French Gender Rules: Nouns & Adjectives

Instructor: Serina Rajagukguk

Serina has a bachelor's degree in French language and literature, as well as a master's degree in Political Science from a French University.

One of the most confusing aspects of learning French is how the gender of nouns affects other words, like adjectives. In this lesson, we'll learn all about gender rules for nouns and adjectives, and maybe you'll find it's not so confusing after all!

French Nouns Have Genders

This may be one of the first things you learn in French. There are two genders of nouns in French: féminin and masculin. The noun la mer (the sea) is feminine, while le lac (the lake) is masculine. The challenge will be to know which gender the noun is!

Here are some examples of French nouns and their respective gender:

Nouns Gender Meaning
voiture feminine car
sac masculine bag
château masculine castle
église feminine church
cuisine feminine kitchen

Adjectives and Genders

An adjective is a word that gives quality or description to a noun. In French, they must always follow the gender of the noun they're attached to. This means that when you give the adjective bleu (blue) to the lake, it becomes le lac bleu (the blue lake). But when it's the sea that is blue, you say: la mer bleue.

Did you notice the tiny -e that changes bleu into bleue?

In fact, this is how you make an adjective agree with a feminine noun. Well, most of the time anyway. Let's see the complete rules about this, shall we?

Adjective agreement with feminine nouns

In most cases, it's super easy. Pick an adjective in the dictionary, and add an -e to the end of it. And that's it!

French adjectives Meaning In agreement with a feminine noun Example with a masculine noun Example with a feminine noun
intéressant interesting intéressante un sujet intéressant (an interesting subject) une idée intéressante (an interesting idea)
gris gray grise un pantalon gris (a pair of gray pants) une veste grise (a gray jacket)
court short courte un texte court (a short text) une ligne courte (a short line)
flou blurry/hazy floue un souvenir flou (a hazy memory) une photo floue (a blurry photo)
salé salty salée un plat salé (a salty dish) une soupe salée (a salty soup)

What if the adjectives already ends with an -e? Well, my friend, it means that those adjectives take the same form whether they follow a masculine or a feminine noun. Here are some examples:

French adjectives Meaning In agreement with a feminine noun Example with a masculine noun Example with a feminine noun
jaune yellow jaune un t-shirt jaune (a yellow t-shirt) une maison jaune (a yellow house)
triste sad triste un garçon triste (a sad boy) une journée triste (a sad day)
rouge red rouge un cahier rouge (a red note book) une robe rouge (a red dress)
tendre tender tendre un homme tendre (a tender man) une attention tendre (a tender attention)

However, this doesn't apply to the adjectives that end with an -é. As you can see in our example above, salé becomes salée when it follows a feminine noun.

For some adjectives which contain the letter -e in their last syllable, you'll need to make a teeny tiny change, and then add an -e at the end as usual:

French adjectives Meaning In agreement with a feminine noun Example with a masculine noun Example with a feminine noun
cher expensive chère un jouet cher (an expensive toy) une voiture chère (an expensive car)
discret discreet discrète un client discret (a discreet client) une femme discrète (a discreet woman)
complet complete complète un repas complet (a complete meal) une semaine complète (a complete/whole week)
secret secret secrète un passage secret (a secret passage) une nouvelle secret (a secret news)

Have you noticed the small change in the adjective (in addition to the final -e)? The letter -e in the last syllable becomes -è!

In some cases, you'll have to double the last letter and then add an -e at the end of the adjective. Some examples:

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