How to Determine if a French Word is Masculine or Feminine


In French all nouns are either masculine or feminine – there is no neutral. venus and mars symbols - red

French gender is a constant headache for many students of French. Why is ‘television’ always feminine and ‘work‘ always masculine?

What’s the logic behind gender in French?

Unfortunately there isn’t any…

Gender is a grammatical concept and has nothing to do with the biological sex of the object or person involved.

But please don’t worry too much about genders when speaking French. You will definitely make mistakes when you’re learning and that’s ok. It’s important that you try and speak as much as possible even if it’s not perfect.

Often the masculine or feminine form doesn’t affect the meaning in a conversation and as a French person I must admit that it’s actually quite nice to hear some mistakes.

But as a French teacher I should give you some patterns in word endings that tend to indicate masculine nouns, while other endings favor feminine nouns.

However as there are so many exceptions, these gender patterns are not fool-proof, but they can help you to guess the gender of many French nouns.



Suffixes that usually indicate feminine nouns:

-e (except for words ending in -asme /–isme/-aire)     Une table, une recette

-é (-tié/-cé/-té)             une clé, une liberté 

-sion                               une explosion, une passion

-tion                               une addition, une exposition

-son                                une chanson, une maison

-eur                                une couleur, une chaleur  (if it applies to names of professions and mechanical things such as un docteur, un facteur, un aspirateur, un ordinateur, then it will be masculine)

Note: The best way to remember the gender of nouns is to make sure your vocabulary lists include an indefinite article (Un, une) for each noun. An indefinite article, because it doesn’t change in front of vowels.

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