French Language Blog

French Language – Gender of Inanimate Nouns Posted by on Feb 25, 2009 in Grammar

We’ve talked about gender before and today we’ll discuss it some more as it can be difficult for English speakers when learning French because we don’t really have these issues in our language.  Many nouns have a fixed gender.  The suffixes can indicate the gender of these nouns, but there are many, many exceptions.  Some of the most frequent suffixes include:



-isme (le journalisme, le pessimisme) -té (la qualité, la pauvreté)
-ment (le mouvement, le vêtement) -ion (la question, une clarification)
-age (le voyage, le bagage)
Exceptions: une page, une image, une plage, une cage, la nage, la rage)
-eur (la fleur, la saveur)
Exception: le bonheur
-oi (la loi, la foi)
-ie (la sociologie, la magie)
-(e)au (le bureau, le noyau) -ure (la fermeture, la panure)
-phone (le téléphone, le microphone) -esse (la richesse, la tendresse)
-oir (le soir, le noir) -ette (la raquette, la claquette)
-et (le paquet, le bidet) -ence/-ance (l’expérience, la balance)

Some nouns take on a different meaning if you change the gender.  For example,

un livre de grammaire (a grammar book)     une livre de tomates (a pound of tomatoes)
un voile de mariée (veil)                                une voile de bateau (a sail)
le mode subjonctif (mood)                            la mode des années 80 (fashion)
le poste de police (the police station)          la poste (mail)

As we’ve touched on before, in general, nouns that end in -e are feminine like la France, l’Italie, la Normandie.  All others are usually masculine as in: le Japon, le Canada, le Languedoc.  But, be careful because there are exceptions of course: le Mexique, le Cambodge, le Zaïre

The gender for cities is not fixed.  When the noun ends in -e, they are usually considered to be feminine.  For example:
Toulouse est grande.
However, all other cities are considered to be masculine.  For example,
Paris est grand

The gender for MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS is not set in stone.  For example: la Seine, but, le Nil; le Jura, but, les Alpes (fem.plural)

So, in the end, it’s really all about memorization.  Surprise!

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  1. H A Pardi:

    My first view of this blog, and surely not the last. After the practice and fun with word of the day, more structured detail make for a beautiful lesson.
    Thank you so much.