Easy Learning French

Gender - Easy Learning Grammar French

1 Nouns referring to people

  • Most nouns referring to men and boys are masculine.
un hommea man
un roia king
  • Most nouns referring to women and girls are feminine.
une fillea girl
une reinea queen
  • When the same word is used to refer to either men/boys or women/girls, its gender usually changes depending on the sex of the person it refers to.
un camaradea (male) friend
une camaradea (female) friend
un Belgea Belgian (man)
une Belgea Belgian (woman)
Grammar Extra!Some words for people have only one possible gender, whether they refer to a male or a female.
un bébéa (male or female) baby
un guidea (male or female) guide
une personnea (male or female) person
une vedettea (male or female) star
  • In English, we can sometimes make a word masculine or feminine by changing the ending, for example, Englishman and Englishwoman, or prince and princess. In French, very often the ending of a noun changes depending on whether it refers to a man or a woman.
un Anglaisan Englishman
une Anglaisean Englishwoman
un princea prince
une princessea princess
un employéa (male) employee
une employéea (female) employee
  • For more information on Masculine and feminine forms of words, see Nouns.

2 Nouns referring to animals

  • In English we can choose between words like bull or cow, depending on the sex of the animal we are referring to. In French too there are sometimes separate words for male and female animals.
un taureaua bull
une vachea cow
  • Sometimes, the same word with different endings is used for male and female animals.
un chiena (male) dog
une chiennea (female) dog, a bitch
TipWhen you do not know or care what sex the animal is, you can usually use the masculine form as a general word.
  • Words for other animals do not change according to the sex of the animal. Just learn the French word with its gender, which is always the same.
un poissona fish
une sourisa mouse

3 Nouns referring to things

  • In English, we call all things – for example, table, car, book, appleit. In French, however, things are either masculine or feminine. As things do not divide into sexes the way humans and animals do, there are no physical clues to help you with their gender in French. Try to learn the gender as you learn the word.
  • There are lots of rules to help you:
  • words ending in -e are generally feminine (une boulangerie a baker’s; une banque a bank)
  • words ending in a consonant (any letter except a, e, i, o or u) are generally masculine (un aéroport an airport; un film a film)
  • There are some exceptions to these rules, so it is best to check in a dictionary if you are unsure.
  • These endings are often found on masculine nouns.
Masculine endingExamples
-ageun village a village
un voyage a journey
un étage a floor
le fromage cheese
une image a picture
une page a page
la plage the beach
-mentun appartement a flat
un bâtiment a building
le ciment cement
un vêtement a garment
-oirun miroir a mirror
un couloir a corridor
le soir the evening
un mouchoir a handkerchief
-smele tourisme tourism
le racisme racism
-eauun cadeau a present
un chapeau a hat
un gâteau a cake
le rideau the curtain
la peau skin
l’eau water
-euun jeu a game
-ouun chou a cabbage
le genou the knee
-ierle cahier the exercise book
un quartier an area
un escalier a staircase
-inun magasin a shop
un jardin a garden
un dessin a drawing
le vin the wine
la fin the end
une main a hand
-onun champignon a mushroom
un ballon a ball
le citron the lemon
une maison a house
la saison the season
  • The following types of word are also masculine:
  • names of the days of the week, and the months and seasons of the year
le lundiMonday
septembre prochainnext September
le printempsSpring
  • the names of languages
le françaisFrench
le portugaisPortuguese
Tu apprends le français depuis combien de temps?How long have you been learning French?
  • most metric weights and measures
un grammea gramme
un mètrea metre
un kilomètrea kilometre
  • English nouns used in French
le footballfootball
un tee-shirta tee-shirt
un sandwicha sandwich
  • These endings are often found on feminine nouns.
Feminine endingExamples
la chance luck, chance
une danse a dance
la patience patience
la défense defence
le silence silence
-ionune région a region
une addition a bill
une réunion a meeting
la circulation traffic
un avion a plane
une spéciali a speciality
la moitié half
un été a summer
le pâté pâté
Grammar Extra!A few words have different meanings depending on whether they are masculine or feminine. These are the most common:
un livrea bookun livre de poche a paperbackune livrea poundune livre sterling a pound sterling
un modea methodle mode d’emploi the directions for usela modefashionà la mode in fashion
un postea set (TV/radio); a post (job); an extension (phone)un poste de professeur a teaching jobla postepost the post officemettre quelque chose à la poste to post something
un toura turn; a walkfaire un tour to go for a walkune tourtowerla tour Eiffel the Eiffel Tower
Key points
  • Most nouns referring to men, boys and male animals are masculine; most nouns referring to women, girls and female animals are feminine. The ending of a French noun often changes depending on whether it refers to a male or a female.
  • Generally, words ending in -e are feminine and words ending in a consonant are masculine, though there are many exceptions to this rule.
  • These endings are often found on masculine nouns:-age, -ment, -oir, -sme, -eau, -eu, -ou, -ier, -in and -on.
  • These endings are often found on feminine nouns: -ance, -anse, -ence, -ense, -ion, -té, -tié.
  • Days of the week, months and seasons of the year are masculine. So are languages, most metric weights and measures, and English nouns used in French.

