French For Football/Grammar/Gender

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Gender of nouns[edit]

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

Most nouns that represent people or animals have both a masculine and a feminine form. For example, the two words for "the player" in French are le joueur (m) and la joueuse (f). The two words for "the spectator" are le spectateur (m) and la spectatrice (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! L'entraîneur (m) (the coach) is always masculine, even when it's talking about a female coach!

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 victoire (victory) can only be feminine; le surnombre (numerical advantage) can only be masculine.

Here is a chart which depicts some tendencies of French nouns. Eventually, you will be able to guess the gender of a noun based on patterns like this:

Gender of Nouns · Genre des Noms
Ending Masculine
-age le sauvetage the save
-aire le partenaire la partenaire the team mate
-l le sol the ground / soil
-ment le dégagement the clearance
-n le terrain the pitch
-r le buteur the striker
le mur the wall
-s l'avis[1] the opinion
-t le but the goal
le sifflet the whistle
-e la surface the (penalty) area
-ée la demi-volée the half-volley
-ie la sortie de but the goal kick
-ion la finition the finishing
l'occasion[2] the chance
-ise la mainmise the stranglehold
-ite/-ité la rivalité the rivalry
l'indemnité the (transfer) fee
-lle la balle the ball
-nce la concurrence the competition
-ne la tribune the stand
-se la défense the defence
-tte la pichenette the flick

^ In this book, the definite article will come before a noun in vocabulary charts. If the definite article is l' due to elision, (m) will follow a noun to denote a masculine gender and (f) will follow a noun to denote a feminine gender.

Definite and indefinite articles[edit]

The definite article[edit]

In English, the definite article is always “the”.

In French, the definite article is changed depending on the noun's:

  1. Gender
  2. Plurality
  3. First letter of the word

There are three definite articles and an abbreviation. "Le" is used for masculine nouns, "La" is used for feminine nouns, "Les" is used for plural nouns (both masculine or feminine), and "L' " is used when the noun begins with a vowel or silent "h" (both masculine or feminine). It is similar to English, where "a" changes to "an" before a vowel.

The Definite Article · L'article défini
singular masculine le le tir the shot
feminine la la parade the save (parry)
singular, starting with a vowel sound l’ l’avis the opinion
plural les les tirs the shots
les parades the saves
les avis the opinions

Note: Unlike English, the definite article is used to talk about something in a general sense, a general statement or feeling about an idea or thing. (see [3] $25-$34)

The indefinite article[edit]

In English, the indefinite articles are "a" and "an". "Some" is used as a plural article in English.

Again, indefinite articles in French take different forms depending on gender and plurality. The articles "Un" and "une" literally mean "one" in French.

The Indefinite Article · L'article indéfini
singular feminine une oon une séance a session
masculine un uh un plongeon a dive
plural des day des séances some sessions
des plongeons some dives


Note that des, like les, is used in French before plural nouns when no article is used in English. For example, you are looking at photographs in an album. The English statement "I am looking at photographs." cannot be translated to French as "Je regarde photographies" because an article is required to tell which photographs are being looked at. If it is a set of specific pictures, the French statement should be "Je regarde les photographies." ("I am looking at the photographs.") . On the other hand, if the person is just randomly browsing the album, the French translation is "Je regarde des photographies." ("I am looking at some photographs.")

Partitive Article[edit]

The partitive article de indicates, among other things, the word some. As learned earlier, de and le contract (combine) into du, as de and les contract into des. Also, instead of du or de la, de l' is used in front of vowels.

When speaking about food, the partitive article is used at some times while the definite article (le, la, les) is used at other times, and the indefinite article (un, une) in yet another set of situations. In general "de" refers to a part of food (a piece of pie) whereas the definite article (le) refers to a food in general (I like pie (in general)). The indefinite article refers to an entire unit of a food (I would like a (whole) pie).

When speaking about preferences, use the definite article:

J'aime la glace. I like ice cream.
Nous préférons le steak. We prefer steak.
Vous aimez les frites You like French fries.

When speaking about eating or drinking an item, there are specific situations for the use of each article.

Def. art. specific/whole items
J'ai mangé la tarte. I ate the (whole) pie.
Ind. art. known quantity
J'ai mangé une tarte. I ate a pie.
Part. art. unknown quantity
J'ai mangé de la tarte. I ate some pie.

In the negative construction, certain rules apply. As one has learned in a previous lesson, un or une changes to de (meaning, in this context, any) in a negative construction. Similarly, du, de la, or des change to de in negative constructions.

Nous avons mangé une tarte. We ate a pie.
Nous n'avons pas mangé de tarte. We did not eat a pie/ We did not eat any pie.
Nous avons mangé de la tarte. We ate some pie.
Nous n'avons pas mangé de tarte. We did not eat some pie/ We did not eat any pie.

Note : Now you should understand better how that "Quoi de neuf?"(what's new?) encountered in the very first lesson was constructed... "Quoi de plus beau?!" (what is there prettier?)


  1. ^ Price, Glanville. A Comprehensive French Grammar. ISBN 978-1-4051-5385-0. 


This page is based on original text from French/Grammar/Gender dated 30 January 2008.