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The gender of nouns in French

Updated: Apr 24

Is this word masculine or feminine? 🤔 This is a question that is often asked by people who learn French.


To answer the question of the gender of the nouns in French, let's focus on their endings!



The gender of nouns in French: masculine or feminine


In French there are only 2 genders: masculine and feminine. The gender of nouns is important to speak French correctly because it defines:

  • the article (un/une, le/la, du/de la)

Si tu vas à la boulangerie, peux-tu acheter du pain et un croissant, s’il te plaît ?

(If you go to the bakery, could you please by some bread and a croissant?)


  • the gender of adjectives: in French the adjectives agree with the nouns in gender (masculine/feminine) and number (singular/plural).

Un pantalon bleu/une jupe bleue, un grand canapé/une grande table

(a blue pair of trousers / a blue skirt, a big couch / a big table)


  • the possessive adjectives (mon/ma, ton/ta, son/sa)

J’habite chez ma tante et mon oncle.

(I live with my aunt and my uncle.)


  • the démonstrative adjectives (ce/cette)

Tu as vu cette série ? Elle est géniale !

(Have you seen this TV show? It's awesome!)


Now you understand why you have to distinguish masculine and feminine forms to speak French properly!


The ending of the nouns in French can help you


Many students think that a word ending by "e" is feminine and on the contrary, it's masculine if it ends by another letter... It's wrong! This rule can work but not always.


Exemples : le beurre, le musée, le canapé, le cadre, un immeuble… These words end by "e" and are masculine.

(the butter, the museum, the couch, the frame, a building)



So how can I know?


Some noun endings define their gender. Of course there are exceptions but these tables can help you:



1. Masculine terminations

Terminations

Examples

-eau

un bateau, un chapeau, un château, un tableau, un gâteau

-er

le boucher, le boulanger, un ouvrier

-é

un associé, le pré, un résumé

-et

un projet, un tiret, le parquet

-al

un journal, un cheval, un canal

-ail

un travail, un vitrail, un gouvernail

-age

un village, un message, un bagage, le bricolage

-ment

un supplément, un instrument, un élément, un médicament

-isme

un séisme, le magnétisme, le pessimisme

-euil

un fauteuil, un écureuil, un accueil

-eil

un orteil, le soleil, le sommeil



2. Feminine terminations

Terminations

Examples

-tion

la nation, une exception, une organisation, la perception

-sion ou -son

la télévision, une mission, une maison, la raison

-té

la sensibilité, la timidité, l’honnêteté

-elle

une étincelle, une passerelle, une tourterelle

-aille ou -eille

une bataille, une médaille, la volaille, une merveille, une corbeille, une abeille

-ette

la poussette, la camionnette, la trottinette, une serviette

-ine

la cuisine, une cabine, la médecine

-ie

la photographie, la magie, la sortie

-ure

l’architecture, la confiture, la conjoncture, une piqûre, la culture

-ère

une serpillère, une infirmière, une cuisinière

-ance ou -ence

l’enfance, l’assurance, la balance, la décadence, l’essence

-ise

une surprise, la banquise, une devise


What about the gender of country names? Masculine or feminine?


Regarding the country and continent names, the "e" rule work:

  • Country names ended by “e” are feminine: la France, la Russie, la Chine, la Tunisie, la Grèce, l’Asie, l’Europe…


  • On the contrary, country names ended by any other letter are masculine: le Pérou, le Portugal, le Brésil, le Japon, le Canada…


⚠️ There are a few exceptions : le Belize, le Cambodge, le Mexique, le Mozambique, le Zimbabwe. These country names end by "e" but they are masculine.



How to memorize the gender of the nouns in French?


To remember if a noun is masculine or feminine, I recommend you to always learn the nouns with their article (le/la or un/une).


If you have a doubt, try to associate an adjective to the noun and hear what "sounds" better. "Un petit maison" ou "une petite maison"? Maybe one of them sounds more natural, more intuitive?

"Une petite maison" is the correct form !



Exercise


Let's do a short exercise : here are 15 nouns in French. Try to guess the gender of these words! The answers are below.



liste of nouns in French

Réponses : le carnaval, le jardinage, la précision, le tourisme, une alliance, une surprise, le bétail, une cantine, la géologie, un mariage, une montgolfière, une ambulance, une allure, une hirondelle, un déguisement




 


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