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How to determine the gender of nouns in French?

By: Céline Bateman-Paris Thu Mar 21 2024

To determine the gender of a noun in French (whether a word is masculine or feminine), look at the article preceding the noun or the ending on the noun itself.

  • Using the article:

    Dans ma classe, il y a un Suisse et une Belge.

    In my class there is a Swiss man and a Belgian woman.

  • Using the ending:

    -ment = masculine (le gouvernement(the government))

    -ure = feminine (la ceinture(the belt))


    Il a acquis de l'expérience pendant ses nombreux voyages.

    He has gained experience during his several trips.

However, not all French nouns’ genders are straightforward, so we’ll also help you recognize the odd nouns which:

  • are gender neutral, meaning they apply to both men and women:

    Sophie (f.) est un être (m.) adorable.

    Sophie is a lovely human being.

  • change meaning whether they are masculine or feminine:

    Ce livre (m.) coûte une livre (f.) !

    This book costs a pound!

  • have two spellings, meanings, and genders in French, but not in English:


    Il y a un an (m.), il a passé une année (f.) merveilleuse.

    A year ago, he had a wonderful year.

Sometimes gender in French can be random, but there are some rules and tips which can help you unravel the mystery a bit. In this post, we’ll review tricks!

Ready to cover all the tips and tricks?

Table of Contents

    How to tell the gender of a noun in French?

    To tell the gender of a French noun, you can either:

    • Look at the ending of the noun to see if it is traditionally feminine or traditionally masculine

    • Use other grammatical clues in the sentence, like determiners, adjectives, or verb endings, to give you a hint.

    Before we review these strategies, let’s first address a common question from French learners: Why bother learning the gender of nouns? Well, here are two reasons:

    • In French, articles, adjectives, and verbs can all agree in gender with the noun they modify.

      La mangue que j’ai mangée était mûre.

      The mango I ate was ripe.

      Le melon que j’ai mangé était mûr.

      The melon I ate was ripe.

    • French speakers will probably tease you if you say "une pain au chocolat" instead of “un pain au chocolat”(a chocolate croissant). You will sound sweet, but you may want to sound serious!

    So, let’s see how you can determine the gender of a French word, starting with looking at the ending of the noun. Sometimes, one or only a few letters can reveal whether a noun is masculine or feminine.

    How to use French noun endings to determine gender?

    You can use patterns in French noun endings to help you determine whether their gender is masculine or feminine. However, beware of some common misconceptions that trick new French learners!

    TipThe false rules!

    Let’s start by freeing you from some myths by clarifying two things:

    • Nouns ending in -e are not necessarily always feminine!

      un homme

      a man

      le chauffage

      the heating

      le violoncelle

      the cello

    • Nouns ending with a consonant are not necessarily always masculine!

      une chanson

      a song

      la paix

      the peace

      la mer

      the sea

    With these traps out of the way, let’s move on to the main endings for feminine nouns in French.

    What are the feminine noun endings in French?

    Here are the main endings for feminine French nouns worth memorizing by heart! 🤎

    • -té

      la san


      la rivali



      There are four masculine nouns that end in -té!

      • le côté(side)

      • le pâté(pâté)

      • le comité(committee)

      • l’été(summer)

    • -ion

      la solution


      la diversion


    • -ure

      la mesure


      la confiture


    • -ette

      la supérette

      grocery shop

      la moquette

      fitted carpet


      One masculine noun ends in -ette: le squelette(skeleton)!

    For more feminine French noun endings, check out this helpful list!

    What are the masculine noun endings in French?

    Here are the main endings for masculine French nouns worth memorizing by heart! 💚

    • -age

      le paysage


      le passage



      There are six feminine nouns that end in -age!

      • la plage(beach)

      • la page(page)

      • la cage(cage)

      • l'image(image)

      • la rage(rage)

      • la nage(swimming)

      Except for the French for “swimming” and “beach,” these words are exactly the same in English, so they are easy to remember!
    • -ment

      le règlement


      le réchauffement


    • -eau


      step ladder

      le corbeau



      There are two feminine nouns that end in -eau:

      • l’eau


      • la peau


    • -o

      le stylo


      le rétro

      side mirror

      le polo

      polo shirt


      Words ending in -o can also be shortenings of feminine words and therefore remain feminine.

