)

Note that beau ONLY becomes bel when it precedes a noun. If the structure of the sentence or expression separates beau from the noun the modifying, it’s constantly beau, even if it is the noun starts with a vowel or not.

For example: 

C’est un bel écureuil. (That’s a beautiful squirrel.)

Je trouve cet écureuil particulièrement beau. (I discover this squirrel specifically beautiful.)

If this dominance is blowing your mind, take it a deep breath and also remember the it’s no as unusual as you can think. After ~ all, even in the last example, an additional word followed the very same rule: ce has a t added come it because ce followed by a collection sound is ugly come the French ear, too.

The indefinite write-up des becomes de when it precedes beau/belle

You’ve probably spent plenty of hours of her French finding out experience drilling the fact that des is the key French many indefinite post into her head. 

Well…here’s an additional exception once it concerns beau/belle.

Essentially, French grammar dictates that once an adjective comes before the noun the modifying, des can’t it is in used. Instead, it has to be de. it is why the examples that I significant with an asterisk aren’t typos.

So, to recap: You might think you should say Ce sont des beaux livres or Ce sont des belles robes however NO! that Ce sont de beaux livres and Ce sont de belles robes.

This stays the preeminence with most adverbs. Because that example, Ce sont de très beaux livres or Ce sont de très belles robes.

Note the this preeminence doesn’t necessarily use to talked French. In dental language, making use of des with this type of sentence structure is generally welcomed (although not officially grammar correct). However in writing, friend should always use de.

Using adverbs through beau/belle: typically easy, through a couple of exceptions

What if you want to say that someone or miscellaneous is much more than just beautiful or handsome?

Generally speaking, if you add an adverb come beau/belle and also a noun, girlfriend would just place it before beau/belle This will make the phrase’s structure adjust slightly, by advertise beau/belle after the noun that modifies – because that example, un garçon terriblement beau/une fille terriblement belle.

But there is an exception with what is more than likely the most usual adverb you’d usage – très. In this case, you’d save the framework the very same as it was without one adverb: un très beau garcon/une très belle fille.

This works the same means in the plural: des garçons terriblement beaux/des filles terriblement belles or de très beaux garçons/de très belles filles.

There are also a few adverbs the seem to se balader (walk around). For example, you could say » Jamais tu n’as vu une fille si belle » , as French crooner Eddy Mitchell sings. However you could additionally say, “Tu es une si belle fille.

The very first statement is a basic one, with no specific context unto itself, just “Never have actually you viewed such a beautiful girl.”/”Never have you checked out a girl therefore beautiful.”.

But making use of un/une si beau/belle is almost always component of a bigger statement, and also implies the the person is therefore beautiful or handsome, they shouldn’t waste your life or make what the speaker considers a severe mistake. For example : Tu es si belle, Marilyn, tu ne devrais pas dare contenter de rester avec lui. (You’re therefore beautiful, Marilyn – friend shouldn’t resolve for him.).

Some usual expressions with beau/belle

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In enhancement to gift a pretty usual adjective, beau/belle is additionally used in some fairly common phrases. Right here are the ones i hear most regularly in France (in no certain order:

Se faire beau/belle – literally to do oneself beautiful.

In other words, to gain dressed increase or make yourself look your ideal – generally for a party or date. Because that example, Je me suis fait belle to water mon premier rendez-vous avec Roland hier soir. (I obtained dressed up for my first date v Roland last night.)

Ma belle – mine beautiful one/my pretty/my dear.

This sound a bit old-fashioned in English (or, for other fans of “The magician of Oz”, like something directly out that the mouth that the evil Witch the the West), but it’s supplied quite frequently in France today, especially between girlfriends or in a method that suggests that the human being addressing themself to a female audience is pals with them. Think that it as “ma chérie” but with a compliment added in. Poor news for guys, though: there is no woman equivalent.

Beau gosse (sometimes composed “bogosse”) – (literal translation: handsome kid) a handsome, super-cool guy.

Although that is name means a good-looking guy, this slang, informal ax is about an ext than looks. The really about attitude. Someone might contact a male a beau gosse simply due to the fact that he’s attractive, yet it’s an ext about details prefer him being well-dressed or generally looking or acting cool. 

You also don’t commonly hear this together a compliment that a girl provides to a male – it’s much more often around admiration or teasing, especially in between men. Because that example, the various other day, my four-year-old kid was wearing dressy clothing for school photo day. One of the young guys from the after-school regime saw him and said, “Oh là là, il est beau gosse!” 

You might likewise hear Ça fait beau gosse or many other sports – or even simply the phrase uttered (or muttered) by itself.

