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Learning the gender of nouns in French

Learning the Gender of Nouns
Gender is linked to the noun word, rarely to the physical thing or the person. Always learn the gender of a noun with its article: le livre (the book), la fenêtre (the window).

Genders of nouns starting with a vowel need to be memorized separately: l’âge (m.) (age), l’hôtel (m.) (the hotel), l’horloge (f.) (the clock).

Several rules can help you guess if a French noun is masculine or feminine:

  1. Nouns that refer to males are usually masculine; nouns that refer to females are usually feminine: l’homme (m.) (the man); la femme (the woman)
  2. The ending of a noun can be a clue to its gender. Here are some commonmasculine and feminine endings. Be aware of cognate nouns, which are close to English in spelling and meaning.

Masculine                                         Feminine
-eau le bureau, le château                                     -ence la différence, l’existence
-isme le tourisme, l’idéalisme                   -ie la tragédie, la compagnie
-ment le moment, le département             -ion la nation, la fonction
-té l’université, la diversité
-ude l’attitude, la solitude
-ure la littérature, l’ouverture

Watch out for exceptions: l’eau (f.) (water), la peau (skin), le silence (silence).

  1. Nouns adopted from other languages are usually masculine: le jogging, le tennis, le jazz, le basket-ball. Exception: la pizza.

  1. Some nouns referring to people indicate gender by their ending. The feminine form often ends in -e.

l’Allemand the German (m.)     l’Allemande the German (f.)
l’Américain the American (m.)             l’Américaine the American (f.)
l’ami the friend (m.)                    l’amie the friend (f.)
l’étudiant the student (m.)         l’étudiante the student (f.)
le Français the Frenchman      la Française the Frenchwoman

Note that final d, n, s, and t are silent in the masculine form, as in the
examples above. When followed by -e in the feminine form, d, n, s, and
t are pronounced.

  1.  Some nouns that end in -e and the names of some professions have
only one singular form, used to refer to both males and females. In this case, the article remains the same whether the actual person is male or female.

l’auteur (m.) (the author) la personne (the person)
l’écrivain (m.) (the writer) le professeur (the teacher, professor)
l’ingénieur (m.) (the engineer) la sentinelle (the guard, watchman)
le médecin (the physician) la victime (the victim)

Evolving Style In contemporary Canadian French and among some other French speakers, you may also see or read a feminine form for a few traditional professions (la professeure, l’écrivaine, l’auteure).
For learners, however, it’s best to continue using the masculine forms of these nouns to refer to both males and females.

  1. For certain nouns referring to people, the gender of the individual is
sometimes indicated by the article alone. Such nouns most often end in -e; the spelling of the noun does not change when the gender changes.

le journaliste/la journaliste the journalist
le secrétaire/la secrétaire the secretary
le touriste/la touriste the tourist

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