Noun genders in French
A noun is a word that represents a person, place, or thing, whether concrete (e.g., chair, dog) or abstract (idea, happiness).
In French, all nouns have a gender - they are either masculine or feminine.
The gender of some nouns makes sense ("homme" [man] is masculine, "femme" [woman] is feminine) but others don't: the words "personne" [person] and "victime" [victim] are always feminine, even when the person or victim is a man.
It is very important to learn a noun's gender along with the noun itself because articles, adjectives, some pronouns, and some verbs have to agree with nouns; that is, they change depending on the gender of the noun they modify.
There is no easy way to determine the gender of every noun, and you have to remember the gender with each word. But a number of patterns in suffixes and word endings are helpful: some tend to indicate masculine or feminine nouns (be careful with the exceptions, that are not listed below).
- -age, for ex: barrage (in English: dam)
- -b, for ex: plomb (in English: lead)
- -ble, for ex: comptable (in English: accountant)
- -c, for ex: porc (in English: pork)
- -cle, for ex: oncle (in English: uncle)
- -d, for ex: pied (in English: foot)
- -de, for ex: hybride (in English: hybrid)
- -é, for ex: carré (in English: square)
- -eau, for ex: manteau (in English: coat)
- -ège, for ex: piège (in English: trap)
- -et, for ex: poulet (in English: chicken)
- -eur, for ex: professeur (in English: teacher)
- -f, for ex: cerf (in English: stag)
- -i, for ex: pari (in English: bet)
- -ing, for ex: planning (in English: planning)
- -isme, for ex: capitalisme (in English: capitalism)
- -k, for ex: tank (in English: tank)
- -l, for ex: fusil (in English: rifle)
- -m, for ex: prénom (in English: first name)
- -me, for ex: synonyme (in English: synonym)
- -ment, for ex: paiement (in English: payment)
- -n, for ex: garçon (in English: boy)
- -o, for ex: zoo (in English: zoo)
- -oir, for ex: couloir (in English: lobby)
- -one, for ex: cyclone (in English: cyclone)
- -ou, for ex: hibou (in English: owl)
- -p, for ex: loup (in English: wolf)
- -r, for ex: char (in English: tank)
- -s, for ex: tapis (in English: carpet)
- -ste, for ex: cycliste (in English: cycler)
- -t, for ex: yacht (in English: yacht)
- -tre, for ex: lustre (in English: ceiling light)
- -u, for ex: aperçu (in English: outline)
- -x, for ex: choix (in English: choice)
- -ace, for ex: face (in English: face)
- -ade, for ex: limonade (in English: limonade)
- -ale, for ex: cathédrale (in English: cathedral)
- -ance, for ex: romance (in English: romance)
- -be, for ex: syllabe (in English: syllable)
- -ce, for ex: force (in English: strength)
- -e, for ex: robe (in English: dress)
- -ée, for ex: soirée (in English: evening/party)
- -esse, for ex: maîtresse (in English: schoolteacher)
- -eur, for ex: chaleur (in English: heat)
- -fe, for ex: carafe (in English: carafe)
- -ie, for ex: poulie (in English: pulley)
- -ière, for ex: fermière (in English: farmer)
- -ine, for ex: piscine (in English: swimming pool)
- -ion, for ex: éducation (in English: education)
- -ique, for ex: logique (in English: logic)
- -ire, for ex: baignoire (in English: bathtub)
- -ise, for ex: franchise (in English: franchise agreement)
- -ite, for ex: bronchite (in English: bronchitis)
- -lle, for ex: fille (in English: girl)
- -mme, for ex: femme (in English: woman)
- -nde, for ex: seconde (in English: second)
- -nne, for ex: nonne (in English: nun)
- -ole, for ex: auréole (in English: halo)
- -se, for ex: course (in English: race)
- -sion, for ex: pression (in English: pressure)
- -son, for ex: maison (in English: house)
- -té, for ex: acidité (in English: acidity)
- -tié, for ex: amitié (in English: friendship)
- -tion, for ex: partition (in English: score)
- -ue, for ex: grue (in English: crane)
- -ule, for ex: particule (in English: particle)
- -ure, for ex: voiture (in English: car)
Wow!! This is wonderful. Thank you so much!
