How to easily guess the gender of French nouns with 80% accuracy

French nouns are either masculine or feminine. Masculine nouns use the pronouns le and un while feminine nouns use la and une.

You may have heard that there is only one way to know the gender of a noun: to learn it by heart. Luckily this is one of many myths about the French language. You can actually know the gender of a French noun with more than 80% accuracy just by looking at its ending.

Let’s explore why genders exist in the French language, why they’re important, and how you can finally be sure whether a noun is masculine or feminine.

Why are there feminine and masculine nouns in French?

blue and pink gender signs in a corkboard

French isn’t the only language whose nouns have genders, and masculine and feminine aren’t the only possible genders for nouns in certain other languages. For example, in German, there’s a third gender: neuter. Many languages group nouns by whether they’re animate or inanimate. “Gender” is still the term used for this kind of classification, though. 

Interestingly, while we tend to think of English as a language without genders, that’s not completely true. Although English nouns may not be gendered, people and their corresponding pronouns are. Some other languages, like Turkish and Basque, don’t designate gender at all.

Why do some languages have gendered nouns, while others don’t?  No matter how much research you do or how many linguistics classes you take in college (trust me), you’ll never get a definitive answer to this.  From what we know about ancient texts and fragments of words, as well as by trying to reconstruct primitive languages based on modern-day language families, it seems that humans began by classifying nouns as living or not living. This may have had practical, as well as religious, purposes.

It’s thought that as time went on and religion became more organized and, in most places, less animistic, gender seemed like a good way to keep nouns organized. Why organizing nouns into general groups seemed necessary, and why certain nouns that would seem inherently masculine or feminine fall into the completely opposite category, is still uncertain.

So, yes, this does all mean that French noun genders are completely arbitrary in many cases. You can vent your frustration with a scream if you’d like, or maybe a French swear word

Why French genders matter

Regardless of their unclear and arbitrary origin, you can’t master French if you don’t master French genders. 

In French, gender has an influence on:

  • The article you use before a noun
  • Pronouns
  • The ending of adjectives and verbs
  • The meaning of certain words

You’ll discover how genders influence these elements in the last section of this article. But before you do, here’s how to easily know the gender of French words.

The 80/20 of French gender rules (or how to easily know whether a word is masculine or feminine)

Old mirror
No need to purchase a magic mirror to guess the gender of French words.

There are many approaches to learning the genders of French nouns. But I’ve got news for you: Even native French speakers occasionally have trouble with it! In a 2008 study , native French speakers were asked to determine the gender of 93 words (which it turns out were all masculine). They could only agree on the gender of 17 of those! And they had even more trouble when it came to a list of feminine words.

Fortunately, there are methods that you can use to learn, memorize, and guess whether a French noun is masculine or feminine. Choose the right one for you and you’ll get them right a vast majority of the time. 

The method that’s been shown to be the most effective is….

Guess the gender based on the word’s ending

According to a study by McGill University (PDF), a noun’s ending indicates its gender in 80% of cases . Based on this study, here is a list of typically masculine and typically feminine noun endings.

Nouns with these endings were found to be of the same gender in more than 90% of cases.

Unless you really like memorizing lists, I don’t recommend you learn these endings by heart, since the process would be extremely boring. Instead, bookmark this page and regularly look at the list. Or print it out and hang it somewhere you often linger – for example, beside your bathroom mirror, by the sink where you wash the dishes, or even by your toilet.

After a while, you’ll see that you can intuitively guess the gender of a noun based on its ending.

French Together founder and genuinely nice guy Benjamin Houy has created a simplified list that’s easier to remember. You’ll find it below this first list.

Typically masculine noun endings (+90%)

  • -an, -and, -ant, -ent, -in, -int, -om, -ond, -ont, -on (but not after s/c¸)
  • -eau, -au, -aud, -aut, -o, -os, -ot
  • -ai, -ais, -ait, -es, -et
  • -ou, -out, -out, -oux
  • -i, -il, -it, -is, -y
  • -at, -as, -ois, -oit
  • • -u, -us, -ut, -eu
  • -er, -é after C (C=t)
  • -age, -ege, – ème, -ome, -aume, -isme
  • -as, -is, -os, -us, -ex
  • -it, -est
  • -al, -el, -il, -ol, -eul, -all
  • -if, -ef
  •  -ac, -ic, -oc, -uc
  • -am, -um, -en
  • -air, -er, -erf, -ert, -ar, -arc, -ars, -art, -our, -ours, -or, -ord, -ors, -ort, -ir, -oir, -eur
    (if animate)
  • -ail, -eil, -euil, -ueil
  • -ing

Typically feminine noun endings (+90%)

