Certain = specific / sure (adjectives that change meaning according to position)

Note that certain adjectives change their meanings depending if they appear before or after the noun.

Look at these uses of certain/certaine:

Un certain homme
a particular man

C'est une opportunité certaine.
It's a sure opportunity.

Une femme d'un certain âge.
A woman of a certain age.

Certains projets sont faciles.
Certain projects are easy.

Before the noun, certain/certaine means some or particular: it retains a vagueness here.

After the noun, the meaning of certain is similar to the English one of being sure, certain, unquestionable

Note: generally adjectives appear after the noun, but some very common adjectives go before.

 See also: 

Ancien = former / old (adjectives that change meaning according to position) 

Cher= dear / expensive (adjectives that change meaning according to position) 

Propre = own / clean (adjectives that change meaning according to position) 

Dernier = final / previous (adjectives that change meaning according to position)

Vrai = real / true (adjectives that change meaning according to position)  

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

C'est une opportunité certaine.
It's a sure opportunity.



Une femme d'un certain âge.
A woman of a certain age.


Un certain homme
a particular man


Certains projets sont faciles.
Certain projects are easy.


Un homme certain.
A sure man.


Q&A Forum 5 questions, 9 answers

LizC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

A kind of ...

Lesson was: cette chanteuse a un ... kind of talent. How does certain translate to a kind of. Thanks. 

Asked 3 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

For me Liz, un certain talent would translate as ‘a certain kind of’, meaning indeterminate amount of talent, but talent neverltheless.

If you say for instance :

Cette femme/ cet homme /cette maison/ ce village a un certain charme 

It means she/he/it has a certain amount of charm but not as much as using -

Beaucoup de charme

or 

très charmant/e

Hope this helps!

 

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Cette chanteuse a un certain talent. -- This singer has "some kind of/a certain" talent.

It is not straightforward to translate that sentence to proper English while staying true to the original French wording. The point is that certain can mean two things, depending whether it comes before or after the noun:

After the noun is easy; it simply means certain, sure.

Before the noun its effect is to make the noun a bit undefinable, uncertain. Many times the English "a kind of" works in the translation. Once you grasp what the French sentence wants to express, you then look for the best way to cast that into English.

A kind of ...

Lesson was: cette chanteuse a un ... kind of talent. How does certain translate to a kind of. Thanks. 

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LannyC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

certain -vs- (un) peu de

So I overlooked answering with "certain" for the question : Il y a un ___.  (There is some risk.)  As risk is uncountable I went with : Il y a un peu de risque.  (There is a bit of risk.)  In English I can think of instances where those differ (your example of full stress on "some" being one of them.) but they seem mostly interchangable.  Any hints on when to use "certain" and when to use "(un) peu de" in French?
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Lanny,

'Certain' is a indeterminate quantity and 'un peu' is a small amount so I don't feel they are interchangeable.

Hope this helps!

 

 

 

certain -vs- (un) peu de

So I overlooked answering with "certain" for the question : Il y a un ___.  (There is some risk.)  As risk is uncountable I went with : Il y a un peu de risque.  (There is a bit of risk.)  In English I can think of instances where those differ (your example of full stress on "some" being one of them.) but they seem mostly interchangable.  Any hints on when to use "certain" and when to use "(un) peu de" in French?

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CatherineB2Kwiziq community member

Why is it "Certain" rather than "Some"?

I'm a little confused. In the lesson above it said "Before the noun, certain/certaine means 'some' or 'particular': it retains a vagueness here. After the noun, the meaning of certain is similar to the English one of being 'sure, certain, unquestionable'." Yet in the example "Certain projets sont faciles" means "Certain projects are easy." Why is it "Certain" and not "Some"? Many thanks Catherine
Asked 2 years ago
GruffKwiziq team member
Hi Catherine - because in this context "certain" has the same meaning as "some", so either word is appropriate. It's not about which word to use, but which *meaning* we are conveying: certainty versus a vague quantity/specificity. Does that make sense?

Why is it "Certain" rather than "Some"?

I'm a little confused. In the lesson above it said "Before the noun, certain/certaine means 'some' or 'particular': it retains a vagueness here. After the noun, the meaning of certain is similar to the English one of being 'sure, certain, unquestionable'." Yet in the example "Certain projets sont faciles" means "Certain projects are easy." Why is it "Certain" and not "Some"? Many thanks Catherine

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AnnC1Kwiziq community member

Why does "There is some risk" translate to "Il y a un certain risque"

instead of "Il y a un risque" ? It seems like saying there is some risk implies more that the risk is certain/sure/definite more than what the particular risk is.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Ann ! "Il y a un risque" would simply mean "There is a risk", whereas "Il y a un certain risk" brings a vagueness to the statement: "There is *some* risk". Here the difficulty lies in that in English you would vocally emphasise the *some* to insist on it. In French, you use "certain" :) I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !

Why does "There is some risk" translate to "Il y a un certain risque"

instead of "Il y a un risque" ? It seems like saying there is some risk implies more that the risk is certain/sure/definite more than what the particular risk is.

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AurélieKwiziq team member

Stuart asked: "Could we not also say "une valeur sûre" as well as "une valeur certaine"? "

Sa collection de tableaux a une ___ . (His painting collection has sure value.)
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
Bonjour Stuart ! That's an interesting case! Indeed, "une valeur sûre" could seem to be a possible synonym here for "une valeur certaine", however they don't actually mean the same thing in French. ​ ​Look at this sentence: "Fais-moi confiance, c'est une valeur sûre !" (Trust me, it's a safe bet / a sure thing / a valued asset!) ​Note that you use it with "être", and would never say "avoir une valeur sûre". I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour David !

I looked at the examples you provided and:

On a une valeur sûre avec Lisa Angeli.  
-> Here it's the same case I mentioned, where it means she is a reliable talent for these people. This sentence means that "they have a reliable winner in her."

As for the other examples, I must admit that they seem valid, though I've never used this expression like this myself.

I will therefore amend the question to accept both answers :)

Merci et bonne journée !

 

PhillipC1Kwiziq community member
Hi Aurélie, That's a tricky point; I think most anglophones would use the two (certain , sure) interchangeably. You might consider integrating it in a quiz or placing a note in one of the lessons. Keep up the good work !
DavidC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Here are examples of French speakers using "une valeur sûre" with avoir:

https://www.public.fr/Public-TV/Scoop-Public-TV/Exclu-Video-Stephane-Bern-Eurovision-2015-On-a-une-valeur-sure-avec-Lisa-Angell-730072

http://www.alterinfo.net/L-arnaque-de-la-recuperation-des-bijoux-en-or-par-des-operateurs-financiers-prives_a55634.html

(Comment #29)

https://vancouver.consulfrance.org/Notariat-et-legalisations-de-signature-Procedure

Stuart asked: "Could we not also say "une valeur sûre" as well as "une valeur certaine"? "

Sa collection de tableaux a une ___ . (His painting collection has sure value.)

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