How To Learn The Gender Of French Nouns: Rules & Endings

One of the most difficult aspects of learning French is learn the gender rules for nouns. All French nouns have a gender (masculine or feminine) and take the direct articles le and la or indirect articles un and une. The goal of this page is to help students master the gender of French nouns.

Complete guide to the gender of French nouns

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast way to simply master noun gender rules in French. Feminine nous in French often end in the letter -e. However, unlike Spanish, where feminine noun almost always end in -a, nouns ending in -e in French are not necessarily feminine.

The best way to learn the gender of French nouns is to focus on the sounds and spelling patterns of teh endings words. This page will provide a breakdown of all the typical endings for both masculine and feminine nouns.

It is impossible to learn the genders of all nouns in one sitting. However, as time goes by, you’ll come to develop an innate sense or feeling of which nouns are masculine and which nouns are feminine.

Our suggestion is to focus on the sound or pronunciation of each ending as this will give a hint of the noun’s gender. However, there are exceptions to each sound or spelling pattern, which we will highlight below.

We found the website ezglot.com very useful to come up with the word lists on this page. Where useful, we’ve used Forvo.com as well to provide guidance for pronunciation.

Also note that to best use this page, it’s useful to be familiar with the international pronunciation symbols as they apply to French. We suggest the book Exercises in French Phonics for this purpose.

Image of the Eiffel Tower

Common masculine nouns endings

In this section we’ll present word endings and spelling patterns for words which are typically masculine. We all present the exceptions where applicable.

-age, -ige, -ège, -oge, -uge

Nous ending in -ge are typically masculine. You can use the word âge (age) as a base word for this group. The sound of this -g is expressed by the phonetic symbol [ʒ]. This page on Forvo demonstrates the pronunciation of âge.

  • le fromage cheese
  • l’âge age
  • le juge judge
  • le mariage marriage
  • le garage garage
  • le siège seat

However, there there are the following feminine exceptions:

  • l’horloge clock
  • la tige stem
  • la luge sled
  • la page page

-ail, -euil

Words ending in -ail and -euil are typically masculine with no exceptions. “Ail” sounds like the English word “eye”. The “euil” ending is very difficult to pronounce. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce écureuil (squirrel).

  • le détail detail
  • le rail rail
  • le travail work
  • le deuil mourning
  • l’écureuil squirrel

-ain

Words ending in -ain are always masculine with one exception: la main (hand). “Ain” has the pronunciation of nasal -in. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce le train.

  • le train train
  • le bain bath
  • le terrain terrain
  • le lendemain next day

-al

Words ending in -al are always masculine and there are no exceptions. These words are often very similar in English.

  • le rival rival
  • le total total
  • le canal canal
  • le cheval horse
  • le bocal jar
  • l’hôpital hospital

-ament, -ement

Nouns ending in -ment are always masculine and there are no exceptions. “Ment” is pronounced m + nasal -en phonetic symbol [mɑ̃]. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce médicament.

  • le filament filament
  • le testament will
  • le tempérament temperament
  • le vêtement clothing
  • le paiement payment
  • le logement housing

-ard

Words ending in -ard are always masculine without any exceptions. The pronunciation stops on the -r. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce homard (lobster).

  • le renard fox
  • le canard duck
  • le léopard lepard
  • le clochard bum
  • le connard jerk

-eau, -ou

Nouns ending in -eau and -ou are masculine. However, there are some exceptions. “Eau” sounds like “oh” as in “oh my gosh!”. “Ou” sounds like “oo” as in “food”.

  • le gâteau cake
  • le niveau level
  • le clou nail
  • le bisou kiss

Big exceptions are:

  • l’eau (f) water
  • la peau skin

-el

Nouns ending in -el are masculine and there are no exceptions.

  • le sel salt
  • le miel honey
  • l’appel call
  • le ciel sky

-ent, -ant

Nouns ending in -ent and -ant both end in a nasal [ɑ̃] and the final -t is not pronounced. For example le ciment (cement).

  • le moment moment
  • le talent talent
  • le serpent snake
  • le géant giant
  • le volant steering wheel
  • l’enfant child

-er

Nouns ending in -er are all masculine with no exceptions. Sometimes the -er sounds like -ay as in “play” and sometimes the -r is pronounced.

