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Why gender is important

LESSON OBJECTIVES

ARTICLES

Please note that most words ending in -e in french are feminine, most words ending with a consonant or not an "e" are masculine. However, this is far from being a strict rule, and there are many exceptions (see table below).

EXAMPLES

*Even though "les" or "des" is used for both masculine and feminine nouns, knowing the gender of the noun is important.

WHY?

A noun may come with the following grammatical influencers:

ADJECTIVES

All adjectives agree in number and gender with the noun they qualify.

EXAMPLES

*Though we use "les" for both nouns, the corresponding adjectives still have to reflect the gender, as well as the number, of the nouns. So "verts" is masculine plural because "stylos" is masculine plural.

POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES AND PRONOUNS

All possessive adjectives and pronouns agree in number and gender with the noun used.

EXAMPLES

DEMONSTRATIVE ADJECTIVES AND PRONOUNS

All demonstrative pronouns and adjectives agree in number and gender with the noun used.

EXAMPLES

INTERROGATIVES

All interrogatives pronouns and adjectives agree in number and gender with the noun used.

EXAMPLES

WHEN CONJUGATING A VERB

The subject pronoun has to agree with the number and gender of the noun it replaces.

EXAMPLES

Replacing the noun by a subject pronoun

Le stylo vert - the green pen
Il est vert - it* (he) is green

La fleur verte - The green flower
Elle est verte - It (she) is green

Les stylos verts - The green pens
Ils sont verts - They are green

Les fleurs vertes - The green flowers
Elles sont vertes - They are green

*There is no such a thing as "it" in French, so everything has to be HE or SHE no matter if it is a door or a girl we are referring to.

Past participle agreement of number and gender

When using the auxiliary verb "être" in a passé composé, the past participle of the conjugated verb must agree in gender and number with the subject.

Je suis allé(e)*
Tu es allé(e)*
Il est allé
Elle est allée
Nous sommes allé(e)s
Vous êtes allé(e)(s)
Ils sont allés
Elles sont allées

*The (e) will only be needed if "je", "tu", "nous", "vous" are referring to feminine subjects.

RECOGNISING MASCULINE AND FEMININE WORDS

FEMININE

The following endings usually indicate a feminine noun. However, there are some important exceptions, some of which are provided for information.

EndingsSome examplesSome exceptions
-ela table (the table), la chaise (the chair), une école (a school), la France (France), la Belgique (Belgium) l'arbre (the tree), le cartable (the satchel), le téléphone (the phone), le livre (the book)
-aille, -eillela médaille (a medal), la taille (the size), une abeille (a bee), une bataille (a battle)
-esseune forteresse (a fortress), la gentillesse (kindness), la princesse (the princess)
-ièreune infirmière (a nurse), la couturière (the seamstress), la cafetière (the coffee machine)le cimetière (cemetery), l'arrière (the back)
-té, -tiél’amitié (friendship), la santé (health), la liberté (freedom), la volonté (will)l’été (the summer), un invité (a guest), un traité (a treaty)
-tion,
-sion,
-ssion
la natation (swimming), la décision (the decision), la conclusion (the conclusion), la télévision (the TV), la pression (the pressure), la progression (the progression)
-tteune recette (a recipe), une dette (a debt), une maisonnette(a small house)
-tudel'inquiétude (worry), l'aptitude (the ability), l'habitude (the habit)

MASCULINE

The following endings usually indicate a masculine noun, however, there are also many exceptions...

EndingsSome examplesSome exceptions
-acle,
-age,
-asme,
-ège,
-ème,
-isme
le miracle (the miracle), le village (the village), l’enthousiasme (enthusiasm), le collège (the secondary school), le système (the system), le thème (the theme), le modernisme (modernism) la page (the page), la plage (a beach), une image (an image), la Norvège (Norway), la crème (the cream)
-ail,
-eil,
-euil
le travail (work), un éventail (a fan), le soleil (the sun), le réveil (an alarm clock), le fauteuil (the armchair)
-eurle docteur (the doctor), le bonheur (happiness), l'ascenseur (the lift), le professeur (the teacher) la blancheur (whiteness), la chaleur (heat), la pâleur (pallor), la lenteur (slowness)
-eau,
-ot,
-al,
le bateau (the boat), le château (the castle), le paquebot (the liner), l'abricot (the apricot), le canal (the canal), le cheval (the horse), un hôpital (a hospital), un bureau (a desk or an office)la peau (the skin), l’eau (water)
-mentun bâtiment (a building), un instrument (an instrument), un équipement (an equipment)une jument (a mare)
-oirun manoir (a manor), un miroir (a mirror), un trottoir (a pavement), un arrosoir (a watering can)
-ouun kangourou (a kangourou), un clou (a nail), un hibou (an owl)
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