Gender of nouns in French

In French, nouns (these are parts of the speech that answer the question: who? what?) have two forms: male and female. Mostly, the feminine gender is formed by adding -e to masculine nouns. In this case, there are changes in the pronunciation: -n becomes ordinary (not nasal), and when writing it is doubled; silent sounds begin to sound, and dull sounds vocalize. Oh, those women, or rather nouns! They always change everything even in France!

For example:

un ami — une amie (a friend (male) — a friend (female))

un étranger — une étrangère (a stranger (male) — a stranger (female))

un paysan — une paysanne (a peasant (male) — a peasant (female))

un cousin — une cousine (a cousin (male) — female cousin)

un chat — une chatte (a cat – a female cat)

un sot — une sotte (a fool (male) – a fool (female))

un Américain — une Américaine (American — female American)

un veuf — une veuve (a widower — a widow)

The main changes in noun gender are depicted in the table below. The same rule is applied to adjectives (answer the question “what kind of?”)

Male inflexions

Female inflexions

-er

-ère

-f

-ve

-et

-ette

-x

-se

-en

-enne

-ien

-ienne

-on

-onne

-in

-ine

-ain

-aine

-an

-ane

There are also cases when the noun does not have a specific gender. In this case, the gender will be identified by the article, possessive pronoun or adjective.

For example:

un secrétaire — une secrétaire (secretary)

un socialiste — une socialiste (socialist)

un élève — une élève (student)

In French there are names of professions that have only masculine gender. And women who have chosen the men's profession have to talk and write about themselves only in the masculine. Here are some of them:

un amateur — an amateur  

un architecte — an architect

un auteur — an author

un aviateur — an aviator

un chef — a boss

un compositeur — a composer

un défenseur — a defender

un écrivain — a writer

un historien — a historian

un ingénieur — an engineer

un juge — a judge

un médecin — a doctor

un professeur — a professor

un sauveur — a rescuer

un sculpteur — a sculptor

But as a result of global emancipation, women had to find a compromise. That's why the French changed their grammar slightly and decided to add the word "woman" to some of the professions:

une femme médecin — a doctor

une femme juge — a judge

une femme ingénieur — an engineer

Also, to transform a masculine noun into feminine one, we use some suffixes. The suffix -eur of the masculine gender changes into the suffix -euse of the feminine gender:

un voyageur — une voyageuse (a traveler)

un acheteur — un acheteuse (a purchaser)

un nageur — une nageuse (a swimmer)

 

-teur of the masculine gender changes into -trice of the feminine gender:

un acteur — une actrice (an actor – an actress)

un directeur — une directrice (a director)

 

As usually, there are some exceptions:

un empereur — une impératrice (an emperor — an empress)

Some nouns with -e of the masculine gender form their feminine form by adding -esse:

un comte — une comtesse (a count — a countess)

un hôte — une hôtesse (a guest)

un maître — une maîtresse (a professor or a host - hostess)

un nègre — une négresse (Negro boy — Negro girl)

un prince — une princesse (a prince — a princess)

un poète — une poétesse (a poet — a poetess)

un Suisse — une Suissesse (a Swiss)

un tigre — une tigresse (a tiger — a tigress)

un traître — une traîtresse (a traitor — a traitress)

And yet there are nouns that change their meaning, depending on the gender, i.e. the phrase can completely change its meaning:

un aide (a helper) — une aide (help)

un guide (a guide) — une guide (a rein)

un manche (a handle) — une manche (a sleeve)

un radio (a radio operator) — une radio (radio)

Therefore, if you have a noun that has a non-distinctive gender, it's better not to be lazy, but to look up into the dictionary to be sure of the correctness of its translation or writing.

And lastly, in French there are suffixes, which are characteristic only of a certain gender (female or male). As well as there are those that cannot be attributed to either one.

Feminine

Masculine

-ade, -aille, -aine,

-aise, -aison, -ance, -asse, -trice, -tion, -ée, -enne, -elle, -erie,

-esse, -ette, -euse, -eur

 

In adjectives:

-ie, -ère, -ille, -ise, -iste, -té, -ule, -ure.

In nouns:

-age, -ain, -ais, -ard, -at, -eur,

-oir (e), -éen, -ment, -et, -ien, - er, -isme, -iste, -ois, -on, -ot.

And finally, the masculine gender covers all the seasons, months, days of the week, the sides of the world. The feminine covers parts of the world and most rivers.

Try to memorize these basic rules one thing at a time. And our wonderful teachers will successfully help you with this.

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