  • l’hiver winter
  • le danger danger
  • le fer iron
  • le boulanger baker

-ier, -yer

Nouns ending in -ier and -yer are always masculine with no exceptions.

  • le clavier keyboard
  • le métier career
  • le papier paper
  • le loyer rent

-at, -et, t

Nouns ending in -at, -et, -t are often masculine. However, there are exceptions.

  • l’alphabet alphabet
  • le baccalauréat baccalaureate, high school diploma
  • le candidat candidate
  • le débat debate

Be careful of the exceptions as they’re commonly used words.

-eur

Nouns ending in -eur are almost always masculine. However, there are exceptions. This link on Forvo shows how to pronounce ordinateur (computer).

  • l’ordinateur computer
  • le buveur drinker
  • le joueur player
  • l’acteur actor
  • le bonheur joy, happiness
  • le malheur misfortune, hardship

Exceptions:

  • la sueur sweat
  • la peur fear
  • la fleur flower
  • la vapeur vapor, steam
  • l’odeur odor, smell

-ien

French nouns ending in -ien are always masculine with no exceptions. Words ending in -ien sound like the nasal -in or [ɛ̃] sound. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce chien (dog).

  • le chien dog
  • le soutien support
  • le Parisien Parisian
  • l’olympien olympian

-illon

Nouns ending in -illon are always masculine and sound like “ee + nasal -on [ɔ̃]”. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce papillon (butterfly).

  • le papillon butterfly
  • le pavillon pavilion
  • l’échantillon sample

-in

Nouns ending in -in are always masculine without exceptions. The -in is a nasal sound [ɛ̃]. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce dessin (drawing).

  • le dessin drawing
  • le lapin rabbit
  • le câlin cuddle
  • le requin shark

-is

Nouns ending in -is are always masculine without exceptions. The pronunciation of -is is “ee” as in “feet”.

  • l’avis mind
  • le colis package
  • le devis quote, bid
  • le compromis compromise

-isme

All nouns ending in -isme are masculine with no exceptions. There are the “ism” words in English. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce communisme (communism).

  • le communisme communism
  • le réalisme realism
  • le séisme tremor
  • le socialisme socialism
  • l’impérialisme imperialism

-oir, -oin

Nouns ending in -oir and -oin are always masculine with no exceptions. “Oir” sounds like “wahr”. “Oin” is a bit tricky to pronounce. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce besoin (need).

  • le soir evening
  • l’espoir hope
  • le trottoir sidewalk
  • le témoin witness
  • le besoin need

-on, -om

Nouns ending in -on and -om are often masculine. However, there are exceptions. Both sounds are are nasal [ɔ̃]. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce prénom (first name).

  • le prénom first name
  • le salon living room
  • le cornichon pickle
  • le surnom last name

Exceptions:

  • la façon way, manner
  • la leçon lesson
  • la chanson song
  • la boisson beverage

-phone

Nouns ending in -phone are always masculine without exceptions.

  • le téléphone telephone
  • le microphone microphone
  • le francophone French speaker

-scope

Words ending -scope are masculine without exceptions.

  • le télescope telescope
  • l’horoscope horoscope
  • le magnétoscope video recorder, VCR

-a, -as

Nouns ending in -a and -as are generally masculine. However, there are some exceptions for words ending in -a.

  • l’agenda datebook
  • le pyjama pyjamas
  • le bras arm
  • le repas meal
  • l’ananas pineapple
  • le verglas glass

Exceptions:

  • la saga saga
  • la villa villa
  • la mafia mafia

-è/ô/au + me

All French nouns ending in -ème, -ôme and -aume are masculine without exceptions.

  • le problème problem
  • le poème poem
  • l’arôme aroma, smell
  • le royaume kingdom

-b/c/g/p + le

Most French nouns ending in -ble, -cle, -gle and -ple are masculine. However, there are some excpetions.

  • le sable sand
  • le temple temple
  • le peuple people
  • le muscle muscle
  • le couple couple

Exceptions:

  • la jungle jungle
  • la table table
  • la règle rule

-ac, -ak, -ic, -ou, -uc

All French nouns ending in le truc, le lac, l’anorak, le bloc are masculine without exceptions.

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  • le truc thing
  • le lac lake
  • l’anorak winter jacket
  • le bloc block
  • le tabac tobacco
  • l’estomac stomach

-ng

Nouns ending -ng are masculine without. For the two sample words below, the -ang is pronounced like a nasal [ɑ̃] and the final -g is silent. This page on Forvo shows how to pronounce étang (pond).

