Gender, adjectives and nouns

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Nouns and adjectives -- gender

Making feminine forms.

In French all nouns and adjectives are gendered masculine or feminine; most nouns and adjectives also have different singular and plural forms. It is important to recognize the gender and number of nouns because the form and qualities of the noun can determine the conjugation of verbs, the form of pronouns, and article and adjective agreement.

Nouns and adjectives undergo predictable changes between masculine and feminine forms, and between singular and plural forms. These forms are numerous, as demonstrated below. Some nouns have both masculine and feminine forms (un ami, une amie, for example). Generally, nouns constructed like adjectives, according to the rules below, will follow the same pattern as adjectives for generating feminine forms. Formation of the feminine:

1. Generally, if an adjective ends in -e in the masculine, the feminine forms will be identical:

facile, facile
solide, solide

2. If an adjective in the masculine ends in any other vowel, or in -ent, -ant, an -e is added to form the feminine:

passé, passée
ravi, ravie
intéressant, intéressante

BUT,

fou, folle

3. Adjectives ending in "vowel + l, n, s, or t" generally double the consonant and add an -e:

gentil, gentille
gros, grosse
ancien, ancienne

4. Other common changes in endings are as follows:

-eux ---> -euse: heureux, heureuse
-oux ---> -ouse: jaloux, jalouse
-eur ---> -euse: menteur, menteuse (except: meilleur, intérieur, extérieur, etc.)
-teur ---> -trice: conservateur, conservatrice
-er ---> -ère: régulier, régulière
-f ---> -ve: veuf, veuve

5. Some adjectives are irregular:

beau, belle
nouveau, nouvelle
mou, molle
vieux, vieille
blanc, blanche
sec, sèche
public, publique

6. Certain colors, especially compound adjectives or adjectives formed from nouns, are invariable:

orange
châtain
bleu foncé

Recognizing the gender of nouns

While there are few hard and fast rules for recognizing the gender of French nouns, some patterns and tendencies can be presented.

1. Common feminine endings:

Nouns ending in -tion or -sion:

l'inflation
la nation
la personnification
l'infusion

Most nouns ending in -ique:

la symbolique
la dynamique
la physique

Most nouns ending in a doubled consonant followed by "e":

la ville
la fille
la somme
la guerre
la technicienne

Most nouns ending in -ie:

la paralysie
la chimie
la philosophie

Most nouns ending in -té:

la médiocrité
l'identité
la mendicité
la santé

Most nouns ending in -ence or -ance:

l'indigence
l'aisance
la balance

Most nouns ending in -eur:

la longueur
la grandeur
la largeur

2. Common masculine endings:

Nouns ending in -ent:

l'appartement
le parlement
le changement
l'établissement
le président

Nouns ending in -isme:

le capitalisme
l'individualisme
le structuralisme

Most nouns formed from verb infinitives:

le savoir
le pouvoir

Most compound nouns:

le tire-bouchon
l'arc-en-ciel

Many nouns ending with vowel + consonant:

le salon
le billet
le soldat
le technicien

3. Masculine or Feminine.

Many nouns referring to people can be masculine or feminine depending on the person they refer to, even if they don't change forms:

le partenaire, la partenaire
le dentiste, la dentiste
le révolutionnaire, la révolutionnaire

BUT:

la victime
la personne

4. Some nouns of profession exist only in the masculine form:

le professeur
l'écrivain
le médecin
l'arbitre
le juge

BUT: feminine forms are sometimes made by adding making compound nouns with "femme":

une femme écrivain
un médecin femme

5. Gender of countries.

Nearly all country and state names ending in -e are feminine:

la France
la Colombie
la Floride
la Russie

BUT:

le Mexique
le Zaïre

Nearly all others are masculine:

le Japon
le Brésil
les Etats-Unis

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