      • La moto < la motocyclette(motorbike)

      • La météo < la météorologie(weather forecast)

    For more masculine French noun endings, check out this helpful list!

    How to use determiners, adjectives, and verbs to tell French gender?

    By looking at the gender of the determiners, adjectives, and verb forms used with a noun, you can make a pretty good guess about the gender of that noun in French.

    A determiner can be an article (le(the)), a possessive adjective (mon(my)) or ademonstrative adjective ce(this) . Because these little words agree with the noun they modify in gender, they can tell you whether the nouns they accompany are feminine or masculine.


    Ma veste est sur ce cintre.

    My jacket is on this coat hanger.

    With certain French adjectives and verb forms (like the French past participles), you will spot a feminine -e ending or hear a final consonant when you read or listen to a sentence. This can help you determine the gender of the noun being discussed.

    Je l’ai faite hier.

    I made it yesterday.

    ↳ You can hear and see that the topic is feminine, because the "t" of the past participle faite is pronounced since it takes an extra "-e".

    Je l’ai trouvée joyeuse.

    I found her joyful.

    ↳ You can hear and see that the person is a woman because the adjective joyeuse (f.) is pronounced and written differently from joyeux (m.).

    Je l’ai trouvée intéressée.

    I found her interested.

    ↳ You can see that the person is a woman because of the extra "-e" . However, in this case, you can’t hear it.

    What about nouns like le garçon(the boy) , which refer to real people with their own genders? Let’s move on!

    How to determine gender for living nouns in French?

    To determine the grammatical gender for living French nouns, such as people and animals, simply refer to the biological gender of the noun. Take a look:


    la mère

    the mother

    le père

    the father

    la maman

    the mom

    le papa

    the dad

    la Mexicaine

    the Mexican woman

    le Mexicain

    the Mexican man

    la citadine

    the city girl

    le citadin

    the city boy

    une jument

    a mare

    un cheval

    a horse

    une guenon

    a female monkey

    un singe

    a male monkey


    Some nouns for animals in French are only masculine or feminine, regardless of the biological gender of the animal. For example:

    • une abeille(a bee)

    • un crocodile(a crocodile)

    If you want to specify the gender of one of these nouns use the adjective mâle(male) or femelle(female):

    • un crocodile femelle(a female crocodile)

    • une girafe mâle(a male giraffe)

    For more examples of animals that have only one gender in French versus animals with two noun forms, refer to our helpful list!


    Do not call a woman une femelle or a man un mâle in French! This is only used for animals.

    mon amie femelle mon amie fille/femme(my female friend)

    le docteur mâle le docteur(the male doctor)

    You may have noticed in the examples above that French often uses different words, or at least different spellings, for living nouns, depending on their biological gender. Indeed, French nouns can have variable endings based on the biological gender.

    Therefore, the ending of a noun can help you determine the noun’s gender (and the person or animal’s biological gender).



    un serveur(waiter)


    une serveuse(waitress)


    un acteur(actor)


    une actrice(actress)


    un musicien(musician (m.))


    une musicienne(musician (f.))


    un patron(boss (m.))


    une patronne(boss (f.))


    un infirmier(nurse (m.))


    une infirmière(nurse (f.))


    When job titles end in -e in both the masculine and feminine forms, you’ll need to look for an additional clue: the article and the agreement of the adjective or verb form will help determine whether we are talking about a man or a woman.


    Le garagiste a réparé la voiture de la journaliste.

    The mechanic (male) fixed the journalist’s (female) car.


    L’artiste allemand e est arrivée.

    The artist has arrived.

    ↳ the adjective and participle are feminine: l’artiste = female.

    Nowadays, in an effort to promote gender equality, using a feminine article or adding an -e at the end of some job titles has become more and more common in French. Before, certain professions were associated with males. Unlike in English, marking the difference between men and women in French is thought to bring about more equality.


    Bonjour Mme le Maire.

    Good morning Madam Mayor.

    Bonjour Mme la Maire.

    Good morning Madam Mayor.

    Marie est professeur de langues.

    Marie is a language teacher.

    Marie est professeure de langues.

