Here is a common mistake I see among students of all levels of French, so I thought this short article would be useful, whether it is only a reminder or new to you 😉
Nouns ending in “_al” are masculine.
un journal (= a newspaper)
un cheval (= a horse)
un carnaval, etc.
These nouns have an irregular French plural.The plural form of these masculine nouns is generally “_aux”.
un journal → des journaux
un cheval → des chevaux
un animal → des animaux
There are a few exceptions of course : bal (= ball, dance), carnaval, chacal (= jackal, wild dog), étal (= stall, stand), festival, recital, régal (= fest, delight, treat), val (= valley, vale, glen) + a few more, very uncommon words that I’ve never used or seen in my life so I won’t cram your brain with it. 😉
These exceptions simply take a final “s” in the plural. So – basically and rather strangely- these exceptions are being exceptional by just “behaving” the good old, normal way!
un festival → des festivals
un carnaval → des carnavals
Adjectives are used to describe nouns (people, animals, things, landscapes etc) and therefore, they need to match/agree with these nouns. The general rule is to add an “e” to get the feminine form and an “s” for the plural. (More information about what an adjective is)
But don’t forget the rule we’ve introduced above (the rule for these irregular French plurals applies to both nouns and adjectives indeed):
The plural form of French masculine words in “_al” is : “_aux”.
So, we have the following ending for these adjectives:
Postal → un code postal (« code » is masculine)→ des codes postaux (a post/zip code)
Tropical → une région tropicale (« région » is feminine) → des régions tropicales (tropical areas/regions)
Your turn ! Give the singular and plural forms of the following:
1. maison (fem.) + rural (= a rural house)
2. problem (masc.) + mondial (= a global/world issue/problem)
3. total (masc.) + général (= a general amount/sum)
1. Une maison rurale, des maisons rurales.
2. Un problème mondial, des problèmes mondiaux
3. Un total général, des totaux généraux !
Easy? I know that the plural of « total », « totaux » seems weird and counterintuitive and yet…this is the correct form 😉 Did you get it right?
Make your own examples with irregular French plural forms with “_al” in the comment section below. I’ll have a look at them! 🙂