A Quick Guide to French Nouns

By OptiLingo • 7 minutes read

French nouns are easy to learn

Learn About French Nouns

Person, place, thing, or idea. That’s the definition of a noun in English. And in French, it’s the same concept. So, it won’t be difficult to learn the grammar behind them. However, there are some major differences between how the English and the French use nouns. Learn all about the usage of nouns in French, so you can reach fluency in record time.

French Noun Genders

All French nouns are either masculine or feminine, with the balance being fairly evenly. If noun gender is a new concept to you, then it may be tempting to think that masculine and feminine nouns are driven by gender; while this is sometimes the case, it isn’t guaranteed. While it is true that words like father and brother (père and frère) are masculine, and mother and sister (mère and sœur) are feminine, the gender of a noun can often be determined by the last letter of the noun.

How to Tell if a Noun is Masculine or Feminine in French?

The only way to achieve 100% accuracy in knowing which nouns are feminine and masculine is to learn them all. But, there’s a much smarter technique you can use.

You can tell what the gender of the noun is in French with 80% accuracy if you look at the ending of the word. There are three simple steps you can follow to determine whether the noun is feminine or masculine:

  1. A noun is feminine if it ends in “-e” or “-ion.”
  2. The exceptions to this are the endings “-age,” “-ège,” or “-isme.”
  3. Nearly every other noun ending is masculine.

Feminine Noun Endings

  •  -aie, -oue, -eue, -ion, -te, – ée, -ie, -ue
  • -asse, -ace, -esse, -ece, -aisse, -isse/-ice, -ousse, -ance, -anse, -ence, -once
  •  -enne, -onne, -une, -ine, -aine, -eine, -erne
  • -ande, -ende, -onde, -ade, -ude, -arde, -orde
  • -euse, -ouse, -ase, -aise, -ese, -oise, -ise, -yse, -ose, -use
  •  -ache, -iche, -eche, -oche, -uche, -ouche, -anche
  • -ave, -eve, -ive
  •  -iere, -ure, -eure
  • -ette, -ete, – ête, -atte, -otte, -oute, -orte, -ante, -ente, -inte, -onte
  • -alle, -elle, -ille, -olle
  • -aille, -eille, -ouille
  • -appe, -ampe, -ombe
  • -igue

Masculine Noun Endings

  • -an, -and, -ant, -ent, -in, -int, -om, -ond, -ont, -on (but not after s/c¸)
  • -eau, -au, -aud, -aut, -o, -os, -ot
  • -ai, -ais, -ait, -es, -et
  • -ou, -out, -out, -oux
  • -i, -il, -it, -is, -y
  • -at, -as, -ois, -oit
  • • -u, -us, -ut, -eu
  • -er, -é after C (C=t)
  • -age, -ege, – ème, -ome, -aume, -isme
  • -as, -is, -os, -us, -ex
  • -it, -est
  • -al, -el, -il, -ol, -eul, -all
  • -if, -ef
  •  -ac, -ic, -oc, -uc
  • -am, -um, -en
  • -air, -er, -erf, -ert, -ar, -arc, -ars, -art, -our, -ours, -or, -ord, -ors, -ort, -ir, -oir, -eur
    (if animate)
  • -ail, -eil, -euil, -ueil
  • -ing

French noun articles are different by gender

French Noun Articles

Noun genders are important because they determine the form of the article that comes before it. Articles are words like “the”, “a” or “an” in English. In French, there are a few more variations of these:

Definite Articles:

Singular Plural
Masculine le le garçon the boy les les garçons the books
Feminine la la fille the girl les filles the tables
Vowel or h l’ l’homme the man les hommes the men

Indefinite Articles:

Singular Plural
Masculine un un homme a man des des hommes some men
Feminine une une femme a woman des femmes some women

As you can see, the noun changed the form of articles in French. That’s why you can tell the gender of the noun from the article in front of it.

Making a Noun Plural in French

Here, the French language is very similar to English in that “-s” is a common way of making a noun plural. Then you have the exceptions, which tend to follow a few guidelines. The noun endings influence how a plural form is constructed:

1. Nouns Ending in “-s,” “-x,” and “-z”

These nouns aren’t changed (although you do need to change the article).

Singular
Plural
le bras (the arm)
les bras (the arms)
la voix (the voice)
les voix (the voices)

2. Nouns Ending in “-au” and “-eu”

These nouns change their endings to “-x” for their plural form.

Singular
Plural
Le jeu (the game)
les jeux (the games)
Le bureau (the office)
les bureaux (the offices)

Two common exceptionsis “le pneu” (tyre) and “le bleu” ()

3. Nouns Ending in “-ail” and “-al”

They change to “-aux” for their plural form.

Singular
Plural
Le travail (the work)
les travaux (the works)
Le cheval (the horse)
les chevaux (the horses)

Four common exception are “un rail” (a rail), “un email” (an email), “un détail” (a detail), “un régal” (a delice)

4. Seven Nouns Ending in “-ou”

Only a handful of nouns endings in “-ou” have this, but some change their endings to “-x” for their plural form. The seven are: bijou (jewel), caillou (rock, stone), chou (cabbage), genou (knee), hibou (owl), joujou (toy in child’s speak), pou (louse)

5. Mayhem Nouns in French

Like English, there are some nouns that don’t follow any particular rules in French. There’s no reason they have these plural forms, but they do regardless. Remember them, as they’re quite common in everyday French language:

Singular
Plural
Madame (lady/madam)
mesdames (ladies/madams)
Mademoiselle (miss)
mesdemoiselles (misses)
Monsieur (sir/mister)
Monsieur (sir/mister)
L’œil (the eye)
les yeux (the eyes)

Some French nouns have different plural forms

How Nouns Change Adjectives in French

Conjugating adjectives in French is crucial. Since adjectives describe nouns, the adjective needs to change to fit the noun. The best way to do this is to look at two aspects of the noun:

  1. Is it masculine or feminine?
  2. Is it singular or plural?

Once you’ve determined these, you can conjugate the adjective according to the noun. How you do that is you add something (or nothing) to the end of the adjective according to this table:

Masculine

Feminine

Singular

-e

Plural

-s

-es

If the noun is singular and masculine, you don’t do anything with it. But, if it’s a plural feminine, you add -es to it. Here are some examples to demonstrate:

  • L’homme intelligent. – The smart man.
  • La femme intelligente. – The smart woman.
  • L’homme intelligents. – The smart men.
  • La femme intelligentes. – The smart women.

As you can also see, adjectives come after the noun in most cases. However, there are some adjectives that come before nouns as exceptions.

Exceptions to Adjectives Changing

Although most adjectives behave like this around nouns, there are of course exceptions to every French grammar rule. These are some endings that change form according to the gender of the noun:

Adjectives ending in –eux change to –euse

  • Un homme heureux. – A happy man.
  • Une femme heureuse. – A happy woman.

For adjectives ending in –é (note the accent) we add another e

  • Un homme énervé. – An annoyed man.
  • Une femme énervée. – An annoyed woman.

Adjectives ending in -er change to -ère

  • Un homme cher. – A dear man.
  • Une femme chère. – A dear woman.

Adjectives ending in -f change to -ve

  • Un homme créatif. – A creative man.
  • Une femme créative. – A creative woman.

Adjectives ending in a silent e have no changes

  • Un homme malade. – A sick man.
  • Une femme malade. – A sick woman.

Learn French Nouns Easily

French nouns aren’t witchcraft. You can learn the grammar behind them easily. But, if you prefer a more natural way to learn French, you need to try OptiLingo.

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