4 Masculine and feminine forms of words

  • In French there are sometimes very different words for men and women, and for male and female animals, just as in English.
un hommea man
une femmea woman
un taureaua bull
une vachea cow
un neveua nephew
une niècea niece
  • Many masculine French nouns can be made feminine simply by changing the ending. This is usually done by adding an -e to the masculine noun to form the feminine.
un amia (male) friend
une amiea (female) friend
un employéa (male) employee
une employéea (female) employee
un Françaisa Frenchman
une Françaisea Frenchwoman
  • If the masculine singular form already ends in -e, no further e is added.
un élèvea (male) pupil
une élèvea (female) pupil
un camaradea (male) friend
une camaradea (female) friend
un collèguea (male) colleague
une collèguea (female) colleague
TipIf a masculine noun ends in a vowel, its pronunciation does not change when an -e is added to form the feminine. For example,ami and amie (meaning friend) are both pronounced the same.If a masculine noun ends with a consonant that is not pronounced, for example, -d, -s, -r or -t, you DO pronounce that consonant when an -e is added in the feminine. For example, in étudiant (meaning student), you cannot hear the t; in étudiante, you can hear the t.
TipSome masculine nouns, such as voisin (meaning neighbour), end in what is called a nasal vowel and an -n. With these words, you pronounce the vowel ‘through your nose’ but DO NOT say the n. When an -e is added in the feminine – for example, voisine – the vowel becomes a normal one instead of a nasal vowel and you DO pronounce the n.

5 Some other patterns

  • Some changes to endings from masculine to feminine are a little more complicated but still fall into a regular pattern.
Masculine endingFeminine endingExampleMeaning
-f-veun veuf/une veuvea widower/a widow
-x-seun époux/une épousea husband/a wife
-eur-euseun danseur/une danseusea (male) dancer/a (female) dancer
un chanteur/une chanteuse un acteur/une actricea (male) singer/a (female) singer an actor/an actress
-an-anneun paysan/une paysannea (male) farmer/a (female) farmer
-ien-ienneun Parisien/une Parisiennea (male) Parisian/a (female) Parisian
-on-onneun lion/une lionnea lion/a lioness
-er-èreun étranger/une étrangèrea (male) foreigner/a (female) foreigner
-et-ettele cadet/la cadettethe youngest (male)
the youngest (female)
-el-elleun professionnel/une professionnellea (male) professional/a (female) professional
Key points
  • Many masculine French nouns can be made to refer to females by adding an -e. If the masculine singular form already ends in-e, no further e is added.
  • The pronunciation of feminine nouns is sometimes different from that of the corresponding masculine nouns.
  • Other patterns include:
  • -f -ve-teur -teuse or -trice-er -ère
    -x -se-an, -en and -on -anne,-et -ette
    -eur -euse-enne and -onne-el -elle

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