Words that change meaning from feminine to masculine

Gender matters in French – get it wrong and it can lead to serious misunderstandings.

18 June 2019

Sometimes the same word can have a different meaning depending on whether it is masculine or feminine. Here are 10 words and their different meanings, according to gender:

Un poêle and une poêle

Un poêle is a wood-burner and is used for heating, while une poêle is a frying pan.

Un moule and une moule

Un moule is a baking pan used for cakes while une moule is the mussel you can eat.

Un mémoire and une mémoire

Un mémoire is a book. It is often a thesis or a dissertation but it can also be an autobiography (for example, memoirs of Charles de Gaulle). Une mémoire or la mémoire is the memory.

Un enseigne and une enseigne

Un enseigne used to be a marine officer while une enseigne is a logo.

Un livre and une livre

Un livre is a book - while the feminine une livre is another term for a UK pound (as in money and weight).

Un voile and une voile

Un voile is a veil, also used for hijab, whereas une voile is the sail of a boat.

There is also the expression “lever le voile”, which means to reveal something, different again from “hisser les voiles” or “mettre les voiles”, which mean to leave.

Un tour and une tour

Un tour can have two meanings: it can be your turn when you are playing a game, but it also means a quick walk around. However, une tour is a tower. For example, la Tour de Pise is the Tower of Pisa.

Un mode and une mode

Un mode is a method or a way of doing something while une mode is a trend. La mode also means fashion in general.

Un manche and une manche

Un manche is a handle, while une manche can be a sleeve or a round in a game. La Manche is also used to name the English Channel.

Un vase and une vase

Un vase is a vase in which you can put flowers while une vase is a layer of water and mud.

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