Get Well Versed In French Nouns: The Four Rules
French nouns are far from being free agents. In fact, they affect a good portion of a sentence and abide by 4 different rules. Let’s find out more shall we?
1. No Matter the Noun, It Has A Gender
In French, nouns can either be masculine or feminine.
One way to differentiate them is by taking note of the indefinite article. For feminine nouns, the indicating article is ‘une’ while for masculine ones it’s ‘un’. These are the equivalents of “a” and “an”.
Feminine – une chaussette (a sock)
Masculine – un livre (a book)
Another way to tell them apart is having a look at the definite article. For feminine nouns the article ‘la’ is used, while for masculine nouns it’s ‘le’. These are the equivalents of “the”.
Feminine – la langue (the language) , l’histoire (the history)
Masculine – le jus (the juice)
The definite articles le or la become l’ when they are followed by a vowel as to avoid vowel clashes.
2. Identify Suffixes
Some French nouns’ genders can be hard to guess, however there are a number of them that have particular suffixes which can help you discern whether they’re feminine or masculine.
Some Masculine suffixes: -aire, -ien, -on, -in, -ment
un billionaire (a billionaire), un chien (a dog), un lion (a lion), un abonnement (a subscription)
Some Feminine suffixes: -ssion, -ance, -té, -ine, tion
la session (the session), la croyance (the belief), la variété (the variety) la cousine (cousin), la compétition (the competition)
3. French Nouns vs Plurals
Here’s everything you need to know about how plurals can determine noun genders.
For masculine plural nouns, the indefinite article is ‘des’ and the definite article is ‘les’.
des jardins (gardens)
For feminine plural nouns, the indefinite and definite articles are the same as the masculine ones ie. ‘des‘ and ‘les‘.
les clés (the keys), des chaussures (shoes)
How a singular noun ends can often determine how it ends in its plural form.
- For instance, a word with the suffix ‘-eu’, ‘-ou’ or ‘-eau‘ then takes an ‘x’ at the end in the plural form.
Le gâteau -> Les gâteaux (the cakes)
- When a singular noun ends in either an ‘s’, ‘x’ or ‘z’ it remains the same in the plural form.
La voix -> les voix (the voices)
- If a singular noun ends with ‘-ail’ or ‘-al’, the suffix changes to ‘-aux‘ when in the plural form.
Un journal -> des journaux (newspapers)
The video below is a great recap on how to differentiate French nouns
4. French Nouns vs Adjectives
As you probably already know, adjectives are affected by the gender or the number of the nouns they agree with.
La fille est grande (The girl is tall)
Les hommes sont grands (The men are tall)
|Masculine||Remains as it is in most cases|
|Feminine||An ‘-e’ is added in most cases|
|Masculine Plurals||An ‘-s‘ is usually added|
|Feminine Plurals||‘-es‘ is usually added|
Note: In some instances adjectives can be placed before the noun, but in most cases they remain after it.
Une grande personne (a big person)
Adjectives ending in ‘-é‘
Fatigué (ms) -> Fatiguée (fs) Fatigués (mp) -> Fatiguées (fp)
Adjectives ending in ‘-er’
Cher (ms) -> Chère (fs) Chers (mp) -> Chères (fp)
Adjectives ending in ‘-eux’
Ennuyeux (ms) -> Ennuyeuse (fs) Ennuyeux (mp) -> Ennuyeuses (fp)
Adjectives ending in ‘-f ‘
Neuf (ms) -> Neuve (fs) Neufs (mp) -> Neuves (fp)
Adjectives ending in ‘-n‘
Bon (ms) -> Bonne (fs) -> Bons (mp) -> Bonnes (fp)
Adjectives ending in a silent ‘-e ’
Malade (ms) -> Malade (fs) Malades (mp) -> Malades (fp)
And that brings the chapter on French nouns to an end!
Why not try our quiz below to put what you’ve learnt today to the test?
See you next lesson – and in the meantime, don’t forget to practice! If you do need any help don’t hesitate to get into contact with one of our online French Tutors.