All About French Nouns

By OptiLingo

Brief introduction to French nouns, including masculine and feminine nouns in French

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.

There is a very long breakdown that can make your guesses nearly 100% correct, but it will be nearly impossible to memorize. However, there are a couple of rules that will help you be successful about 75 to 80% of the time. As a general rule of thumb:

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

Plural Nouns

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.

1. Nouns ending in “-s,” “-x,” and “-z” are not changed (although you do need to change the article).

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

2. Nouns ending in “-au” and “-eu” use “-x” for their plural form.

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

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” use “-x” for their plural form: bijou (jewel), caillou (rock, stone), chou (cabbage), genou (knee), hibou (owl), joujou (toy in child’s speak), pou (louse)

5. Like English, there are some nouns that don’t follow any particular rules in French. Here are a few common ones so that you can start memorizing nouns you are likely to use in plural form.

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