  •  -aie, -oue, -eue, -ion, -te, – ée, -ie, -ue
  • -asse, -ace, -esse, -ece, -aisse, -isse/-ice, -ousse, -ance, -anse, -ence, -once
  •  -enne, -onne, -une, -ine, -aine, -eine, -erne
  • -ande, -ende, -onde, -ade, -ude, -arde, -orde
  • -euse, -ouse, -ase, -aise, -ese, -oise, -ise, -yse, -ose, -use
  •  -ache, -iche, -eche, -oche, -uche, -ouche, -anche
  • -ave, -eve, -ive
  •  -iere, -ure, -eure
  • -ette, -ete, – ête, -atte, -otte, -oute, -orte, -ante, -ente, -inte, -onte
  • -alle, -elle, -ille, -olle
  • -aille, -eille, -ouille
  • -appe, -ampe, -ombe
  • • -igue

A simplified  list of endings

The previous list has the advantage of being exhaustive, but as French Together reader Amosnliz notes in the comment section, you can learn with a simplified, shorter list.

While there is no precise data available, you can consider that you’ll be right 80% of the time if you use this simplified list.

Feminine noun endings

  • The majority of words that end in -e or -ion.
  • Except words ending in -age, -ege, -é, or -isme (these endings often indicate masculine words).

Masculine noun endings

Most words with other endings are masculine.

Other ways to learn and remember the gender of French words

woman sitting outside and thinking
Memorizing words along with an article is a very easy way to ingrain in your memory if a word is masculine or feminine.

When it comes to learning genders in French, I feel like I’m living proof of what the McGill study found. My French teachers in school made us memorize endings that are typically masculine or feminine, and that has continued to help me through my years of learning French and becoming fluent.

But maybe this method doesn’t work for you. You might not be good at or like to memorize long lists, or you may find it easier to memorize things in a different, less straightforward way. Luckily, there are many other strategies you can use to memorize genders in French. Some of the most popular are:

Memorize new French words with an article

You’ve probably come across lists of French vocabulary with a definite or indefinite article in front of each word. Although French people don’t use articles every single time they say a word, memorizing words along with an article is a very easy way to ingrain in your memory if a word is masculine and feminine. And as you start memorizing words this way, you may notice that certain types of words tend to be one gender or another, which will give you more of a chance of guessing, if you ever have to. Personally, although the endings method is the one I’ve found the most useful, I’ve always tried to memorize vocabulary with an article, as well.

Memorize categories of words that are typically masculine or feminine

Although learning word endings that tend to be masculine or feminine is a more all-encompassing method, learning categories that are commonly masculine or feminine can be pretty helpful, too. Of course, not everything can be neatly put into a category that has all or mostly masculine or feminine nouns, but there are a decent amount of categories out there, and maybe, as you learn French, you’ll notice patterns and come up with categories that make sense and work for you, in addition to the established ones. 

Remember that if a word in a particular category has another meaning, the gender of that second meaning probably won’t be the same (we’ll talk more about this a little later on). So, for example, orange is masculine when it’s a color and feminine when it’s a fruit.

Here are some categories of French words that are typically masculine:

  • wines 
  • cheeses (although there are some exceptions, usually involving the description of the form of the cheese, for example, la tomme, une brique)
  • colors
  • metric units
  • numbers (note that the numeric concept that ends in -aine (=about this much, this decade of a person’s life, is feminine (la quarantaine, une cinquaiantaine de personnes))
  • metals
  • languages
  • trees
  • days of the week
  • seasons
  • months

Here are some categories of French words that are typically feminine:

  • brand names of cars
  • brand names of watches
  • names of rivers
  • sciences and other domains of learning (la science, l’histoire, la chimie, etc.). Le droit (the law) is one notable exception to this rule.

For more details about these categories, you can have a look at this list or this one, which includes links to two French podcasts about how to tell what gender a word is.

As you can see, these categories don’t cover every subject in the French language, so this method should be used with another one to be able to guess a word’s gender with accuracy. But it can be a very helpful way to quickly guess the gender of words that do fall into these categories, or if you’re working with these categories (say, talking about the colors of a painting), you’ll know you can keep the gender the same.

Pay attention when you watch, read, and listen to French

This is another strategy that has helped me quite a bit.  If you hear or see a word with its article enough, or hear/see it used with adjectives, you’ll become accustomed to it being associated with a gender. 

For instance, I used to babysit a little French boy who loved to sing the  French lullaby “Au Clair de la lune”. I quickly picked it up, and we’d sing it every afternoon. I got used to associating the nouns in the song with the words around them that signified their gender. For example, la lune, ta plume, un mot, ta porte.

