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Beau/Belle – Beautiful

Beau/Belle – Beautiful

In today’s lesson we’ll look at the two commonly used French adjectives beau and belle, which mean “beautiful”. Specifically, we’ll look at the spellings of these irregular adjectives as well as where to place them in a sentence.



Beau / belle = beautiful in French

How to Say Beautiful in French

To begin with, the first word you’ll see in the French dictionary for beautiful is beau. This is the masculine singular form of beautiful in French. 

For example, you’ll use it to describe masculine singular words like this:

Le beau chien

the beautiful dog

But, beautiful in French also translates to the word belle. Belle is the feminine singular form of “beautiful.” 

For example, you’ll use it to describe feminine singular words like this:

La belle danseuse

the beautiful dancer

Other Translations of Beau in French

But, even though beautiful translates to beau/belle in French, these two vocabulary words can mean different things depending on the situation.

For example, in English, it’s not as common to call a man beautiful. But, this means that beau can sometimes translate to attractive, handsome or good-looking.

So if you’re using “beau” to describe a masculine person rather than a masculine object, it would translate like this: 

Le beau boulanger

the handsome baker

Depending on the situation beau/belle can also translate as:

  • Lovely
  • Pleasant
  • Fine
  • Good

Adjective agreement for beau/belle/bel

Now, we’ve talked a little bit about the feminine and masculine forms of beautiful in French. But what we haven’t had the chance to look at is it in its plural form. 

Since every French noun has a masculine/feminine and singular/plural form, the adjective must match that form with its own. But, let’s look at a few examples.

Plural vs. Singular

The masculine plural form of beautiful in French is beaux. And the feminine plural form of beautiful in French is belles

So, here is how to use the plural form of beautiful in French:

Les beaux jardins (mpl.)

the beautiful gardens

Les belles robes (fpl.)

the beautiful dresses

Difference between beau and bel

We’ve almost made it to the end of all of the forms. But there is one last form, which is bel

In the French language, bel is a masculine singular form of beautiful, just like beau. But, since beau ends in a vowel, you can’t use it before a word that starts with a vowel. 

So, similar to how we say “an apple” instead of “a apple,” you say un bel oiseau instead of un beau oiseau. Here are a few other examples:

Un bel écureuil

a beautiful squirrel

How to usebeau and belle in a sentence

You did it! You’ve now learned all of the forms of beautiful in the language of love. But, there are a few rules about how to use beau/belle in a sentence. 

Most French adjectives go after the noun they’re describing in a sentence. But, beau/belle is one of the rare adjectives that come before the noun it’s describing. 

For example, you’ll say la belle maison, not la maison belle.

Adverbs with Beau/Belle

That being said, if you pair an adverb with beau or belle, the structure slightly changes. Instead of going before the noun like we saw above, the adverb + adjective phrase will go after the noun like this:

  • Un chien trop beau = a very beautiful dog
  • Une fille terriblement belle = a terribly beautiful girl

The only exception to this is the adverb très. With très and beau, the adverb + adjective phrase stays before the noun. So, here’s an example:

  • Un très beau chien = a very beautiful dog
  • Une très belle fille = a very beautiful girl

How to tell a woman or man she/he is beautiful in French

Indeed, one common reason English speakers want to learn the word “beautiful” in French is so that they can use it to tell a woman or man she/he is beautiful. 

So if you would also like to compliment a beautiful woman or man in France, here’s how to say it depending on the situation. 

To call a woman beautiful you can say:

Vous êtes belle

You are beautiful (formal)

Tu es belle

You are beautiful (informal)

But, to call a man beautiful/handsome you can say:

Vous êtes beau

You are handsome (formal)

Tu es beau

You are handsome (informal) 

Expressions with beau and belle

Since beau and belle are both common French words, there are a few famous expressions and quotes containing the word beautiful in French. So let’s take a look at a few.