I might add that when looking up words in French dictionaries one will read "subst. masc." which means "masculine noun", and "subst. fém" which means "feminine noun. "
I say this because the first time I looked up a word and read "adj. et subst. masc." I wondered what that meant and after researching it figured out that it meant that the word could be either an adjective or a masculine noun.
- SUBSTANTIF, -IVE, adj. et subst. masc.
There's an excellent app called French Gender that presents words and endings in a simple game format where you have to choose the gender. I found it easier to just memorise the masculine endings - then if a word doesn't fit that pattern, I know it's feminine. The app also gives all the exceptions and actually there aren't too many common words that don't fit the patterns.
I would LOVE love for duolingo to have that kind of a game incorporated into the vocab section.
While this is nice to know, (why didn't I see this when I started) I think it is better to learn the gender for each word. It would drive me crazy having this printed out and having to reference it. Thank you for the reference note!
Merci beaucoup, c'est très utile!
if I am not wrong, when the word ends with an -e or -n, there generally is a 70% chance of it being feminine. Words that end in any other letter are usually masculine (70% chance maybe). But when one really isn't sure, just role the dice using this method, if its wrong, just remember the exception!
I have been checking out your deduction Legend, and was getting a quite extensive list of nouns that were exceptions, etc. So I went back and re-studied Remy's information and I wish to point out a variation - that works out more consistently. Please could you check this out and see if it holds more consistently:
In summary of the endings Remy has pointed out : I have deduced this -
Assume a noun is male except for:
Female RULE 1: if it ends in
e AND IS NOT any of the male endings of:
- ~age, i.e. barrage : dam
- ~ble, i.e. comptable : accountant
- ~cle, i.e. oncle : uncle
- ~de, i.e. hybride : hybrid
- ~é, i.e. carré : square
- ~ège, i.e. piège : trap
- ~ste, i.e. cycliste : cyclist
Female RULE 2: for "on" endings - it is female if the endings are :
- ~ion, i.e.: éducation : education | pression : pressure | partition : score
- ~son, i.e.: maison : house
So this give me 9 endings to remember, instead of 34 for male and 33 for female. Much more achievable for my mind. :) I will now go and run this through its paces for all of my lists ...
I am also wondering if there is a relationship with: ~vre being more often male?
le poivre le livre
That's a clever induction, Linda! I think there may be some additional exceptions, though. For instance, -é is masculine, but -sé, -cé, -té, and -tié are feminine. Also, -isme, -tre, and -me are masculine endings that end in -e, but they have a ton of exceptions.
Also there are some nouns ending in -t or -e(u)r that are also feminine (e.g. nuit, couleur, mer...)
Of course, my examples are just exceptions to the rule and I was merely addressing linda's exceptions post and pointed out that are more of them. But she did a good job nonetheless.
I have the most trouble with remembering the gender of nouns so thank you for this list and the fall back hints you've all talked about here.
But I have a suggestion for the Duolingo team, I think it would be extremely helpful if we had some sort of funny/catchy picture to go with the introduction of a new word. For instance there could be a male, a female, and a neutral/normal Duo that is holding or doing something with the new word.
For instance, in my head I see a blue boy Duo holding a really long sandwich up in the air ready to eat it. That would help me remember that it is le/un sandwich.
Another idea I would love for duolingo to adopt for the iPhone app: in the exercise where there are five english words and five french words, and the user has to match them, just add articles to all the nouns. That way people would see the gender when they see the words, and it would help with memorization.
Thanks, I plan to go all the way to the end of the French skill tree. This will definately help! Merci beaucoup!
