French/Grammar/Nouns

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Gender of nouns · Genre des noms[edit]

In French, all nouns have a grammatical gender; that is, they are either masculin (m) or feminin (f).

Most nouns that express people or animals have both a masculine and a feminine form. For example, the two words for "the actor" in French are l'acteur (m) and l'actrice (f). The two words for "the cat" are le chat (m) and la chatte (f).

However, there are some nouns that talk about people or animals whose gender are fixed, regardless of the actual gender of the person or animal. For example, la personne (f) (the person) is always feminine, even when it's talking about your uncle! Le professeur (m) (the professor) is always masculine, even when it's talking about your female professor/teacher!

The nouns that express things without an obvious gender (e.g., objects and abstract concepts) have only one form. This form can be masculine or feminine. For example, la voiture (the car) can only be feminine; le stylo (the pen) can only be masculine.

Examples
Masculine Common endings used with masculine nouns
le cheval the horse -age le fromage the cheese
le chien the dog -r le professeur[1] the teacher
le livre the book -t le chat the cat
le bruit the noise -isme le capitalisme capitalism
Feminine Common endings used with feminine nouns
la colombe the dove -ie la boulangerie the bakery
la chemise the shirt -ion la nation the nation
la maison the house -ite/-ité la fraternité brotherhood
la liberté liberty -nce la balance the scales
-lle la fille the girl
-nne l’indienne the Indian

Irregularities and exceptions[edit]

There are three nouns in French where gender is altered when put in the plural form:

amour (un amour passionné → des amours passionnées)
orgue
délice

There are many exceptions to gender rules in French which can only be learned. There are even words that are spelled the same, but have a different meaning when masculine or feminine; for example, le livre (m) means the book, but la livre (f) means the pound. Some words that appear to be masculine (like le photo, which is actually short for la photographie) are in fact feminine, and vice versa. Then there are some that just don't make sense; la foi is feminine and means a belief, whereas le foie means liver.

Plurals[edit]

Irregular plurals[edit]