It’s been years since I babysat that little boy, and years since I’ve been speaking French, so when I say or write those words today, the song doesn’t necessarily come to mind, but there was a time when it did for some of them!  

So, if you like music, poetry, books, movies, TV series – just about anything that can let you hear/see and become familiar with French words in situ, this is a great way to supplement your French word gender knowledge.

Associate each gender with a vivid image

If none of these other strategies speak to you, here’s another that’s often recommended:  Instead of simply learning each word and its gender by heart, it can be smart to associate each gender with an action in your mind.

You could imagine, for example, that masculine nouns fall into water while feminine nouns are eaten by a monster. Associating each noun with such a vivid image helps you remember its gender more easily.

The association needs to be personal, since it has to be something you will easily remember. For example, If you love to sing, you could sing each word with a different tone depending on its gender.

How to learn and practice French noun gender

One easy way to keep up what you’ve learned about genders in French is to choose a word, guess if it’s masculine or feminine, then look it up online or in a print dictionary to check if you’re right. If you’re not, try saying or writing the word with its masculine or feminine article a few times. You may also want to check if it belongs on the list of typically masculine or feminine word endings.

Want more practice, or different ways to practice? This article includes a great list of French word gender games you can play on your own or with a group. 

French gender rules explained

young teacher near chalkboard

Now you know how to identify the gender of French nouns. Now let’s see why knowing the gender of French words is so important.

Here are the most important grammatical elements in French that change based on genders.


In French, you have a masculine “the” (le) and a feminine “the” (la). Good news – there’s a plural “the” (les), but it stays the same for groups/things of either gender.

Similarly, you have a masculine “a” (un) and a feminine “a” (une). Another bit of good news: As with les, the plural form of “a” in French, des, stays the same whether you’re using it with masculine or feminine nouns. 

Finally, while you say “some”, as in “a portion/piece of”, you need to make the distinction between du (masculine) and de la (feminine) in French. 


As in English, pronouns change depending on the subject’s gender.

he = il

she = elle

Note that these pronouns aren’t just used with people, but with any noun, since they all have genders. For example: Nadine est si gentille. Elle m’a prêté sa voiture pour la journée. (Nadine is so kind. She let me borrow her car for the day.)  OR J’en ai marre de cette chaise ! Elle n’est vraiment pas confortable.  (I’m sick of this chair ! It’s really uncomfortable!)

Unlike English, there are two ways to say “they” in French:

elles (feminine subject)

ils (masculine subject)

Note that in French, masculine nouns take precedence over feminine ones. There’s a sad little trick to the French language regarding gender: No matter how many feminine nouns you have, if there’s just one masculine one, it takes precedence. 

For example:

À la cantine, Daniel a choisi une pomme, une soupe, et un sandwich. Ils sont tous sur son plateau.

At the cafeteria, Daniel chose an apple, a bowl of soup, and a sandwich. They’re all on his tray.

Notice that despite the first two items being feminine, because un sandwich is masculine, the entire group is referred to with ils , the masculine plural pronoun. 

This is also the case when you’re talking about people and other living things:

Cléa, Hélène, Rose, et Paul aiment les films. Ils vont au cinéma chaque semaine.

Cléa, Hélène, Rose, and Paul like movies. They go to the cinema every week. 

As you can see, even though most of the people here are female, just one male means you have to use the pronoun ils when you talk about the group.


French adjectives change based on the gender and number of the noun they modify. This means the adjective is either:

  • Masculine singular
  • Feminine singular
  • Masculine plural
  • Feminine plural

Let’s take several adjectives as examples. These are adjectives you can use to guess how other adjectives with similar endings will change.

Content (happy)

Masculine singular: content
Feminine singular: contente
Masculine plural: contents
Feminine plural: contentes

Fatigué (tired)

Masculine singular: fatigué
Feminine singular: fatiguée
Masculine plural: fatigués
Feminine plural: fatiguées

Bon (good)

Masculine singular: bon
Feminine singular: bonne
Masculine plural: bons
Feminine plural: bonnes

Read 13 common French mistakes that’ll make you feel awkward before you use this adjective.

Of course, some words change very little when it comes to the noun they’re modifying. If they have an “e” at the end already, the letter stays for masculine nouns as well as feminine ones. For example:

Triste (sad)

Masculine singular: triste
Feminine singular: triste
Masculine plural: tristes
Feminine plural: tristes

There are exceptions, but if you know these patterns, you’ll know how most adjectives change based on the gender of the noun they modify.

And remember the French rule of masculine words always having dominance over feminine ones. In this case, if you’re talking about a group of nouns and just one person/thing is masculine, the adjective you use to describe the group will be masculine, as well.

