French Grammar: Masculine and Feminine Nouns


FRNGrammarMasculineFeminineNouns

French Grammar: Masculine and Feminine Nouns

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French Grammar: Masculine and Feminine Nouns

la grammaire française: les substantifs masculins et féminins

French nouns (les substantifs) are people, places, and things. They have names! In French, ALL nouns are either MASCULINE (masculin) nouns or FEMININE (féminin) nouns. You’ll need to learn to use nouns if you want to talk about people, places and things!

Study:

In French, nouns can be singular or plural AND they can also be either masculine (masculin) or feminine (féminin).

If you’re talking about people, masculine and feminine nouns will follow the sex of the person that you’re talking about.

un homme : a man
une femme : a woman

For objects, there might not be ANY clear reason why some nouns are masculine and some are feminine.

un jour : a day (masc.)
une nuit : a night (fem.)

un bras : an arm (masc.)
une main : a hand (fem.)

un divan : a couch (masc.)
une chaise : a chair (fem.)

GENDER OF NOUNS (les substantifs et le genre) :

While there are no general rules for determining the gender of all nouns, many times the gender of nouns can be determined: (a) by their meaning; or (b) by their ending.  For all other nouns, their gender must be learned and memorized individually.  For this reason, it’s always helpful to learn the indefinite article (un or une) along with the noun.

(a) As mentioned above, nouns that refer to male humans or animals are masculine.  Nouns that refer to female humans or animals are feminine.

un garçon : a boy
une fille : a girl

un chien : a (male) dog
une chienne : a (female) dog

(b) In many cases, the gender of nouns is determined by their ending.

MASCULINE NOUNS (les substantifs masculins) :

– Borrowed words (which often come from English) and words for new technologies are usually masculine.

 In addition, the following endings typically denote masculine nouns:

– Nouns that end in –b, –c, –cle, –d, –ing, –k, –l, –m, –oir, or –p are usually masculine.  However, there aren’t many nouns that end this way in French.

In addition, the following endings typically denote masculine nouns:

acle (as in un spectacle : a show / a performance)

age (as in un message : a message)


EXCEPTIONS:

une cage (a cage)
une image (an image)
une page (a page)
une plage (a beach)
la rage (rabies / rage)

al (as in un journal : a newspaper)

é (as in un café : a café / a cup of coffee)


EXCEPTION:

une clé (a key)

eau (as in un cadeau : a gift) 


EXCEPTIONS:

l’eau (water)
la peau (skin)

ège (as in un collège : a middle school)

EXCEPTION:

la Norvège (Norway)

er (as in un boucher : a butcher)

et (as in un béret : a beret)

eur (as in un aspirateur : a vacuum cleaner)


EXCEPTIONS:

une douleur (a pain)
la chaleur (the heat)

ier (as in un cahier : a notebook)

in (as in un magasin : a store)


EXCEPTION:

la fin (the end)

isme (as in le tourisme : tourism)

ment (as in un bâtiment : a building)

EXCEPTION:

une jument (a mare)

o (as in un stylo : a pen)

EXCEPTIONS:

la météo (the weather forecast)
une moto (a motorcycle)
la radio (the radio broadcast)

on (as in un blouson : a jacket)

EXCEPTION:

une maison (a house)

FEMININE NOUNS (les substantifs féminins) :

-Names of countries that end in –e are usually feminine: la France, la Suisse, la Russie, la Chine, etc.

EXCEPTIONS:

le Mexique
le Cambodge
le Zymbabwe

-Proper names that end in –e are also usually feminine: Denise, Michèle, Paule, etc.

In addition, the following endings typically denote feminine nouns:

ace (as in une menace : a threat)

ade (as in une balade : a stroll)

EXCEPTIONS:

un grade (a rank)
le jade (jade)
un stade (a stadium)

ale (as in une capitale : a capital)

ance (as in une balance : a weighing scale)

be (as in une robe : a dress)

EXCEPTIONS:

un cube (a cube)
un microbe (a microbe)
un verbe (a verb)

ée (as in une bouchée : a mouthful)

elle (as in une pelle : a shovel)

emme (as in une femme : a woman)

ence (as in une agence : an agency)

enne (as in une comédienne : a comedienne)

erie (as in une librairie : a bookstore)

esse (as in une hôtesse : a hostess)

ette (as in une brunette : a brunette)

EXCEPTION:

un squelette (a skeleton)

ie (as in une scie : a saw)

EXCEPTION:

un génie (a genius)

ique (as in une boutique : a boutique)

EXCEPTIONS:

le plastique (plastic)
un moustique (a mosquito)

oire (as in une poire : a pear)


EXCEPTION:

un pourboire (a tip)

sion (as in une version : a version)

ssion (as in une émission : a [radio or television] program)

(as in une activité : an activity)

EXCEPTIONS:

l’été (the summer)
un côté (a side)

tion (as in une question : a question)

ure (as in une chaussure : a shoe)

Some feminine nouns are formed by adding –e to the end of the masculine noun form:

un ami : a (male) friend
une amie : a (female) friend

un étudiant : a (male) student
une étudiante : a (female) student

un cousin : a (male) cousin
une cousine : a (female) cousin

un chat : a (male) cat
une chatte : a (female) cat

Some feminine nouns are formed by changing the masculine ending to a feminine ending:

an -> un paysan : a (male) peasant
anne -> une paysanne : a (female) peasant

el -> un intellectuel : a (male) intellectual
elle -> une intellectuelle : a (female) intellectual

eur -> un vendeur : a salesman
euse -> une vendeuse : a saleswoman

ien -> un gardien : a (male) guardian
ienne -> une gardienne : a (female) guardian

ier -> un pâtissier : a (male) pastry chef
ière -> une pâtissière : a (female) pastry chef

on -> un patron : a (male) boss
onne -> une patronne : a (female) boss

teur -> un acteur : an actor
trice -> une actrice : an actress

NOTE:  Some nouns are the same in both the masculine and the feminine forms.  With these nouns, it’s the indefinite article that lets us know whether the person being referred to is a male or a female:

un artiste : an (male) artist
une artiste : a (female) artist

un camarade : a (male) friend

une camarade : a (female) friend

un élève : a (male) pupil
une élève : a (female) pupil

un secrétaire : a (male) secretary
une secrétaire : a (female) secretary

un touriste : a (male) tourist
une touriste : a (female) tourist

NOTE:  Some nouns are always masculine, regardless of the gender of the person to whom they refer:

un policier : a police officer

un bébé : a baby

un enfant : a child

un médecin : a doctor

un professeur : a professor

NOTE:  Some nouns are always feminine, regardless of the gender of the person to whom they refer:

une personne : a person

une vedette : a star (of film, television, etc.)

une victime : a victim

Adapt:

Qui est Marie?

Who is Marie?

Marie est un professeur de l’université.

Marie is a university professor.

Vous avez un livre?

Do you (formal) have a book?

Oui, j’ai un livre.

Yes, I have a book.

Le bureau est très grand.

The desk is very big.

La chaise est très petite.

The chair is very small.

Où est la maîtresse?

Where is the (female) teacher?

La maîtresse est dans la salle de classe.

The (female) teacher is in the classroom.

Il y a un sac à dos vert ici?
Is there a green backpack here?

Non, il n’y a pas de sac à dos vert ici.

No, there is not a green backpack here.

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