You all know that in French, even inanimate objects are feminine or masculine. But did you know some endings can tell you the gender of French nouns? In this blog post, I’ll go over the feminine endings.
Quick summary: most French words ending in E, a vowel + a double consonant, or ssion or tion are feminine.
Michèle, la France, la fillette, la passion, la nation….
Now making a list of French endings that show a French noun is feminine is not easy since there are so many exceptions!
So take this list with a grain of salt: it may help you when you hesitate, but the best way is still to memorize the gender with the noun when you learn it.
First, if you don’t understand how a table can be “feminine” in French, read this article: what does number and gender means in French?
1 – How To Memorize French Noun Genders
Memorizing the gender of common nouns in French is maybe the most difficult thing for English speakers. First of all because you don’t have such a concept in English (a sofa bed is neutral: it. Not she or he…), second of all because… there are no precise rules to follow in French.
This list may help, however I highly recommend making sure you memorize the gender of French nouns at the same time as you memorize the noun itself: the two info should be really learned as one in French.
So, for example, never make lists with columns “feminine” and “masculine” and just write the French noun in them. You should ALWAYS have a French article to show the gender of the noun, and learn the article and the noun together, as one piece of information.
Beware of the internet – never work with a list of French noun which doesn’t repeat the article. I can’t repeat this enough: you need to learn the two concepts together (DO NOT do your flashcards like this image… ALWAYS ADD A FRENCH ARTICLE– Read my 9 Tips to make the best French flashcards to study French)
2 – Proper Names Ending in E are Usually Feminine
Nouns of countries and proper names that end in e are usually feminine:
- Michèle versus Michel, Paule versus Paul… But there are many exceptions (Alexandre is a guy’s name for example…).
- La France, l’Angleterre, la Turquie… (except Le Mexique, Le Cambodge, Le Zimbabwe…) – More about French prepositions of place used with countries.
3 – French Noun Ending in E + Double Consonant + E are Feminine
All the nouns ending in a double consonant + e are usually feminine. elle, enne, emme, esse, erre, ette…
- La pelle (shovel), une selle (saddle), la chaussette (the sock), la fillette (the little girl), La tristesse (sadness), la terre (earth), la femme (woman)…
- An exception is le squelette (the skeleton)
4 – French Nouns Ending in Ssion and Tion are Feminine
The Tion ending is common in English as well and French and English share many cognates: la situation, la question, la solution, l’éducation, l’opération, la nation, l’action… There are MANY words ending in Tion in French, and they are all feminine, except “le bastion”. So this is actually a big help.
Watch out for the pronunciation! It’s not Shon like in English, but SSion – this is particularly difficult for English speakers since your brain may “refuse” the French pronunciation (pun intended…).
Note that many nouns ending in just “ion” are masculine (un avion (a plane), un lion…)
The Ssion ending is typically feminine as well, as in la passion, la repression, l’émission (the programme)…. And there are many of them.
Then it becomes more complicated…
5 – French Nouns Ending in ale, cé, be, fe, and ace are Feminine
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Nouns ending in ale, cé, be, fe, and ace are typically feminine, but not that numerous in French.
- ace as in la glace (ice cream), la face (front).
6 – French Nouns Ence and Ance are Feminine
- Ence, again, many words that are similar to English: la patience, la violence, la conscience, l’agence… An exception is le silence.
- Ance, for example, les vacances (holidays), la croissance (growth), l’enfance (childhood). (Still good to know so I’ll list it here – but spelled with a S in French – la danse)
7 – French Nouns Ending Be, Té, Ade, are Feminine
- Be, as in une robe (a dress), une aube (dusk)…
Many exceptions including un cube, un microbe, un verbe…
- Té, as in la beauté, la priorité, la sécurité, la majorité, l’activité.
Many exceptions including l’été (summer), le paté, le côté (the side)…
- Ade, as in la promenade (the walk), la limonade.
Many exceptions including le grade, le jade, le stade.
8 – French Nouns Ending Ée, Erie, Ère, are Feminine
- Ée, for example la fusée (the rocket), une cuillerée (a spoonful), la chaussée (the road, carriageway), la bouchée (the mouthful), la corvée (the chore, task), . Exceptions include le lycée (the school), le musée (the museum): these are very common words so make sure you remember the exceptions!
- Erie, notably for names of shops such as la boulangerie (the bakery), la boucherie (the butcher’s), la librairie (the bookshop), l’épicerie (the grocery); also la sonnerie (the ringing of a bell or phone), la gendarmerie (the police station).
- Ère, as in la mère (the mother), la manière (the manner), la boulangère (a female baker). Exceptions are le père (the father), le frère (the brother), le cimetière (cemetery), l’arrière (the back).
9 – French Nouns Ending Ique, Ine and Ise, are Feminine
- Ique, as in la boutique, la musique, la gymnastique, la bibliothèque (the library). Some of the many exceptions are le plastique, le moustique (the mosquito)…
- Ine, as in la cousine (cousin), la poitrine (chest). Exception le magazine.
- Ise as in la surprise, la mise (the amount you bet).
10 – French Nouns Ending Ure and Rice are Feminine
- Ure, for example la chaussure (the shoe), la blessure (the wound), la nourriture (food). Exceptions include le murmure.
- Rice, commonly for occupations such as la directrice (the female director), une actrice (an actress), la traductrice (the female translator). Le dentifrice (the toothpaste) is an exception.
Good luck remembering the exceptions! Now, go to this post for French endings which tell masculine words.