For example:

Claire, Donald, Céline, Christine, et Roger étaient tous fatigués. 

Claire, Donald, Céline, Christine, et Roger were all tired.


The passé composé tense is the most striking example of the influence of genders and number on conjugation, although any verb tense that uses an auxiliary verb can be influenced by the gender and number of the subject. 

When it comes to the passé composé, for example, when you conjugate a verb with the auxiliary être, the past participle must agree with the subject’s gender (and number).

Here, for instance, is the verb aller conjugated in the passé composé:

Je suis allé(e)
Tu es allé(e)
Il/elle est allé(e)
Nous sommes allé(e)s
Vous êtes allé(e)(s)
Ils/elles sont allé(e)s

As you can see, the verb changes based on the subject’s number and gender. This is also true for other compound tenses.

In addition, verb agreement is a “must” when a verb conjugated with avoir is a direct object. For example, Voici la robe que tu as achetée pour Juliette. 

These differences are only noticeable in written French since the pronunciation remains the same.

The meaning of certain words 

In certain cases, gender can be used to clarify the meaning of a word with two very distinct definitions.

For example, the word voile in French can either mean a sail or a veil. In a genderless language like English, we’d just rely on the context to know which one was being talked about. But French people decided  to use gender to be sure that the meaning is clear. So, une voile is a sail and un voile is a veil. Voilà – no confusion! Except for non-native speakers who would inherently expect a veil, an accessory typically worn by females, to be the feminine one….

Luckily there aren’t a huge number of French words with different meanings in different genders. You can find a pretty thorough list of them here, although note that this source also includes homonyms (words that sound the same but are spelled differently), which don’t exactly pose the same challenge.  

Have feminism and the gender equality movement had an effect on the French noun genders?

"feminist" written with puzzle pieces

Regardless of your gender, if you’re someone who wants equality for everyone (a.k.a. a decent human being), the fact that, in French, masculine nouns take precedence over feminine ones may bum you out a little. 

You could say, “They’re just words.” But the truth is, the logic behind this rule was probably that males are more important and powerful than females. The French love of classifying things and making them concise means that you couldn’t have adjectives/verbs/pronouns that agree with both genders, so one had to be chosen, and the one that was chosen was the gender that had the most power at the time: masculine. 

Luckily, French law today considers male and female citizens equal, with equal rights. Socially speaking, however, I personally find that it depends. In my own experience, I find that younger generations are much more open to gender equality, not just in theory but in practice. For example, older generations may not think men should help with household chores, but many of the younger Frenchmen I know do help with chores, as well as taking care of and spending one-on-one time with their children.

You can see some signs of social change in in the French language itself. For example, traditionally, jobs like teachers and writers were only used with masculine nouns. But nowadays, you can choose  to make them feminine, like so: une professeur/une prof (a (female) teacher); une écrivain (or une écrivaine, especially in Canadian French) (a female writer). 

Many other professions can now also be feminized, since the concept has been officially recognized by the Académie Française (a ruling that was only made in 2019). 

Sadly, some other jobs, like un médecin (a doctor) only take the masculine pronoun. So, even if you go to a female doctor, she would be referred to as un médecin.  That means that not only do concepts that may reinforce gender stereotypes persist in the language used for some French professions; unpredictable gender rules do, too.

Interestingly, this isn’t the case in all forms of French. For instance, in Canadian French, une médecin and une docteure are used, and doctoresse is used in Swiss and Belgian French. 

This being said, there are some feminists and activists who think that feminizing a profession is sexist unto itself and that all professions in French should simply be a single word, not two separate, male and female versions. You can compare this to the way the word “actor” is being used more and more frequently to describe both males and females with this profession in the Anglophone world.

Other than these changes, when it comes to gender in the French language, not much has happened in terms of everyday vocabulary and grammar. Not that this isn’t understandable; imagine trying to change a language in such a massive way. 

Still, nothing’s impossible – or, as the French like to say, impossible n’est pas français. There’s a linguistic theory that as languages evolve, they become less complex. You can see this, for example, in the case of English, which did have genders in its older forms, as well as a formal and informal “you”. So, one day French words may not have genders at all. No matter how you feel about gender equality, that has to make you feel good for future learners of French!

The gender of words in French – as well as their grammatical and social implications – can be complicated. If there’s only one thing you take away from this article, it should be that the majority of words ending in -e or -ion are feminine while words with other endings are mostly masculine. This won’t hold true 100% of the time, but you’re much more likely to be right if you follow this rule than if you simply guess.

What about you? How do you determine whether a French word is masculine or feminine? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.

