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Learning the Gender of French Nouns: Part I

 

Assigning genders to French nouns is often one of the most daunting aspects of learning French. This is particularly true for Anglophones. Since nouns have no gender in English, it can be difficult for an English speaker to take seriously the idea of referring to a dining room table (la table) as a “she” or thinking of lipstick (le rouge à levres) as in any way masculine.

But learning the right gender for nouns is critical for speaking French fluidly. Because the gender of a noun doesn’t just affect the article preceding the noun (le, la), but can also affect the pronunciation and spelling of adjectives used to describe the noun. 

Not to worry – learning French noun gender isn’t as hard as you might think. You don’t have to memorize the gender of every French noun, one by one. The best way to go about it is by memorizing categories and ending patterns….and the exceptions to the rule.

In this post, we’re going to focus on several categories of nouns that are typically virtually all masculine or all feminine. Just by memorizing these categories, you will learn the correct genders of hundred of words!  (Don’t forget to tune into part II of this series to learn even more!)

 I.  Common Categories of Masculine French Nouns

  • Colors

le bleu (blue)

le rouge (red)

le rose (pink)

le jaune (yellow)

l’orange (orange)

Exception: “Orange” is only masculine as a color – as a fruit it’s feminine. Same thing for “rose.”   As a color, it’s masculine, but as a flower, it’s feminine.

  • Trees

le sapin (pine tree)

le chêne (oak tree)

le saule (willow tree)

le platane (plane tree)

Exception: Most shrubs are also masculine, but vines are feminine (la vigne).

  • Days of week / Months / Seasons

le lundi (Monday)

le dimanche (Sunday)

le mois de février (February)

le mois de juin (June)

le printemps (Spring)

l’automne (Autumn)

  •  Metals

le fer (iron)

le titane (titanium)

l’or (gold)

l’acier (steel)

  •  Wines / Cheeses

le Bordeaux

le Bourgorgne

le Chablis

le Brie

le Cantal

le Camembert

Exception: la tomme de Savoie is a cheese exception.

  •  Metric Units / Measures

le kilo (kilo)

le mètre (meter)

le joule (joule)

l’hectare (hectare)

le litre (liter)

le quart (quart)

Exception: la moitié (half)

  •  Numbers

le cinq (five)

le dix-neuf (nineteen)

le douzième (the twelfth)

Exception: La trentaine, la cinquantaine and other words describing a decade of age (in one’s 30’s, 40’s, etc.) are usually feminine.

  •  Language names

le chinois (Chinese)

le français (French)

l’espanol (Spanish)

 II.  Common Categories of Feminine French Noun

  • Sciences / Disciplines

la science (science)

la géographie (geography)

la chimie (chemistry)

l’astronomie (astronomy)

l’histoire (history)

Exception: le droit (law)

  •  Car brand names

une Peugeot

une Citroën

une Mercedes

une BMW

  • Watch brands

une Rolex

une Jaeger-LeCoultre

une Swatch

Ready to learn more about  French noun genders? Check this post out.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please post them below!