French word of the week: neuf

Another week, another French word: welcome back to our blog, where this time, we’re looking at neuf.

If you’d like to listen to the pronunciation of neuf, you can find an audio clip below:

Neuf is an adjective, a word used to describe a noun. In French, you might also see its feminine form neuve, as well as its plural forms neufs and neuves. For more about adjective forms, see our Easy Learning French Grammar page about making adjectives agree with the noun they describe.

So, when can we use this word? If we translate neuf into English, it would most commonly be used to mean new. Let’s study a few examples:

Quoi de neuf ? What’s new?; What’s up?; What’s the latest?

rien de neuf nothing new; there’s no news

comme neuf like new; excellent condition

remettre à neuf to do up; to refurbish; to renovate

tout neuf brand new

J’aime bien les friperies, mais j’ai acheté cette chemise toute neuve. I do really like second-hand stores, but I bought this shirt brand new.

Un restaurant neuf vient d’ouvrir à côté de chez vous. A new restaurant just opened up next to your house.

Just like in English, the French language has a rich vocabulary of words with almost the same meaning, which we use in slightly different contexts. If you’ve been learning French for a while, you might have already seen another word meaning newnouveau, or nouvelle in its feminine form.

It’s good to know that these two words meaning new are not interchangeable:

  • We use neuf to describe something that is objectively new.
  • We use nouveau to describe something that is subjectively or abstractly new (often this simply means that it’s new to you).

« Est-ce que tu as déjà trouvé une nouvelle voiture ? » « Oui, c’est un modèle tout neuf. » “Did you find yourself a new car yet?” – “Yes, it’s a brand-new model.”

Again, depending on how much French you’ve already learnt, you might be thinking about where you’ve seen neuf before. You’d be right to think it looks familiar! It’s a homonym for the number 9. Both the adjective and the number have the exact same spelling and pronunciation – but by looking at context and word order, it should be easy enough to know how it’s being used:

Son fils a neuf ans. Her son is nine years old.

« Vous êtes combien ? » « Nous sommes neuf. » “How many of you are there?” – “Nine of us.”

This short tongue twister is a nice way to remember the difference between the two:

neuf œufs neufs nine new eggs

Note that the adjective appears after and agrees with the noun, while the number comes before the noun and doesn’t change its spelling.

Well done on learning yet another new French word! We hope to see you again next week.

Written by Holly Tarbet, freelance copywriter and editor.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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