106 thoughts on “How to easily guess the gender of French nouns with 80% accuracy”

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  1. In my language (Bosnian) there are also 3 genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. When I started learning French, I thought I would never know how to pronounce or write any word,let alone gender. Your text gave me hope.Thank you

  2. Nice article. But it seems to me that some of the methods explained can only be applied when reading French and not when speaking. Its only when you are reading that you can tell if a word ends with an e, for instance. How about when speaking and you can’t spell the word: you can’t tell if it ends with an e or not? Maybe I need to read the article all over for better understanding. In all. Nice article. Thanks

  3. Firstly, it is a very long article(showing an amazing level of patience and commitment, thank u)
    Secondly, my first language(Iranian), also, is 100% neutral in terms of gender, no pronoun or name has grammatical gender, although i dont thing there is any good in learning it!

  4. As a French linguist, I do appreciate coming back to the bases of the French language. Your website is really a cool finding, and will make my day.

    Did you know that ‘aigle’ (eagle) was feminine until the early 19th century, when Napoléon decided it would become its emblem (more noble than the rooster, right). The emperor’s emblem could not be feminine (no need to ask). The eagle became masculine! Here we are with ‘un aigle’, now.


    • I explain it to my college students this way, I hope it helps: I English we say “an igloo” because the noun igloo begins with a vowel. We do not however say “an house made of ice” just because igloo starts with a vowel. That is because it is not the object itself that requires the article “an” it is the word we choose. Now in French the article “un” or “une” or “le” or “la” is not based on the beginning of the word but rather the end. The gender of an inanimate object sounds like an impossibility to an English speaker but as is the case in the English “an igloo” vs “a house made of ice” it is not about the object but about the word chosen for that object. In French for instance we call that modern marvel The Eiffel Tower “La Tour Eiffel”. “La tour” because when its meaning is “tower” “tour” is feminine. If we called that same structure “un monument” then it is masculine. So it is NOT the object itself that is masculine or feminine…. it is the word chosen.

    • Cela n’arrive que très rarement. L’immense majorité des noms communs voient leur genre connu de tous, bien que certains prêtent parfois à confusion (UN pétale, UNE orbite…). Toutefois, à l’oral, lorsque l’orateur parle prestement, il lui arrive parfois de se méprendre sur le genre d’un nom et de prononcer un “le” au lieu d’un “la”, mais cela est surtout dû à la rapidité du débit de parole et à l’inattention, plutôt qu’à une méconnaissance du genre.

  5. Un chat, une chatte. So here you have your two genders. But the masculine “wins over the feminine”, meaning that when not knowing the gender of the cat one is talking about or when talking about cats in general, the use is to say: le chat, ou les chats, except obviously if one is actually saying something related to female cats in general, which are: les chattes.

    • Based on the gender, the word “monde” ends with e but this word is masculine word. can somebody tells me why? because I’m a french teacher living in Nigeria and I discover that while teaching my student and I was stranded to provide answer to their questions. thanks

      • Salut Ben, en français toute règle que tu peux imaginer a une exception. Si on dit que les mots terminés par e sont féminins, c’est évident qu’on ne parle pas de tous les mots. Il y a toujours des exceptions.

  6. I am a total beginner having only started learning French for the first time 2 weeks ago. Your lists (full and simplified) of masculine and feminine nouns is extremely useful. I am incredibly grateful, thank you

  7. Hi, just wondering what you mean by “after C (C=t)” when listing this rule for masculine nouns:

    -er, -é after C (C=t)

  8. Thanks for this handy summary. It is also helpful for me to remember feminine words can end in
    -ité: la cité, la vélocité, la vérité;
    -té: la santé, la bonté;
    -eur (when not describing someone’s profession): la fleur, la couleur, la chaleur, la valeur;
    -œur: la sœur, la mœur (but le cœur);
    -on: la maison, la raison

  9. The other way that I would like to suggest you all. Most of his suggestions are right. For Masculin
    The things which are
    – strong
    – handsome
    – wild
    – powerful
    – Sharp are masculin
    For Example.
    Strong as rock, diamond , Jade , sand . Alcohol, wine, almost all of the fruits in sour taste, the time you can see the sun as morning, noon, evening, and the meals we eat in day time etc.
    ‘Handsome’ all buildings apartment, museum, cinema, airport , Bus stop, Jetty ,
    Most of the animals,
    Powerful as most of the weapons knife, sword, gun, canon, missile, rocket,
    Sharp as
    Glass , mirror, pen, pencil
    Féminins are different.

