1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. [GF] Nouns don't need to be n…


[GF] Nouns don't need to be nonsense :)

Link : learning loom home | Nouns in duolingo | note: click on blue text for audio or links.

Noun genders in French are hard - especially at first - for us English speakers to get our head around. To quote Remy : " 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 grammatical 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.

And as a heads up, it is best to learn the article un or une applicable for the noun, at the time you learn the noun. It is preferable to learn using un or une, as unlike le / la, they are not affected élision. You can read more about élision here.

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 "

Although all the french teachers I have met - say - there is only one way to learn the gender of all nouns - and that is to learn the gender for each word. However - as part of a learning strategy - to make it a bit more fun - to help make a game out of it - it is fun to try to work out if there are some patterns - that will make this acquisition quicker - and also more directed. So here goes : ....
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. le visage : face ; barrage : dam
- ~ble, i.e. le cartable : briefcase, school bag
- ~cle , i.e. le couvercle : lid ; oncle : uncle
- ~de , i.e.
hybride : hybrid
- , i.e.
carré : square
- ~ège , i.e.
piège : trap
- ~ste , i.e.
cycliste : cyclist
- ~vre , i.e.
le livre : the book / le poivre* : the pepper

Female RULE 2: for "on" endings - it MAYBE female if the endings are :
- ~ion, i.e.: éducation : education | pression : pressure | partition : score
currently I believe this is true in 3/4 , 75% of times.
- ~son, i.e.: maison : house ; la saison : the season
Currently I believe it is masculine 2/3 , 66% of the time, and feminine 1/3 , 33% of the time (pending further research).

So this gives me 10 endings to remember, and then only the left over exceptions to learn as I come across them ...
BUT NOTE - these are NOT steadfast rules. They are like the rules for pirates - more like guidelines. And I am continuing to see if I can develop them further - while keeping them simple and very FEW in number. and then open discussion to check on discrepancies - and acknowledge them as discrepancies. They are strongly based on some FANTASTIC work by Remy. So if you like this - PLEASE also thank REMY !

This list above is deduced from the work Remy has pointed out here on this thread.
It is well worth reading this thread - by clicking on the word here . To get back to this thread - use the back arrow key in your browser.

-Nouns in duolingo
-Noun genders in French by Remy

February 24, 2015



Thanks for your appreciation Caroly250 ! I like to know if what I post is useful, and of course - if I have got anything wrong. I am really enjoying learning French, and the community here :)


ok, now I have posted this up here - I am now going to go through nouns and find exceptions - and post them here. and see what happens, to see how much of a 'thing' this theory is .... Mind you lots of words are working - but these are the ones I am finding that are not .... But for the about 200 words I have gone through - this list is pretty small for the exceptions. And it is an interesting way to study the words ... I will keep adding to this - and see if any other 'rules' might shake out ....


This really helped me a lot to understand the gender rules. Merci!


If you find other tricks and things that make sense to you, please drop by and leave more comments here.
I believe to learn a language takes many teachers and mentors, and also engagement from many sources.
Also don't forget to visit the other resources I am continuing to build up, for example here

And of course comment and embellish them - in ways that others may also find useful - or may be useful for you to refer to.
And keep on asking questions !


I have just found an interesting list compiled in 1993 by John Walker (kelvin@fourmilab.ch) . at" http://www.mission.net/france/paris/page.php?pg_id=3640
How fascinating !


I still have to cross check all my figures, and cross check all the raw data, and I also want to make sure that the words used in duolingo (as far as I have got - about half way through), are also in this over 1,000 word list of french nouns.
BUT based on this , I would say a fair call would be to say:
If a noun ends in an e , then it is a feminine noun, EXCEPT for :
and ~age (being the important ones to remember).
but also:


While if a noun ends in ~ion, there is a fair chance it will be female (being a 75% chance - which are fair odds) . Once I have finished my research, I will post more details up here.

I have just done some number crunching on a bit over 1,000 nouns.

-17/17- are masculine
-16/16- ~age are masculine
-4/4- ~ble are masculine
-2/2- ~cle are masculine
-4/4- ~de are masculine
-3/3- ~vre are masculine
-2/2- ~ège are masculine

Female RULE 2: for "on" endings - it is female if the endings are :

-4/16 masculine- ~ion, i.e.: éducation : education | pression : pressure | partition : score -6/9 masculine- ~son, i.e.: maison : ho

-Of 364 high use feminine nouns :
72 do not end in e
( so about 4/5 - 80% of all feminine nouns end in e ! - pretty good odds. )

-Of 527 masculine nouns :
44 male nouns ending in e


This is the best explanation I could find on gender rules. Merci beaucoup!

Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.