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Masculine & Feminine Nouns in French

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  • 0:05 Masculine & Feminine
  • 0:32 People, Places, & Things
  • 1:55 How Do I Know the Gender?
  • 2:43 Some Feminine Endings
  • 3:46 Some Masculine Endings
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marcy Farrell
In this lesson, you'll learn there are two genders for French nouns: masculine or feminine. There's no rule about what makes a word masculine or feminine, but you can learn to look for some hints.

Masculine & Feminine

Every noun in French has a gender. A noun is either masculine or feminine. As you might have guessed, the word for 'woman,' femme, is feminine. To say 'a woman' we say une femme. And yes, the word for 'man,' homme, is masculine. But to say 'a man,' we say un homme.

So, une goes with feminine words and un goes with masculine words. But how do you know if a word is masculine or feminine?

People, Places & Things

If you're talking about men and women, boys and girls, brothers and sisters, it's pretty straightforward. The word matches the gender of the person. So, a man is un homme, a boy is un garçon, and a brother is un frère. A woman is une femme, a girl is une fille, and a sister is une sœur.

Of course, somewhere in your brain you have probably stored the definition of a noun. Can you dredge it up? A noun is a person, place, or thing. In French, words for people, like 'boy' and 'sister' generally match the gender of the person. But places and things? That's a whole different story.

If you need to talk about things in French, don't try to use logic. Don't try to decide if something is more macho or on the girly side. That's not how it works. This all comes from Latin. Blame the Ancient Romans! If you're shopping in France, you might want to buy some masculine things like a purse, un sac, an iron, un fer, or a computer, un ordinateur . But if you could also be looking for feminine things like a tie, une cravate, a car, une voiture, or a street, une rue.

Places you go like a museum, un musée, a restaurant, un restaurant, a bank, which is une banque, or a beach, une plage, also are either masculine or feminine.

How Do I Know the Gender?

How do you know the gender of a place or thing? Well, the short answer is: you have to memorize it. When you learn a new word in French, you need to learn its gender. Yes, it's a lot of work. But there are a few patterns you can learn. If you're asking a salesperson for help or chatting with a friend, you might not want to stop and look in your dictionary to figure out the gender of a word. If you need to guess if a noun is masculine or feminine, there are some hints that might help you guess correctly.

You might have already noticed that feminine words tend to end with an e. To remember this hint, notice that the feminine une also ends with an e. Table, meaning 'table,' chaise, meaning 'chair,' lampe, meaning 'lamp,' chaussure, meaning 'shoe,' and étoile, meaning 'star,' are all feminine words.

Some Feminine Endings

Many, not all, words with the following endings are feminine: --ière, --ette, --ique. If you're traveling in France, you might wonder if your hotel room comes with une caftiè, which is a coffee-maker. And you might stir your coffee with a spoon, une cuillère. When you're ready to go out and about, you might enjoy a stroll along a creek, une rivière. To enter a park you might need to open une barrière, meaning 'a gate.'

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