  10. From rule above, maybe there is way to simplify it, all endings with ‘e’ are feminine +90%,
    except endings :
    -age, -ege, – ` eme, -ome/- ` ome, -aume, -isme

    This way entire rule can be reduced to 7 masculine ending exceptions and we could say +90%
    ending ‘e’ – feminine
    ending anything but ‘e’ – masculine

    • Isn’t it the same as the simplified list I posted though? 🙂

      Feminine noun endings

      The majority of words that end in -e or -ion.
      Except words ending in -age, -ege, -é, or -isme (these endings often indicate masculine words).
      Masculine noun endings

      Most words with other endings are masculine.

  11. I observed that some inanimate french objects that have Pair Properties (double sides) are feminine, while others are masculine. Some of these also do have the “-e” ending following the principle above
    Examples: ‘une gomme’ – an eraser has two ends.
    ‘une table’ – a table has four legs.
    ‘une regle’ – a ruler has two sides.
    Other words like stylo, livre, crayon, cahier tableau are masculine as they do not seem to share this (pair) property.
    Great post!

  12. The problem is that a spoken word doesn’t reveal how it ends, because the final one-to-several letters are completely silent. Take the word “Légume” when you say it, “Lay-g-ew-m” it sounds like it ends with “m”. Is that therefore a masculine word or a feminine word? As it happens, it ends with an “e”, so it’s feminine then? No, actually it’s masculine.

    By the way, 80% accuracy is horrible accuracy. It’s 1 error out of every 5 nouns spoken. In 1 minute of speech you are likely to use many 10s of nouns, and thus you have to accept that unless you have memorized the gender of vast numbers (thousands) of words, you will not be able to avoid sounding like a foreigner.

    • Well, Richard, see it like this–using this strategy, I can focus on learning the 20% of noun articles that don’t follow these rules.Or even less because let’s be honest? Nobody uses 100% of a language. We all use a very small portion of even our native language in everyday life.

      Besides that, this a good strategy for beginners, who will sound foreign no matter what anyway.

    • I know this is beside the point but I find people that “sound like foreigners” to be very charming! Maybe I’m rationalizing my not being able to learn 100% but it’s all a fun journey!

  13. Seems such a lot of word endings to be searching for during a conversation. Would it be radical to learn the gender along with the word? Hint:- Mnemonics!!!

    • Did you see the simplified list?

      Feminine noun endings

      The majority of words that end in -e or -ion.

      Except words ending in -age, -ege, -é, or -isme (these endings often indicate masculine words).

      Masculine noun endings

      Most words with other endings are masculine.

      You can also learn the ending of each word individually of course but I find that learning these masculine and feminine endings helps a lot.

  14. Probably a bit yes, but lots of people are trying to change that. For example the administration doesn’t use the word “mademoiselle” anymore.

  15. Relating to feminine and masculine, when you have a collective noun such as “Mes cousines.” Do you use feminine or masculine adjectives.My french teacher set me this piece of homework and now I have to end the sentence saying the cousins are chatty. But which do I use bavard (masculine) or bavarde (feminine)? Great post by the way!

    • Merci :).

      You use the masculine form if there is at least one man in the group. In theory at least, because if there are 20 women and one man, people often use the feminine form.

  16. I love my language (Spanish) and, if you say a ssdistic person invented French, then that would go for Spsnish, because we also say Los cabellos (masculine) and La silla (feminine). To us, that seems very logical.
    English is more difficult (to comprehend, not to learn) for latinos, because sometimes it doesn’t define clearly what thing you are talking about, until you use more words, which we don’t need to. Also spelling/pronunciation makes no sense because I can’t find rules e.g. bass pronounced as “base”. Thanks.

    • To further complicate it, there are two different meanings for “bass.” One is a type of fish (small mouth bass/large mouth bass), the other is in reference to music and sound.

    • I just find American English the most difficult: their slang words often confuses me, and I had to ask my friend why it exists, and how the word is used.

  17. I am confused with the é ending cause fraternité, egalité are females….are those exceptions? cause then there is this abandonné and it is male adjective…..can you help me out? merci

    • Yes these are exceptions.

      “Abandonné” is different, because it’s an adjective. Adjectives don’t have a gender as such, but their ending depends on the gender of the noun they describe.

      Abandonné will be used if the noun it describes is masculine, but if the noun is feminine you’d say “abandonnée”.

    • Just read, that’s the best way to get grammar without breaking your brain trying to remember abstract and boring rules that always have tons of exceptions. Plus you’ll get the added benefit of the input of possibly great literature, depending on what you chose.
      That idea is valid for learning and bettering any language, be it one’s mother tongue or a foreign language.
      Just downloading the apps for a newspaper or two, or even starting with simple stories such as children books will do wonders.

    • Many words ending in eux are adjectives, so they have no gender. Whether you write them as masculine or feminine depends on the noun they qualify.