This video from French YouTube megastar (and genuinely funny comedian) Norman Thavaud perfectly shows what gift a beau gosse is all around (if you require to, you have the right to use the equipment symbol ~ above the appropriate side that the display to put on French or English subtitles). 

There is apparently a female equivalent, belle gosse, however I have never, ever heard or seen that offered anywhere, in any type of context. 

Remember the this phrase is really informal and also associated through slang and young people. Older generations can understand it, yet I’ve only heard human being in your 20’s or younger actually use it, and never in a officially or expert setting.

Bogosse is an alternating spelling that’s pronounced and used the same way but is even much more informal in written language; because that example, you could see someone usage it in a message message, but not if they were writing an article for French student on the proper usage of the hatchet beau gosse.

Beau-père, belle-mère, beau-frère, belle-sœur, beau-fils, belle-fille, belle-famille

father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, in-laws. OR stepfather, stepmother, step-brother, step-sister, stepson, stepdaughter, step-family.

As someone who has actually both in-laws and also a stepparent and various step-siblings, I have a love-hate connection with this terms. Ns LOVE that they use belle or beau  – it’s such an optimistic method to check out a new family member, also if the human doesn’t constantly turn out to it is in beautiful or handsome in any sense the the word. On the various other hand, I dislike the reality that you need to stop and explain which type of relationship you’re talking about if there is any feasible confusion as to whether you average your in-laws or your step-family. 

J’ai beau essayer – “Try as difficult as i could…”/”No matter how difficult I tried”/“I’ve tried and tried…”

This really common phrase is usually associated with je, but can be used with any type of subject (first person, second person, 3rd person, etc.). 

Note the although it doesn’t seem natural, in this specific phrase, the infinitive is used, not the previous participle.

Examples:

 J’ai beau essayer de redémarrer l’ordinateur, il ne marche pas. (I’ve tried and tried to restart the computer, it doesn’t work.)

Elle a beau essayer de l’oublier, mais Jacques hantait ses pensées. (Try as hard as she can to forget him, Jacques haunted she thoughts.)

Although avoir+beau+essayer is the most common structure you’ll see, you can likewise do this with just about any verb that provides sense. 

The phrase constantly implies failure and also is usually followed by a statement the confirms it: J’ai beau pratiquer, je ne maîtriserai jamais le violin. (No matter how difficult I practice, ok never master the violin.)

Just remember that the verb has to be in the infinitive. The expression that follows can it is in conjugated in assorted tenses, or even simply be a phrase without a verb, relying on the context. 

This R&B song with created lyrics gives some excellent instances of various ways avoir+beau+infinitive can be used. 

Beau/belle comme… – as handsome/beautiful as… 

You can use anything come compare v someone/something’s beauty, beauty – for example, Il est beau comme le soleil or Elle est belle comme une princesse.

You’ll also very often listen Il est beau comme tout  or Elle est belle comme toute , an interpretation the person/thing is yes, really beautiful/handsome. 

Ça, c’est le plus beau ! – Well, that does it!/That’s it!

In this phrase, beau is being provided sarcastically. Literally, it way “This, this is the many beautiful!” yet it actually method that in a series of poor or frustrating things, this is the worst. It’s generally accompanied by someone throwing up their hands in exasperation.

Un beau jour/Un beau matin… – One day/One morning…

These phrases are frequently used in fairytales or children’s stories. The work or morning in inquiry doesn’t need to be an especially beautiful; right here the word appears to it is in used an ext for emphasis, as in J’ai beau essayer. Return it most likely would it is in funny or strange if you used it come tell a story about a really negative day or morning, or one with very bad or gloomy weather.

Other methods to to speak “beautiful” in French

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As I mentioned earlier, there are no other specific equivalents the “beautiful/handsome” in French, because of the French love that precision. So, you could pick words like magnifique, ravissant(e), impressionnant(e), etc., depending upon what precisely makes friend think the human being or point you’re talking about is beautiful.

Most of these adjectives monitor the general dominion of comes after the noun they modify, not prior to like beau/belle.

Here room two common “beautiful”-related words the you’ll hear or see rather a lot:

joli(e)

Pretty. In plenty of cultures, the concept of “pretty” is usually offered for a mrs or a infant or really young boy of one of two people gender. This is true because that joli, as well. The masculine type is mostly used for describing animals, objects, and also ideas who grammatical sex is masculine. Because that example: un joli cheval; un joli uniforme.

Note that joli(e) is an additional exceptional adjective the comes prior to the noun the modifies. This method that it complies with the very same grammar rules as beau/belle when it comes to using de instead of des.

