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French Grammar – Nouns

A noun refers to a person, place or thing.

Gender

The majority of French nouns are masculine or feminine (this is their gender),
whereas in English nouns do not have a gender. The article which comes before
a masculine noun is un (a/one) or le (the). The article which comes before a
feminine noun is une (a/one) or la (the).

A general rule: most feminine nouns end in –e and most masculine nouns end
in a consonant.

Masculine Feminine
un an une année
un soir une soirée
un jour une journée

However, not all nouns follow this general rule, as some masculine nouns can
end in –e (le groupe, le reste, le silence) and some feminine nouns end with a
consonant (une dent).

Typical Noun endings

The ending of a noun can tell you whether it is masculine or feminine as there
are some endings which specifically relate to a gender. The table below
summarises these general rules.

Masculine Feminine
-é (le thé) -tié (la moitié)
-eau (le chapeau) -sion/son/tion (la combinaison)
-ou (le chou) -ade/ce/ie/ise (la présence)
-a/i/o (but not la pizza or la vidéo) -itude/ière/ée/ure (la procédure)
-age (le message) but une image -té (la nationalité)
-phone/scope (le téléphone)
-ment (le sentiment)
-isme (le racisme)
-gramme/graphe (un programme)
-cle (un siècle)

Most animal nouns have a certain gender e.g. une girafe, un rat. However, some
have different nouns for different genders e.g. un cochon/une truie.

For nouns referring to people, add an –e in the feminine form, except for these
patterns:
• -er/ère
• -ien/ienne
• -f/ve
• -eur/euse
• -eur/rice
• -x/se

Countries ending in –e are feminine (la France, la Suisse) and others are
masculine (le Portugal).

Some types of nouns are always masculine:


• measurements, shapes, compass points (le mètre, le rectangle, le sud)
• days, months, seasons, languages (le mardi, le printemps, le français)
• materials (le verre, le plastique, le bois)
• most English nouns (le sandwich)
• compound nouns (le porte-feuille)

Certain nouns have different meanings depending on their gender :

Masculine Feminine
le tour (round trip) la tour (tower)
le mode (method) la mode (fashion)
un livre (book) une livre (Pound)

Plural nouns

Add an –s unless nouns ends in s, x or z is the general rule.

Exceptions are:

• Nouns ending in al, eu, au or eau, add x e.g. le travail, les travaux
• Learn the irregular ones e.g. l’oeil/les yeux
• Family names do not become plural e.g. Les Dupont
• In compound nouns, adjectives and plural nouns has an –s, but verbs,
prepositions or a nouns stays singular e.g. les grands-parents, des porte-
monnaie

More information

Some nouns are the same for both genders – it is just the article which changes
e.g. un/une professeur.

Some nouns are always feminine, even when talking about a man e.g. une
personne and une star.