Tricks to get the gender of nouns correct in French

Working out the genders of nouns in French can be one of the most difficult parts of the language to navigate

Trying to remember the genders of nouns in French can be a real headache
Published Last updated

The gender of words in French can be nothing short of a nightmare, but don’t worry, ce n’est pas grave !

French native speakers even admit to finding the gender rules difficult at times.

In the modern period, as the language develops and modernises, the question of gender in French – and other languages – is beginning to be questioned.

At the moment however French is still a strictly gendered language, and learners wanting to sound fluent will need to know the gender of nouns.

General rules exist for how nouns are gendered

Fortunately, it is not simply a case of memorising the gender of each word as we are often told at school.

There are plenty of general categories, tips, and tricks that can help you know the gender of a word, or take an educated guess at it even if you have never seen it before.

In general, these will help you get the gender right around 80% of the time; as for the exceptions, they are just something you will learn in time.

It is worth noting that these rules are a general overview and as always, there are plenty of exceptions.

Read more: Are there age restrictions on language tests for French nationality?

Word endings usually show gender

The simplified form of the rules are that in around 80% to 90% of cases, nouns ending in -eor -ion will be feminine.

Nouns with the following endings are frequently feminine:

  • -aie, -oue, -eue, -ion, -te, – ée, -ie, -ue

  • -asse, -ace, -esse, -ece, -aisse, -isse/-ice, -ousse, -ance, -anse, -ence, -once

  • -enne, -onne, -une, -ine, -aine, -eine, -erne

  • -ande, -ende, -onde, -ade, -ude, -arde, -orde

  • -euse, -ouse, -ase, -aise, -ese, -oise, -ise, -yse, -ose, -use

  • -ache, -iche, -eche, -oche, -uche, -ouche, -anche

  • -ave, -eve, -ive

  • -iere, -ure, -eure

  • -ette, -ete, – ête, -atte, -otte, -oute, -orte, -ante, -ente, -inte, -onte

  • -alle, -elle, -ille, -olle

  • -aille, -eille, -ouille

  • -appe, -ampe, -ombe

  • -igue

Note the first major exception: this is not the case for words ending in -age, -ege, -é, or -isme, which normally indicates the noun takes the masculine.

Read more: Informal synonyms for everyday French words

In addition, nouns with the these endings are usually masculine:

Masculine noun endings

  • -an, -and, -ant, -ent, -in, -int, -om, -ond, -ont, -on (not after s/c¸)

  • -eau, -au, -aud, -aut, -o, -os, -ot

  • -ai, -ais, -ait, -es, -et

  • -ou, -out, -out, -oux

  • -i, -il, -it, -is, -y

  • -at, -as, -ois, -oit

  • • -u, -us, -ut, -eu

  • -er, -é after C (C=t)

  • -age, -ege, – ème, -ome, -aume, -isme

  • -as, -is, -os, -us, -ex

  • -it, -est

  • -al, -el, -il, -ol, -eul, -all

  • -if, -ef

  • -ac, -ic, -oc, -uc

  • -am, -um, -en

  • -air, -er, -erf, -ert, -ar, -arc, -ars, -art, -our, -ours, -or, -ord, -ors, -ort, -ir, -oir, -eur
    (if animate)

  • -ail, -eil, -euil, -ueil

  • -ing

Noun categories can also help

Another way to try to identify the gender of a word is through what type of ‘thing’ it is.

This is particularly useful for specialised language in a field you might not know all the vocabulary for, or when talking about brands and different types of products..

Generally speaking nouns for wines, cheeses, colours, metric units, metals, languages, trees, days of the week, seasons and months are masculine.

Brand names of cars, watches, rivers, planets, school and university subjects are all usually feminine, although le droit is an exception here.

Related articles

Grammar points to watch out for in spoken French

Test your French with these nine expressions linked to insects