French Noun Gender

What is French noun gender?

In French, every noun has a gender. A noun is a person, thing, place, etc.

There are two genders in French, namely masculine and feminine. Essentially:

  • Male people are masculine
  • Female people are feminine
  • Unlike English, however, in French every object and thing also a gender. For example:
    • Book (livre) is masculine in French
    • Table (table) is feminine in French

How do I work out what gender a noun is?

Many nouns you can work out the gender of by looking at the end of the word. Essentially:

  • Nouns which end in acle, age, ail, ou, ège, et, sme and ment are normally masculine
  • Nouns which end in ionaison and are normally feminine

Therefore:

  • voyage (journey/trip) is masculine
  • jouet (toy) is masculine
  • maison (house/home) is feminine
  • liber (liberty) is feminine

Unfortunately there are many nouns which do not tell us its gender, because they have different endings. The gender of those nouns have to be learnt individually.

What do I do if I am unsure whether my noun is masculine or feminine?

The most straightforward way to find out the gender of a noun is to look it up in your dictionary. When you look up a noun in your dictionary, your dictionary will tell you the noun’s gender. It will say:

  • ‘masc.’ or ‘m.’ (or something similar) for ‘masculine’; or
  • ‘fem.’ or ‘f.’ (or something similar) for ‘feminine’

Why is gender of nouns important?

It is important to know the gender of each noun, so that you know:

  • Which word for ‘the’ to use (‘le’ = masculine v ‘la’ = feminine*)
  • Which word for ‘a’ you should use (‘un’ = masculine v ‘une’ = feminine)
  • Which adjective ending to use (e.g. ‘grand’ = masculine v ‘grande’ = feminine for ‘big’**)

These aspects and others are discussed in further posts.

*There is also l’ and les, but this is not discussed here. These words are discussed in this post.

** The words ‘grands’ and ‘grandes’ also exist to describe plural nouns, but this is not discussed further here. French adjectives will be discussed in detail in a future post.

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