Le genre: gender of French nouns

What is noun gender in French?

Unlike English, French nouns have a gender (genre): they can be masculine (masculin) or feminine (féminin). There are different ways to find out a noun’s gender: we can look in the dictionary and check for the abbreviations m. (masculine) or f. (feminine); we can check the noun’s ending, which generally gives an indication whether the noun is masculine or feminine; or we can look at the noun’s article. Nouns with le or un are masculine, and nouns with la or une are feminine. You should always learn nouns together with their articles to be sure of their gender.

Learn all about the gender of nouns in French grammar with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then put your knowledge to the test in the free exercises.

Example

How to tell if a noun is masculine or feminine in French?

Typical endings for French masculine nouns

Ending Example
-e/-é le maître, le résumé, le préteacher, summary, field
-eur le vendeur, le danseursales assistant, dancer
-ien le musicien, le chienmusician, dog
-(i)er le boucher, l’ouvrierbutcher, labourer
-on le baron, le patronbaron, boss
exceptions: la boisson, la façon, la liaison, la maison, la raison, la rançon, la saison, la chansondrink, way, liaison, house, reason, ransom, season, song
-teur le traducteurtranslator
-age le garage, le sauvetagegarage, rescue
exceptions: la cage, l’image, la nage, la page, la plage, la ragecage, image, swimming, page, rabies
-al le journal, le chevalnewspaper, horse
-eau le bateau, le châteauboat, castle
exceptions: l’eau, la peauwater, skin
-ent le segment, le présentsegment, present
exception: la jumentmare
-et le billet, le projetticket, project
-asme/
-isme
le fantasme, l’enthousiasme, le tourisme, le charismeghost, enthusiasm, tourism, charisma
-in le cousin, le baldaquincousin, canopy
-oir l’arrosoir, le fermoirwatering can, clasp
-ail le travailwork
the cardinal points le nord, le sud, l’est, l’ouestnorth, south, east, west
days
months
seasons
le lundi, le jeudi, le dimancheMonday, Thursday, Sunday
février, avril, octobreFebruary, April, October
l’été, le printemps, l’automne, l’hiversummer, spring, autumn, winter
the trees le sapin, le peuplier, le chênepine, poplar, oak
the languages le français, l’allemand, l’anglaisFrench, German, English

Typical endings for French feminine nouns

Ending Example
-esse la maîtresse(female) teacher
-euse la vendeuse, la danseuse(female) sales assistant, (female) dancer
-ienne la musicienne, la chienne(female) musician, (female) dog
-(i)ère la bouchère, l’ouvrière(female) butcher, (female) labourer
-onne la baronne, la patronnebaroness, (female) boss
-trice la traductrice(female) translator
-ade la pommade, la façadecream, façade
exception: le stadestadium
-ance/-ence l’ambulance, l’essenceambulance, essence
exception: le silencesilence
-ée l’arrivée, l’idéearrival, idea
exceptions: le musée, le lycée, le trophée, l’apogée, le mausoléemuseum, college, trophy, height, mausoleum
-elle la demoisellegirl
-ette la poussette, la cigarettepram, cigarette
-ie la géologie, la librairiegeology, book shop
exception: l’incendiefire
-ine la cuisine, la cabinekitchen, cabin
-ise la surprise, la devisesurprise, currency/motto
-aille la trouvaillefind
-t(i)é la pitié, la confidentialitépity, confidentiality
exceptions: le comité, le côté, l’été, le pâtécommittee, side, summer, pâté
-ure la confiture, la culturejam, culture
exception: le murmuremurmur
the continents l’Europe, l’AsieEurope, Asia
academic disciplines la médecine, la philosophie, la chimiemedicine, philosophy, chemistry

People/Animals

  • For people and animals, the gender of the noun usually corresponds to the biological gender.
Masculine Feminine
People le garçon (the boy) la fille (the girl)
Animals le coq (the rooster) la poule (the hen)
  • Certain animal nouns have a fixed gender and refer to both males and females. To specify the animal’s biological gender, we add the word mâle (male) or femelle (female) before or after the noun.
    Example:
    La souris mâle.The male mouse.
    La femelle du crocodile.The female crocodile.
  • However, there are also nouns that have one form for both the masculine and the feminine.
    Example:
    un/une touristea tourist

Job titles

  • Certain job titles do not have a separate feminine form because they already end in -e.
    Examples:
    un/une journalistea journalist
    un/une librairea bookseller
    un/une interprètean interpreter
    un/une ministrea minister
  • Likewise, there are other job titles that only exist in the masculine form but refer to both men and women.
    Examples:
    un/une ingénieuran engineer
    un/une professeura teacher
    un/une chirurgiena surgeon
    un/une médecina doctor
  • The majority of professions that were previously only associated with men now have their own feminine form, except for those ending in -e or -eur. However, the use of these feminine forms is not very common, not is it compulsory.
    Examples:
    un magistrat – une magistrate/une magistratmagistrate
    un écrivain – une écrivaine/une écrivaina writer
    Exception: un auteur – une auteurean actor/actress
  • Certain professions only exist in the masculine form (grammatically!) but describe both men and women:
    Examples:
    un plombiera plumber
    un mécaniciena mechanic
  • Likewise, there are some professions that only have a feminine form in French grammar:
    Examples:
    une sage-femmea midwife
    une hôtesse de l’airair hostess (masculine form: un steward}}
    une femme de ménagecleaner (masculine form: un technicien de surface}}

Info

Some job titles only exist in the masculine because their meaning changes when they are used in the feminine form.

Examples:
le médecin (a doctor) — la médecine (medicine)
le jardinier (a gardener) — la jardinière (window box)

Names of countries and reagions

  • All countries ending with -e are feminine.
    Examples:
    la FranceFrance
    l’AllemagneGermany
    la ChineChina
    la BretagneBrittany
    la ProvenceProvence
  • All countries ending with a different vowel or a consonant are masculine.
    Examples:
    le CanadaCanada
    le PérouPeru
    le MarocMorocco
    le JaponJapan
    le PortugalPortugal