      • Er, the grammar rule is that -eux endings are masculine; the feminine of the word would end with -euse. Examples: généreux, généreuse; peureux, peureuse. In fact, that’s one of those (maybe few) rules that has no exception.

  18. Thanks for that explanation – am re-learning French before a trip to France next year and remember all these feminine/masculine rules from GCSE. Actually I’ve learned a few languages now – Dutch, Welsh, BSL and French and I find it funny that it’s mainly English that causes the problems because pretty much all these other languages all have feminine and masculine words, and since moving to Shropshire ‘cos we’re so close to the Welsh border here I find some people round here even refer to inanimate objects as “he” or “she” (like when we had the chimney swept the guy came round and said “she’s a good fire, she is” not “you’ve got a good fire there” or “its a good fire”, which I guess comes from the direct Welsh translation ‘cos in Welsh everything is either masculine or feminine too, there is no it (there is no direct yes or no either in Welsh which is even more confusing at least in French you have oui or non!).

    I did start looking at the words seeing if I could figure out anyway to automatically decide which one is feminine and which is masculine and did start noticing that the majority of feminine words I came across mainly seemed to end in e (which is handy ‘cos Elle ends in E and Il doesn’t, and so does une), there was a few that didn’t quite fit into the list like the ones that ended with ion but this page has helped make that more clearer. I think one of the most confusing though is remembering that un chat is masculine – why on earth is a cat considered masculine in French when pretty much every other language even English refers to it as feminine and a “feline” (although just noticed even the French word for feline is masculine!!)

    One of the other ones I couldn’t quite get my head around was mon amie because I gathered that amie must be feminine but it’s not ma amie it’s mon amie – mind you I suppose ma amie would be a bit of a mouthful!

    • I tend to do that too in English. It sometimes use “he” or “she” instead of “it”. And I actually find it hard to refer to animals as “it” as a Frenchman.

      What you need to know is that the word has a gender, not the concept it represents. That’s why some feminine concepts have masculine words.

      “Amie” is indeed feminine. The reason you say “mon” is because it starts with a “a”. And for all nouns starting with a, vowel, you use the masculine possessive adjective, whether the word actually is masculine or not.

      The same would be true for “école” for example. Ecole is a feminine word, yet you say:

      Mon école
      Ton école


  19. I took French for three years in High School and have been to France nearly 15 times, as well as French speaking Quebec. This would have been a great tool in learning the language in school no doubt… but my question is now – today…. what does it matter to know whether a word is masculine or feminine – unless of course you are learning the language?

    • If you don’t need to speak French it doesn’t matter. But you’ll never be able to speak French perfectly without knowing genders. That said, making mistakes won’t prevent understanding in most cases.

  20. To remember the genders in nouns very well, I address objects and food as he or she or he/she if it’s a neuter. Instead of saying “I can’t open the door.” I’d say “I can’t open her.” Or “the soup is hot” it’s “She’s too spicy.” “The wind is blowing hard.” to “He is blowing hard.”

  21. Hello,

    I would like to know why the french word for water: “eau” is considered feminine when it doesn’t meet the feminine word criteria (doesn’t end with an “e” or an “ion”). Thank you

  22. Hey! Your site is very useful. Thank you for that!
    While reading this, I simply realized there is an easier way to tell masculine from feminine nous: by checking on your list, I saw that 90% of all feminine words end with a voyelle! (vowel)
    Isn’t it?!

    • I’m glad you like it :). I can’t confirm you that 90% of nouns do end with a vowel, because I would need to check out the entire dictionary, but it’s clear that there are lots of ways to determine the gender of French nouns, and the vowel rule may be one of them.

      It would be awesome if you could come back in a few months and tell us if this rule works :).

  23. Actually you don’t have to learn ALL those endings… If the word ends with E it is almost certainly feminine. You have to learn only those few masculine endings with E as last letter… Quite simple.

    • You are right, this would work quite well. However, it’s important to note that words ending in “isme” or “age” for example tend to be masculine. And that lots of words don’t end in “e”.

      As I said in the article, this list is simply here for reference, I absolutely don’t recommend to learn it by heart.

  24. Is it just me or could you narrow it down even more:
    – words that end with ‘ion’ are feminine
    – words that end with ‘e’ are feminine except those that end with ‘ge’ or ‘me’
    – you can assume all other words are masculine?

    • That would probably work in most cases. The reason I haven’t written it is that I based this article on a study by McGill University and don’t have any data regarding the frequency of the simplified rule you give.

      That’s definitely something I want to work on though.

  25. I have a much simpler way to identify the vast majority of nouns as being masculine or feminine.

    FEMININE: the great majority of words that end in -e or -ion.
    Exceptions (usually): words ending in -age, -ege, -é, or -isme

    (For all other word endings: the great majority are masculine).

