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French Grammar, French Vocabulary

Focus on the valuable grammar tool of gender in French

Feminine or masculine, that is the question you often ask yourself as a French learner.

Why “bureau” (desk) is masculine and “chaise” (chair) feminine?

Learning French grammar tool of gender in French is not that complicated! Here is some simple explanations.

In French, every noun has a gender, masculine or feminine.

You must think that the only one option to speak French properly is to learn by heart all the French nouns. Luckily this is one of many myths about the French language and you can actually know the gender of a French noun just by looking at its ending.

Why does gender in French matter?

Before you discover how easy it is to know the gender of French nouns with accuracy, you need to know that the gender has an influence on:

  • The article you use before a noun
  • Pronouns
  • The ending of adjectives

Did you know that a French word ending is a good indicator of its gender?

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.

To learn grammar tool of gender in French, you need to know that in French grammar rules exit but exceptions remain.

The first one is to look at the ending of a word.

According to several studies, a noun’s ending indicates its gender in 80% of cases.

This could be learnt by heart but it would be boring. Instead write it down on a small note book and keep an eye on it each time you need to speak French.

Best Grammar tool of gender in French. Here is a simplified list that would be easier to remember.

Masculine

  • age (virage)
  • al (arsenal, journal, animal)
  • eau (tableau, chapeau, bateau)
  • ent (sergent, président, client)
  • isme (communisme, optimisme)
  • ment (département, gouvernement

Feminine

  • ade (promenade, salade)
  • aison (combinaison)
  • ance (espérance)
  • ence (providence)
  • esse (adresse, jeunesse)
  • ette, (cigarette, disquette)
  • ie (chimie)
  • tion (action, collection, correction)
  • sion (passion, conclusion, décision)
  • té : vérité, sincérité, université
  • ure (aventure, écriture)

Do you want to know how to speak French properly?

French gender rules explained

Once you know how to easily indentify the gender of nouns, you have to agree all the sentence with this gender. Follow this French lesson and discover all about French articles, pronouns, and adjectives.

The articles and adjectives that we pair with French nouns must agree in both gender and number. Otherwise things sound incorrect to a native French speaker.

• The article you use before a noun

An article is a part of speech that is used very often.

A definite article reveals a specific noun – in English the definite article is the.

I found the box = a specific box that you were looking for, or referred to before.

In French, le, la, and les are all definite articles.

In English, you always use “the”. In French, you have a masculine “the” (le) and a feminine “the” (la). Les is the plural form.

  • Le téléphone
  • La télévision
  • Les objets

An indefinite article doesn’t refer to a specific noun.

In English our indefinite articles are a or an depending on whether the noun starts with a vowel.

Look at this example :

I found a box = any random box out of an indescribable number of boxes. Similarly, you have a masculine “a” in French (un) and a feminine one (une).

  • Un paquet (a package)
  • Une boite (a box)

If the noun is plural in French, you have to use DES. English does not use any plural article.

  • Des paquets (packages)

Finally, while you say “some” in English. You need to make the distinction between “du” (masculine) and “de la” (feminine) in French.

Exercise yourself

Pronouns

In French , pronouns change according to the gender.

As in English you have a masculine pronoun il (he) and a feminine one elle (she).

However, regarding the plural, you have two different pronouns in French ils or elles.

English will be “they” for both.

Exercise yourself

Try to match with the right pronoun.

…..est poli….Correction….il

…..est polie….Correction….elle

…..sont polis….Correction….ils

The endings of adjectives and verbs

In the previous exercise, you have seen that adjectives can change due to the noun’s gender.

Poli (Polite) changes into Polie at the feminine form.

An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun. All French adjectives agree in number (singular or plural) and gender (masculine or feminine) with the nouns they describe. In fact, in French, all words in a sentence must agree with each other.

Most of the time masculine adjectives can be change to feminine by adding a suffix.

Most adjectives add e to the masculine singular form to get the feminine singular.

Examples

Américain -> américaine

Bleu -> bleue

Content -> contente

Brun -> brune

Blond -> blonde

Fier -> fière

Charmant -> charmante

Idéal -> idéale

Agé -> agée

Dévoué -> dévouée

Fatigué -> fatiguée

Occupé -> occupée

Masculine singular adjectives ending in eux form the feminine by changing -x to -se,

Examples

Affectueux -> affectueuse

Chanceux -> chanceuse

Courageux -> courageuse

Form the feminine singular of masculine singular adjectives ending in f by changing -f to -ve.

Examples

Neuf -> neuve

Sportif -> sportive

Vif -> vive

Actif -> active

Masculine singular adjectives ending in -er form the feminine by changing -er to -ére,

Examples

Léger -> légère

Étranger -> étrangère

Premier -> première

Cher -> chère

Some masculine singular adjectives form the feminine by doubling the final consonant before the -e ending.

Examples

Bon -> bonne

Bas -> basse

Ancien -> ancienne

Européen -> européenne

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