Merci beaucoup. Really appreciate taking the time to build this article. Very helpful.
this has helped me alot thank you still practicing to learn as much as i can i try to do these exercises everyday but my work scheldule keeps me with late hours from morning to night and sometimes until the next day
Here's an excerpt from our work-in-progress grammar notes that may help you remember these endings in four steps with a few mnemonics:
First, the basic pattern is that nouns ending in -e are feminine. All others, especially nouns ending in consonants, are masculine. This is true for over 70% of all nouns.
Second, there are two exceptions where consonant endings are generally feminine: -ion and -son.
Third, there are nouns endings in -e that are usually masculine. These are:
- -tre, -ble, -cle ("treble clef")
- -age, -isme ("ageism")
- -one, -ème, -ège ("OMG")
Fourth, there are a few endings that either have a lot of exceptions or are otherwise more complicated.
- -é is masculine, but not -té
- -de is masculine, but not -ade, -nde, -ude
- -ste and -me tend to be masculine, but there are dozens of exceptions.
- -eur is masculine for most professions or technical terms, but it's feminine for some emotions and abstract things.
Bonjour, Remy! et merci beaucoup. This list presents a lot of work, and I am just beginning to learn French.. Elizabeth (Ohio, USA)
I look forward to seeing the list of exceptions. Where and when will it be posted?
In the meantime, may I suggest to precede "Masculine endings:" and "Feminine endings:" with the word "Typical"?
I have just found an interesting list compiled in 1993 by John Walker (email@example.com) . at" http://www.mission.net/france/paris/page.php?pg_id=3640 How fascinating !
I decided to throw together a memrise course based off of the list above and some of the comments DXLi added below it.
I made a similar course for German a while back, but this one has audio for all of the words and I even created a level that specifically tests you on the audio. As with the German course I made, each word has at least one image associated with it. You can access it by clicking on the link below:
Whether you use the memrise course or not, Remy and DXLi, and anyone else who contributed, deserve a thank you for sharing their observations with us.
Hi, can I quietly point out that you have ~eur in both the male and female list. May I ask where this list came from?
Relating different senses is called synesthesia. - and it is a great learning tool. Many remarkable thinkers have significant synesthesia. Often great musicians see music as a kaleidoscope of color., or artists hear the music of the painting. By combining different concepts we have had great insights in science, in learning about our world. And it is also part of the fascination of stories. The more connections you can make with something you are learning - the quicker and deeper will be your learning. I wish in the text publishing system we use within duolingo we had access to creating different color text. Currently we can
highlight in yellow, or if we type a link to somewhere else, it appears as blue text in the header, and gray text in the following comments in the thread. Anyway, I digress. It is always best to learn the noun along with the article , or just to know if it is considered a male or female word ! So agree with both lumna and candentlion !
Thank you for the encouragement. I think I will look more into this learning technique.
An interesting writer on this topic I have found with Bill Hanley.
This is one of the books about the subject: Two hours' study in ten minutes.
If you click on the gray link, it will take you to more information.
He has also written "Fast Easy Way to learn a Language" On this page he also provides links to many other language internet resources.
And is well known in Victoria Australia for all sorts of concepts of learning maths, check out this
But there are many other authors also on this subject.
Hi linkakanga. Another vic here. Lovely to read you Thank you for the information
You are most welcome. Thanks for the thanks ! It is so exciting to hear another Victorian is here as well. I must say , I will love the day when I have finished my learning loom for the entire French tree. Though that is such a lot of work - and as this is a hobby - I don't know when this will be. It is though, I find, a really fun and engaging hobby. I hope I get to see you around the forums :D
Also, for learning french (for the early stages of the journey), you can check out threads that I have created to assist my learning journey. Click here on " this " link to put you to my index page. I have only got past a couple of check points - so I am still very much a beginner on this journey.
Thank you that is a lot of great info. I have copied the links to my post it notes on my computer to look more into.
I actually made a list with masculine nouns in one color on one side and on the other side a different color for feminine nouns as I learn them. It has helped.
Ummmmmmmmmmmm, I would like to point out that you have -eur in both masculine and feminine.
Most nouns ending in "-eur" (e.g."chauffeur", contrôleur") are masculine, but some are feminine (e.g. "chaleur", "faveur").