French noun gender

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One of the most important differences between French and English is how gender is used. Every French noun is either masculine or feminine, and this affects how the noun is treated. This phenomenon comes from the language’s Latin origins. Archaic English had a few gender-related rules, but they’ve mostly disappeared over time.

When learning the gender of French nouns, keep in mind that the meaning of the noun usually has nothing to do with whether it is masculine or feminine. Think of it as an arbitrary convention. You more or less have to memorize the gender of each noun, although you can often (but not always) tell whether a word is masculine or feminine by looking at its ending. Masculine nouns often have these endings:

  • aire
  • asme
  • é
  • eau
  • et
  • ien
  • isme
  • in
  • nt
  • oir


Feminine nouns often have these endings:

  • ade
  • aison
  • ance
  • ande
  • ence
  • ise
  • son
  • tié
  • ture
  • ude

French article genders

French also has masculine and feminine articles; le, les, and un are the masculine articles, while la, les, and une are the feminine ones. So, the masculine noun bateau (meaning boat) takes the form of le bateau (the boat), un bateau (a boat), or les boats (the boats). The feminine noun maison (house) takes the form of la maison (the house), une maison (a house), or les maisons (the houses). For more on article use, see indefinite articles, definite articles, and partitive articles.

In English, we often do without articles. For example, we might say, I’m going out to get milk with no article before milk, but in French one would always say the equivalent of, I’m going out to get some milk, or I’m going out to get the milk. Thus, many French teachers recommend simply learning nouns along with the article le or la.