On the various other hand, once using many adverbs, you deserve to place joli(e) in various parts that a sentence. because that example: Ce sont de très jolis lapins/Ce sont des lapins très jolis. notice that in the second example, des is used, because jolis no longer straight precedes the noun it’s modifying.

Examples:

Quel joli tissu ! (What a pretty fabric!)

C’est une jolie fille. (She’s a quite girl.)

Ce sont de jolis bijous. (These are pretty jewels)

Regarde ces jolies jupes. (Look at these pretty skirts.)

You deserve to sometimes hear “Joli!” together a sarcastic means to speak “Good one!” – for example, if a friend trips if coming into the room. It’s generally a tenderness context, not particularly mean.

Another usual expression is joli(e) comme un cœur (pretty as a heart). This is favor it sounds: a sweet, virtually saccharine expression, for this reason you i will not ~ hear a virile action star use it, but it’s really common for women and children come say – usually about women, children, and also animals, or assimilated princesses.

canon

If girlfriend hang about young people or world who usage a lot of slang in general, you bound to hear this word.

Canon is an amazing mix the the old and new school: Although the a current term and an extremely informal, it describes the canon the beauty, which is a classic concept.

Note that due to the fact that it describes le canon, you store it the same whether she talking around a male or female. Also note that, unlike beau/belle or joli(e), canon is used only to describe a person.

Examples: Il est canon, ce mec. (This male is so hot.)

Elle est trop canon. (She’s amazingly good-looking.) note that there are two slang elements here: canon and also the usage of trop rather of très. Traditional French society tends to downplay emotions and opinions (Proof: saying something is pas mal means it’s actually pretty good).

Here are a few other means to say that someone is beautiful in French:

sublime – sublime

ravissant / ravissante – ravishing

magnifique – magnificent

splendide (splendid)

mignon / mignone – cute

Note the nowadays, if girlfriend say someone is sublime or magnifique to a French person, you can hear castle giggle or repeat what you said in a weird accent. If this happens, they’re most likely making a referral to Christina Cordula, a Brazilian previous model who hosts several reality competition mirrors here. The French adore her means of pronouncing this words (you can hear her at the 1:36 minute note of this video). 

For more ways come say “beautiful” in French, you have the right to do an online search because that “Façons de dire belle” or “Façons de dire beau”.

What carry out the French think is beautiful?

The French have actually a reputation for excellent taste and being aesthetically gifted. If that can be true, fact TV and everyday life display that there are most likely even more French people who favor flashy fashion or have taste that numerous would dub “questionable”. 

Nevertheless, there is an aesthetic that seems to be perfect in French society — but it may not it is in what girlfriend think. We’re frequently fed images of glamorous Parisians, and also while those execute exist, the French it seems to be ~ to compensation a an ext natural look and a type offhand, casual elegance. Take French fashion symbols like Inès de La Fressange or Mademoiselle Agnès – castle natural-looking women with a chic however laidback style, no polished optimal models in haute couture. 

The same goes for points like home décor. The right aesthetic in France (though no necessarily what most French civilization actually follow) is subtle, quite than bold and also flashy. French interiors that room up-to-date have tendency to privilege clean lines, open up spaces, and touches the color. 

The renowned house-flipping display Maison à vendre is wonderful thing to clock to acquire a glimpse that how many French human being inhabit and also decorate their homes…and what the people they’re trying to market them to watch as one ideal. You deserve to watch some episodes of the on YouTube, by keying “Maison a vendre, Stephane Plaza complet”.

It’s funny the the French seem to be more open-minded when it involves physical beauty. Among the points I love about French society is the while girlfriend can absolutely find human being who evaluate the watch of your typical Hollywood starlet, and also while being slim is considered an ideal, anyone who is charming will certainly win the tastemakers over, in ~ least. 

This means there is a certain appreciation because that someone with imperfect teeth, favor Vanessa Paradis, someone who a little curvy or heavyset but utterly unique looking, favor Beth Ditto, or someone v a dramatic presence and style, favor Grace Jones.

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Although there room shallow and also vain French people and mean teenagers, the truth that the French together a totality seem to recognize different kinds of beauty always makes me happy, because personally, that’s how I watch the world, too. 

It’s additionally a tie to the past. Whether you’re talking about the French notion of beauty, or the word itself, what Baudelaire wrote virtually two hundreds still host true amongst many French human being today: there is typical beauty, however there’s likewise the sort that’s perfectly synthetic up by the lines Le beau est toujours bizarre  – a beauty that comes from being intriguing, surprising, also sometimes inspiring.

Who or what in France or French society do friend think is beau, belle, or also trop canon