Gender of French nouns
All French nouns have a gender. Every noun is defined as either masculine (French: masculin) or feminine (French: féminin). There are no neuter nouns.
Whenever you are using a noun, you need to know whether it is masculine or feminine as this affects the form of other words used with it, such as:
- adjectives that describe it
- articles that go before it
- pronouns that replace it
Especially when it comes to definite articles you have to consider that:
- le or un before a noun tells you it is masculine
- la or une before a noun tells you it is feminine
Please note that l' is used before masculine or feminine nouns beginning with a vowel or silent h.
Gender of things and abstract words
ln English, we refer to things with "it". ln French, however, things are either masculine or feminine. Because of this, the gender usually is used arbitrary and must be memorized in the process of learning new vocabularies.
Different meaning of the nouns
1.) There are nouns which have a different meaning, according to the circumstance if they're used as a masculine or feminine.
|masculine form||feminine form|
|le crêpe (textile)||la crêpe (pancake)|
|le critique (critic)||la critique (criticism)|
|le livre (book)||la livre (pound)|
|le manche (stem)||la manche (sleeve)|
|le mémoire (memoir)||la mémoire (memory)|
|le mode (mode)||la mode (fashion)|
|le mort (death man)||la mort (death)|
|le poêle (stove)||la poêle (frying pan)|
|le vase (vase)||la vase (mud)|
|le tour (tour)||la tour (tower)|
Nouns ending in -eur
2.) Nouns which end in -eur are masculine when they want to describe something concrete and female, when they want to describe something abstract.
- le monteur (the engine)
- le directeur (the director)
- la douleur (the pain)
- la grandeur (the greatness)
Endings of masculine and feminine nouns
3.) Certain characteristic endings indicate the gender of the noun:
|masculine endings||Examples for masculine endings||feminine endings||Examples for feminine endings|
le garage un avantage
(the garage, an advantage)
la salade la promenade
(the salat, the walk)
le cheval le signal
(the horse, the signal)
la distance la différence
(the distance, the difference)
le château le bateau
(the castle, the boat)
la journée une idée
(the day, the idea)
le document le talent
(the document, the talent)
les nouvelles une échelle
(the news, the ladder)
le billet le guichet
(the ticket, the ticket counter)
la cigarette la bicyclette
(the cigarette, the bicycle)
le cahier le métier
(exercise book, the job)
la maladie la librairie
(the disease, the library)
le tourisme le communisme
(the tourism, the communism)
la cuisine la cantine
(the kitchen, the canteen)
le devoir le pouvoir
(the homework, the power)
la télévision la distraction
(the television, the distraction)
General rule of the gender of French nouns
Generally, we add an -e to a masculine noun in order to obtain the feminine.
- Un anglais -----> une anglaise
But they are many exceptions as we already saw below in the lists.
the nouns ending in -er make their feminine en ère
- Un boulanger -----> une boulangère
Some nouns double the final consonant before the -e
- Un collégien ----> une collégienne
Some nouns in -e make them feminine en -esse
- Une comte ----> Une comtesse
The nouns ending in -eur turn into feminine:
- Either in -euse
- Either in -trice
- Or in -esse
Nouns ending in -if make them feminine in -ive
- Un fugitif ----> une fugitive
Some nouns completely change in the feminine and some others are irregulars like the animals gender.
Gender of persons and animals
1.) The gender of persons and animals in French is always reduced to their natural gender.
- le monsieur (mister)
- le coq (chicken)
- la dame (lady)
- la poule (chicken)
2.) You recognize a female noun not only by looking at the article but also because of the ending
- acteur - actrice (actor - actress)
- chat - chatte (male cat - female cat)
- docteur - doctoresse (doctor)
- veuf - veuve (widow - widower)
3.) Sometimes you can also add -é to the end of a masculine noun to form the feminine.
- un ami - une amie (friend)
- un ennemi - une ennemie (enemy)
4.) It's also common to use periphrases.
- une femme écrivain (a female writer)
- une giraffe mâle (a male giraffe)
5.) Some nouns have two genders, which are differentiated only by their articles.
- un élève - une élève (pupil)
- un touriste - une touriste (tourist)
6.) For some nouns there is only a masculine form, which applies to both sexes.
- un écrivain (writer)
- un auteur (author)
List of animals gender
|Masculine noun||Feminine noun||Translation|
|Un taureau||Une vache||(A cow)|
|Un cheval||Une jument||(A horse)|
|Un agneau||Une agnelle||(A lamb)|
|Un loup||Une louve||(A wolf)|
|Un canard||Une cane||(A duck)|
|Un âne||Une ânesse||(A donkey)|
|Un cerf||Une biche||(A deer)|
|Un chameau||Une chamelle||(A camel)|
|Un chien||Une chienne||(A dog)|
|Un dindon||Une dinde||(A turkey)|
|Un singe||Une guenon||(A monkey)|
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