  • l’étang pond
  • le sang blood

-o, -op, -os, -ot, -ours, -us

Nouns with the endings -o, -op, -os, -ot, -ours and -us are masculine. There are no exceptions.

  • le jus juice
  • l’ours bear
  • l’os bear
  • le discours speech
  • le chiot puppy

-r, -re

Nous ending in -r and -re are often masculine. However, there are lots of exceptions.

  • le jour day
  • l’avenir future
  • le dollar dollar
  • le centre center
  • le mètre meter
  • le ventre stomach

Exceptions

  • la cour courtyard
  • la tour tower
  • la cire wax
  • la poire pear
  • la fenêtre window
  • la montre watch

-x, -xe

Nous ending in -x and -xe are often masculine. However, there are exceptions.

  • le luxe luxury
  • le circonflexe circumflex
  • le réflexe reflex

Exceptions:

  • la paix peace
  • la boxe boxing
  • la taxe taxes
Image of l'Arc de Triomphe (Paris).

Common feminine nouns endings

In this section we’ll present endings and spelling patterns of nouns which are typically feminine in French. Similar to the above section, we’ll show the exceptions where applicable.

-ade

Nouns ending in -ade in French are typically feminine. There is, however an exception.

  • la salade salad
  • la façade facade
  • la cascade waterfall
  • la ballade walk
  • l’ambassade embassy

Exception:

  • le stade stadium

-aie

Nouns ending in -aie are feminine without exceptions.

  • la craie chalk
  • la baie bay
  • la paie peace
  • la monnaie currency, change

-aine, -ine

Nouns ending in -aine and -ine are typically feminine. However, there is an exception. “Aine” is pronounced [ɛn]. Here’s sample of the pronunciation of laine (wool).

  • la haine hatred
  • la laine wool
  • la plaine plains, prairie
  • l’asperine asperine

Exception:

  • le domaine domain

-aison, -oison

Nouns ending in -aison and -oison are typically feminine. However, there are exceptions. “Saison” is pronounced [sɛzɔ̃] and “poison” (poison) is pronounced [pwazɔ̃].

  • la saison season
  • la liaison liaison, link, contact
  • la maison house
  • la cloison partition

Exception:

  • le poison poison

-ence, -ance

Words ending in -ence and -ance are feminine without exceptions. Both the -en and -an in these words is nasal [ɑ̃].

  • la distance distance
  • l’urgence emergency, crisis
  • la science science
  • l’enfance childhood
  • la puissance power

-ande

Nouns ending in -ande are feminine without exceptions. The “an” in these words is also a nasal [ɑ̃].

  • la viande meat
  • l’amande almond
  • la lavande lavender
  • la demande request, application

-ée

Words ending in -ée are typically feminine. There are, however, many exceptions. “-É” sounds like [ay] and is covered on our French accents page.

  • l’année year
  • l’idée idea
  • la durée duration
  • la fumée smoke
  • l’allée lane, alley

Exceptions

  • le lycée high school
  • le trophée trophy
  • le musée museum

-esse, -osse, -ousse

Nouns ending in -esse, -osse, and -ousse are feminine without exceptions.

  • la jeunesse youth
  • la sagesse wisdom
  • l’hôtesse hostess
  • la brosse brush
  • la mousse foam, mousse

-ette

Nouns ending in -ette are always feminine without exceptions.

  • la baguette baguette
  • la mouette seagull
  • la tirette pull-out shelf, ATM machine
  • la canette can, duckling
  • la dette debt
  • la cuvette basin, bowl

-ie, -rie

Nouns ending in -ie and -rie are typically feminine. However, there are exceptions.

  • l’envie envy, desire
  • la série series
  • la copie copy
  • la vie life
  • la poésie poetry

Exceptions:

  • le génie genius
  • l’incendie fire

-ise

Nouns ending in -ise are always feminine without exceptions.

  • la bêtise mistake
  • la cerise cherry
  • la bise kiss
  • la fraise strawberry
  • l’entreprise company
  • la prise light socket
  • la crise crisis

-aille

Nouns ending in -aille are always feminine without exceptions. Taille (size), for example, is pronounced [tɑj]. The -ll is silent.