    Marie is a language teacher

    Feeling good about determining the gender of living nouns?! Let’s get into non-living things now!

    How to determine gender for non-living nouns in French?

    To determine the gender of non-living French nouns, you can use the noun ending patterns and other grammar clues discussed above, as well as the following tips meant specifically to help identify the gender of non-living nouns. Determining the gender for non-living nouns is a bit more complicated, since there is no biological gender to refer to. But don’t worry, we have some tips!

    How to spot a feminine non-living noun in French?

    To spot a feminine, non-living noun in French, remember that nouns derived from adjectives are feminine and that certain categories of nouns sometimes trigger the feminine gender.

    • Nouns derived from adjectives

      When a noun is formed from an adjective, it will be feminine. For example:

      • sale(dirty)la saleté(dirtiness)

      • beau(beautiful)la beauté(beauty)

      • gai(joyful)la gaîté(joyfulness)

    • Categories of feminine nouns

      As you know, some words are randomly masculine or feminine. However, some of these words do fit into categories that are gendered. Here are three main categories for feminine words:

      • Businesses derived from jobs

        la boulangerie(bakery)

        la librairie(bookstore)


        There are a few masculine businesses as well:

        • le supermarché(supermarket)

        • le bureau de tabac(tobacco store), etc.

      • School subjects

        la chimie(chemistry)

        la biologie(biology)


        There are a few masculine school subjects:

        • le droit(law)

        • le dessin(drawing), etc.

        • les arts plastiques(art), etc.

        • languages (see below)

      • Countries ending in -e

        la Belgique(Belgium)

        la Slovénie(Slovenia)


        There are four masculine countries ending in -e:

        • le Cambodge(Cambodia)

        • le Zimbabwe(Zimbabwe)

        • le Mozambique(Mozambique)

        • le Mixique(Mexico)

    How to spot a masculine non-living noun in French?

    To spot a masculine non-living French noun, you’ll want to remember that most borrowed words and nouns derived from verbs are masculine. Also, like feminine nouns, there are certain categories of nouns that are typically masculine.

    • Nouns borrowed from foreign languages

      Most nouns that are borrowed from a language other than French are the masculine gender in French. For example:

      • From English:

        • un hamburger(a hamburger)

        • un parking(parking lot)

      • From Japanese:

        • un haiku(poem)

        • un futon(futon mattress)


      Sometimes, the semantics prevail. This means that (1) words borrowed from a language that doesn’t use gender (like English) and (2) brand names that become generic names for a thing (like une game boy = la console(game console) will take the gender of what the noun represents. For example:

      Il m’a raconté sa life.

      He told me all about his life story.

      la life is feminine because the French, la vie(life) is feminine.

      Elle lit le Times et regarde la CNN

      She reads the Times and watches CNN.

      le Times is masculine because le journal(the newspaper) is masculine.
      la CNN is feminine because la chaîne(the channel) is feminine.

      …but for words borrowed from romance languages and other languages that do use gender, French borrows the gender too:

      From Italian:
      From Spanish:
      From Arabic:

      un soprano

      a soprano

      un patio

      a patio

      un abricot

      an apricot


      une pizza

      a pizza

      une gambas

      a king prawn

      une jupe

      a skirt

    • Nouns derived from verbs

      When French nouns are derived from verbs, they are masculine in gender. For example:

      laver(to wash)le lavoir(wash house)

      parler(to speak)le haut-parleur(loudspeaker)

      penser(to think)un pense-bête(reminder)

    • Categories of masculine nouns

      • Colors

        le bleu(blue)

        le rouge(red)

        le vert(green)

      • Languages

        le latin(Latin)

        le grec(Greek)

        le chinois(Chinese)

      • Days of the week

        le lundi(Mondays)

        le samedi(Saturdays)

      • Countries NOT ending in -e

        le Canada(Canada)

        le Pérou(Peru)

      • Trees

        le pommier(apple tree)

        le cèdre(cedar)

    To see more categories of French nouns that are typically masculine or feminine, take a look at this resource we created for you!

    Let’s now tackle the case of tricky nouns in French, such as gender-neutral nouns.

    What are gender-neutral nouns in French?