  • à belles dents = with greed
  • beau comme un coeur = very beautiful
  • avoir beau dire = may well do [something]
  • Avoir le beau rôle = to get to play the hero

French Proverbs with the word beau/belle

Quebecois proverb

  • Chaque oiseau trouve son nid beau.” 

Every bird finds their beautiful nest. 

Provençal Proverb

The beautiful path is never long. 

French Proverb

  • “Après la pluie, le beau temps.”

After the rain, good weather.

Emmanuel Kant Quote

  • Le sublime touche, le beau charme.

The sublime affects deeply, the beautiful charms.

Breton Proverb

  • Celui qui aime les chats a une belle femme.”

Whoever loves cats has a beautiful wife.

French Proverb

  • La plus belle épargne est celle du temps.”

The most beautiful savings account is time.

Synonyms for beautiful in French

Lastly, just like how there are multiple English words that mean beautiful, there are many synonyms for beautiful in French. So here are a few other common ways to say beautiful in French besides beau/belle:

  • Joli(e) = pretty
  • Magnifique = magnificent 
  • Ravissant(e) = ravishing 
  • Mignon(ne) = cute
  • Merveilleux/euse = marvellous
  • Splendide = gorgeous
  • En beauté = beautiful 
  • Superbe = superb
  • Éblouissant(e) = dazzling
  • Éclatant = brilliant 
  • Angélique = angelic

Slang words for beautiful in French

And finally, if you really want to sound like the native speakers it’s time to learn some French slang for beautiful. 

Sexy (adj.)

Just like we use a few French words in the English language, the French use English words as well. The French use the word sexy as more of a slang version of beautiful.

But be careful because just like in English, the word sexy in French does have more of a sexual connotation. 

Canon (adj.)

Canon is commonly used among young people to mean hot or very beautiful. This phrase was coined in the second half of the 20th century and the French originally used it to refer to an artillery cannon. 

And its noise and damage were very powerful so French speakers would use it as an intensifying adjective. But nowadays, the word is used to describe an extremely attractive person. 

Bonne (adj.)

Bonne is a word that won’t always be appreciated by its recipient. It means hot or sexy, but specifically means that someone is sexually desirable. 

Usually, you don’t use this word to someone’s face. But, it’s more of a “locker room-type” word. So I would say beware when using it!

  • Bombe (n.)

Similar to canon, bombe is a word to describe a very attractive woman. Bombe comes from the old French bombance, which the French used to describe the vanity and pride of a person in the thirteenth century. 

Later on, the French started using the phrase bombe sexuelle to describe someone with certain charms.  But now, you’ll usually just hear the French say bombe.

What do the French think is beautiful?

But, before you start using all of the French words for beautiful, it’s important to know what the French think is beautiful. We often view French women as these long-legged, smooth-tressed models with a pack of cigarettes in their blazer pockets. 

Next, they’ll eat pain au chocolat for breakfast, enjoy a hunk of brie cheese after both lunch and dinner, and always have room for a chocolate soufflé for dessert. And yet, they still squeeze into the jeans they’ve been wearing since high school. 

But, French beauty is so much more than those stereotypes. In summary, French beauty is very diverse and is more about enjoying a balanced lifestyle, cultivating confidence, and using your uniqueness to your advantage.

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Calli Zarpas
Calli Zarpas, blogger, producer, and content creator, is a lover of all things travel, wellness, and French. Having begun traveling in her teens, Calli visited 30 countries before settling down in France post-college. When she's not writing French-language content for FrenchLearner or traveling the world, you can find Calli creating content for herself and others on Instagram and her blog, Wooish.

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Calli Zarpas

Calli Zarpas, blogger, producer, and content creator, is a lover of all things travel, wellness, and French. Having begun traveling in herĀ teens, Calli visited 30 countries before settling down in France post-college. When she's not writing French-languageĀ content for FrenchLearner or traveling the world, you can find Calli creating content for herself and others onĀ Instagram and her blog,Ā Wooish.

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