  • la pagaille mess
  • la volaille poultry
  • la taille size

-ille

Nouns ending in -ille are always feminine. Sometimes the -ll’s are pronounced and sometimes they have a slight “y” sound.

  • la ville city
  • la famille family
  • la lentille lentil, lens
  • l’aiguille needle
  • la vanille vanilla

-ouille

Nouns ending in -ouille are always feminine. This page on Forvo shows how to pronouncegrenouille (frog).

  • l’andouille andouille, sausage, fool
  • la grenouille frog
  • la ratatouille stew
  • la rouille rust
  • la brouille quarrel

-ique

Many nouns ending in -ique are feminine. However, there are several exceptions.

  • la musique music
  • la logique logic
  • la panique panic
  • la critique review

Exceptions

  • le moustique mosquito
  • le plastique plastic
  • le pique-nique picnic

-gion, -nion, -sion, -ssion

Nouns ending in -gion, -nion, -sion and -ssion are feminine without exceptions.

  • la religion religion
  • l’opinion opinion
  • l’oppression oppression
  • la pression pressure

-tion, -xion

Nouns ending -tion and -xion are always feminine.

  • la procrastination procrastination
  • la justification justification
  • la crucifixion crucifixion
  • la gestion management
  • la ration ration, part

Be careful. Some words ending in -ion are masculine:

  • l’avion airplane
  • le champion champion

-ite, -té, -tié

Nouns ending in -ite, -té and -tié tend to be feminine. However, there are exceptions.

  • l’amitié friendship
  • la santé health
  • la pitié pity
  • l’identité identity

Excpetions:

  • l’été summer
  • le compté county
  • le gite guest house
  • le site site

-ode, -tude

Nouns ending in -ode and -tude tend to be feminine. However, there are exceptions.

  • la période period
  • l’électrode electrode
  • la pagode pagoda
  • la mode fashion
  • l’attitude attitude
  • la solitude solitude
  • l’habitude habit
  • la magnitude magnitude

Exceptions:

  • l’exode exodus
  • le code code

-ure

Nouns ending in -ure are feminine without exceptions.

  • l’allure appearance
  • la gelure frostbite
  • l’ordure garbage
  • la toiture roofing
  • la voiture car
  • la nature nature

-ice

Nouns ending in -ice tend to be feminine. However, there are exceptions.

  • la novice novice
  • la malice mischief
  • l’épice spice

Exceptions

  • le dentifrice tooth paste
  • l’indice clue, hint
  • le service service, favor

-aire, -oire

Nouns ending in -aire and -oire tend to be feminine. However, there are exceptions.

  • la gloire glory
  • la grammaire grammar
  • l’anniversaire birthday
  • l’affaire affair, business

Exceptions:

  • le vocabulaire vocabulary
  • le dictionnaire dictionary

-oi, -ois, -oix

Nouns ending in -oi, -ois and -oix tend to be feminine. However, there is an exception.

Exception:

  • le choix choice

Gender of French Nouns: Additional Notes

Nouns for males are masculine and nouns for females are feminine.

  • l’homme the man
  • le garçon the boy
  • la femme the woman
  • la fille the girl

Lots of nouns become feminine by simply adding an -e-.

  • le voisin -> la voisine neighbor
  • le cousin -> la cousine cousin
  • l’ami -> l’amie friend

In certain situations the noun ending changes to form the feminine form.

  • -ien -> ienne le musicien, la musicienne musician
  • -on -> onne le vigneron, la vigneronne wine grower
  • -eur -> euse serveur, serveuse server
  • -teur -> trice directeur, directrice director
  • -er -> ière infirmier, infirmière nurse

Several professions become feminine by simply adding an -e-.

  • l’avocat, l’avocate laywer
  • le magistrat, la magistrate judge
  • le marchand, la marchande merchant, trader

Some professions are the same in both the masculine the feminine forms.

  • le dentiste, la dentiste dentist
  • le vétérinaire, la vétérinaire veterinarian
  • l’architecte, l’architecte architect

Some nouns are the same in both forms.

  • l’artiste artist -> same in masculine and feminine
  • le/la camarade friend, associate
  • l’élève classmate
  • l’enfant child

Some nouns for professions are always masculine even if the person being mentioned is a woman.

  • le docteur doctor
  • le juge judge
  • le compositeur composer
  • le professeur teacher/professor
  • le peintre painter
  • le ministre minister
  • le médecin doctor

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