    Some nouns in French are gender-neutral, meaning they can identify both females and males. We’ve seen earlier that some living nouns identifying men are masculine in gender, and others identifying women are feminine. “Epicene” nouns (gender-neutral nouns) are another type of French noun. Even though the noun may have a grammatical gender in French, it can be applied to a person of any biological gender. For example:

    personne (f.)

    a person

    Robert est une personne gentille.

    Robert is a nice person.

    sage-femme (f.)

    a midwife

    Richard travaille comme sage-femme.

    Richard works as a midwife.

    agent de police (m.)

    a police officer

    Léa est agent de police.

    Léa is a police officer.

    ↳ Don't say agente!

    monstre (m.)

    a monster

    Cette petite fille est un vrai monstre !

    This little girl is a real monster!

    ↳Don’t say une vraie monstre !

    For more information on French epicene words, take a look at this cool French blog!​​

    How does gender affect a noun’s meaning in French?

    Sometimes, a change in gender in French will affect the meaning of the noun. There is a list of French nouns which are spelled exactly the same but change meaning depending on whether they are masculine or feminine. Don’t worry! Most of the time, the context will help you distinguish them and understand the meaning. I’ve selected a few examples for you, but feel free to check this list of words that change meaning from masculine to feminine for more!


    un tour

    a stroll, a turn (when playing a game)

    une tour

    a shower

    un somme

    a nap

    une somme

    an addition

    un livre

    a book

    une livre

    a pound

    un moule

    a baking pan

    une moule

    a mussel

    How to use ‘matin,’ ‘jour,’ ‘soir,’ and ‘an’ in French?

    Use the masculine form of matin(morning), jour(day), soir(evening), and an(year) when you are referring to a quantity. However, you may have also heard or read a longer version of these four masculine words above: matinée, journée, soirée, année. When we add -ée to these words, they become feminine in gender and can be used in slightly different contexts. While there is no difference in English, they are not interchangeable in French, so you’ll need to open your mind to a different way of thinking!

    Use the masculine forms when they are described by some sort of quantity: time, numbers, or frequency with phrases such as tours les...(every...)

    Frequency →

    Je travaille tous les jours.

    I work every day.

    Quantity →

    J’habite à Paris depuis 3 ans.

    I have lived in Paris for 3 years.

    Use the feminine forms when referring to the quality of the duration or description of an activity. For example, the feminine forms are often found with descriptive adjectives, with ordinal numbers, or approximate quantities (quelques (a few), combien(how many), une douzaine(a dozen), etc.).

    Duration →

    J’ai travaillé toute la journée.

    I worked all day.

    Description with:

    • an adjective:

      J’ai passé une matinée agréable.

      I have had a lovely morning.

    • ordinal numbers:

      C’est ma troisième année.

      It is my third year.

    • approximate quantities:

      Il y a combien d’années?

      How many years ago?

    Here’s a summary of the uses:


    un matin, un jour, un soir, un an

    une matinée, une journée, une soirée, une année

    • They are units of time

    • They are used with numbers

    • They are used to describe frequency

    • They describe the length of an activity

    • They are used with adjectives

    • They are used with ordinal numbers

    • They describe approximate quantities

    → quantity

    → quality


    If one of these words is preceded by one number and one adjective, the “quality rule” wins over the “quantity rule.”

    For example: trois longues journées (three long days)

    In brief: Most useful tips for French gender

    In this post, we’ve reviewed how to determine the gender of a French noun. Keep the following in the mind when choosing the gender of a noun:

    • Words ending in: -té, -ion, -ure, -ette = feminine

    • Words ending in: -ment, -age, -o, -eau = masculine

    • When talking about people, words ending in -e usually identify women.

    • When reading or listening, look for grammar clues:

      • demonstratives (le, la, mon, ta, etc.),

      • adjectives (verte = f., whereas vert = m.)

      • verbs (faite = f., whereas fait = m.)

    • If you are a flashcard fan like me, remember to learn new words with their article!
      LE pain, not just pain(bread). Alternatively, check in the good old dictionary!

    Ready for some practice? Practice your knowledge of French nouns and gender with this exercise!

    Downloadable Resources

    Elevate your language-learning journey to new heights with the following downloadable resources.

    How to determine the gender of nouns in French~Gender endings TableHow to determine the gender of nouns in French~Activities

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