    That’s it. As a French high school teacher, I teach my students the above simple rule, and they know this is a “high percentage” guess — (high likelihood of being correct) — to use if they aren’t sure of the gender of a new noun. (Out of curiosity, just now I went through the vocab lists for my French II textbook — and confirmed that the above rule correctly identifies 88.5% of the nouns from those lists as feminine vs. masculine.)

    (NOTE: the endings for feminine words that you listed above follow this rule for the most part, without having to remember dozens of different endings).

    • “Réglisse” is feminine or masculine depending on the context. Many people are confused about that, so it’s okay to use the feminine or masculine form if you talk about the candy.

  26. I have a question about masculine and feminine nouns, I just meet this: la commande (feminine)
    L’utilisation de la commande tmpfs peut aboutir à des pertes de données en cas de mauvaise manipulation, prenez le temps de bien comprendre ce système et ses implications !
    (source )

    So if I have understood that la command , is feminine because of article la, refer to: the action to act on a mechanism. So is different from le commandement (masculine)
    example: Je vous laisse le commandement

    Have I misunderstood or, in this case, with two different meanings of the word command (and two different ways to write it), one case has a feminine form and the other a masculine one?

    • You understood well. These are two different words, although their meaning and origin are similar. Lots of French words look similar but have a different gender.It depends on the ending more than on the meaning, because it’s the word itself which is feminine or masculine, not the meaning of the word.

      PS : go Ubuntu 🙂

  27. C’est génial, je ne l’avais pas dans ma grammaire. C’est un vrai cadeau.
    I saw into a youtube vid that scandinavian languages have also a third gender, the neutral nouns. 🙂 But yeah, it’ s a bit hard for me to predict words’ gender. Especially with feminine gender, so basically while reading I keep an eye on feminine articles and I write down the most unpredictable to me, like: la mer la limite la foto la rentrée la chaleur la poitrine la bouffe la suite la souris la vidéo la valeur la odeur la mosaïque la planète la signification la météo la glace
    I just printed it so I can keep on my desk for noticing the words’ gender and also to be reviewed from time to time.

    • Yeah German has a third gender too. And I think Finnish has 13.Crazy :D. French is easy in comparison.

      The more you read and hear French, the most you will be able to automatically determine whether a word is feminine or masculine. It will get easier and easier with time :).

      • 13 in Finnish?? Maybe they have also one gender to speak about aliens!?
        Apart from genders. One of the nightmare of children studying French at school is the question of accents on words, but if you compare Hungarian writing and Vietnamese also, you can see that French is not so bad, in comparison.

        • Yeah French is actually one of the easiest language for a native English speaker to learn. When I was teaching French in Korea, I could see how difficult it was for Koreans to know in what orders to put the words, which is relatively easy for English speakers.

          • Yeah, I have no doubts about what you say. I was used to spend time with a Japanese friend and he explained me some issue about his language, he said also the way his father was used to speak was comprehensible to him up to 80% because his father (and his generation) have a slight different construction of the phrase compared to that of my friend’s generation. He said also that women and men know and use (I don’t know how many on the overall language) different words for the same things, this feature reflects the fact of an, old, difference of power between couple’s members. Incredible!
            The past week Sam Gendreau wrote an interesting article right on Korean language. He suggests the Hangul alphabet is not so difficult to learn compared to other oriental languages. I’ ll look for Hangul on the internet out of curiosity.
            I imagine that also a slight change of position of words like this:
            the belief under I operate —> the belief I operate under
            can create increasing misunderstanding of the various possibilities of construction of a phase.

          • Yeah hangul is quite easy to learn. It’s a very logical and constructed alphabet. And there are many patterns you can use when learning it.

            You could probably master hangul in less than a week.

          • Sorry! I made a wrong example, writing in English instead of French language, but still I think it shows the meaning that I wanted explain.

        • Hungarian grammar is one of the trickiest there is (even though nouns don’t have genders), but I must say, that writing is way more logical than French. In Hungarian, you spell everything just the way you hear it (phonetic writing) – no silent letters. Of course, there are some exceptions, mostly archaic or borrowed words / names. What makes Hungarian writing an eyesore is that there are several compound letters and accentuation marks, which are needed express all 44(!) sounds present in the language. On the other hand, it is at least consistent – a letter always signifies the same sound.
          Ex.: s is pronounced as “sh”, z as “z” – put them together, you obtain sz pronounced as “s” and zs as the first sound in the French word “jurer”, or in “manGer”.
          As for vowels, there exist 12, of different lengths – o is shorter, than ó, or u is shorter than ú, etc.


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