How to guess the gender of French nouns

Gender nouns

Have you ever felt upset with the nouns in French?

Most of the people who study this language have, whether you have a gender-less mother tongue or a mother tongue with genders, you won’t find anything to help you decipher the mystery of the genders in French.

Some students asked me “Caroline, why, but why is it feminine???”. I’m always a bit embarrassed to answer with the dreaded “It’s just the way it is”. I really don’t like to reinforce this stereotype of French language having no rules and so many exceptions.
Even though there’s no real reason to why a word will be feminine and another one masculine (Thank God, we don’t have neutral!), there are however a few rules that we can use to guess with a lot of success. I would be able to write a three part post on the rules for each and every ending, but I think it’s quite useless. It’ll be better for you to focus on the most frequent endings.

A few tips before we start, as you may have noticed already, you need to look at the ending of a word to guess its gender. What a word is, isn’t going to help you though, because it wasn’t chosen by its shape, use or concept. When you learn a new word, to make your task easier, learn it with its article, possibly “un” or “une”. Why these ones in particular? Because if the word starts with a vowel, then using “le” or “la” will turn into “l’” and it will be of no use to you.
Don’t freak out too much about this gender craziness. Even French people, facing a completely new word, won’t necessarily know what gender it is. There are also some words famous for being tricky like “écritoire” (which is feminine by the way).

Let’s dive in! I won’t repeat what’s written in the infographic, I will add some new information.

Feminine

Masculine

-tte

Don’t forget to pronounce the “t” here. The only exception would be “un squelette”.

-me

Mostly masculine. Except for some words like une alarme, la crème, la forme, la larme, la gomme, une arme

-aison

100% success! For real?? Yes!

consonant

The majority will be masculine but you will sometimes encounter exceptions, like: la faim, la soif, la fin, la main, la fois, la voix, la paix, la croix, la maman

-ière

Except for le cimetière, le derrière, un arrière

-eau

Except for la peau, une eau

ée

Except for le lycée, le trophée, le musée

phone

No exception that I’m aware of. However I’ll update if I stumble upon one.

There are some endings that we won’t cover because they’re usually evenly split between masculine and feminine. The exceptions that are written in the table are common words. The ones that you will not learn nor often meet are useless to know for the moment.

Phewww…we’re done with the genders for today.  These aren’t all the endings of the French language, but it will help you tremendously and will prevent you from looking completely confused.

If you have a friend who pulls his/her hair out because of this craziness, click the birdy to tweet this infographic now. (S)he will thank you for that 😉 Tweet: Don't pull your hair out because of genders in French! Here's the solution. http://bit.ly/1S7ERfr #French #learnfrench

Bonne journée à tous et bon français !

Caroline

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