Mauvais genre


 Regular nouns 

(70% of all nouns)


 Nouns are said regular when they follow the Basic Rule which governs gender. 

This rule is well known, very simple and applies to more than seven out of ten nouns: 

Feminine nouns bear a final -e   

 Masculine nouns are unmarked



Majority of OPEN FINALS

Final vowel sound (except e)  



Final consonant sound (+ letter e)  


prix [pri

fruit [frui]      

bureau [buro

piano [pyano]

robot [robo]

cinéma [cinéma]

climat [clima]

secret [sekré]

danger [dangé]

café [kafé]

choix [chwa]

coup [kou]

lieu [lyeu]

statut [statu]

accident [aksidã] 

train [trĩ]      

ballon [balõ

parfum [parfĩ]

point [pwĩ]

temps [tã]

danse [dans]

toilette [twalèt]

forme [form]

cuisine [kuizin]

lampe [lanp]

bombe  [bonb]

banque [bank]

demande [demand]

page [paj]

rose [roz]

herbe [èrb]

violence [vyolans]

planète [planèt]

cave [kav]

moustache [moustach]


fatigue [fatig]

barre [bar]

balle [bal]

bataille [batay]

 Minority of CLOSED FINALS

Consonant sound without letter e 


 Minority of OPEN FINALS

Vowel sound with final letter e 


bar  [bar]

bal  [bal]

sac  [sak]

détail  [détay]

arrivée [arrivé]

comédie [komédi]

statue [statu]

monnaie [monè]

 Reminder about final -e in French

French final -e was inherited from Latin final -a:  Lat.  lista > Fr. liste

It is said to be silent in standard French (French from the dictionary) : liste  [list] 

Nevertheless, it is still pronounced under certains circonstances:

- In standard French,  some compound words still require the pronunciation of final -e:   quatre-vingt [katrəvĩ] (eighty) 

- Final -e is often heard in poetry and songs for metric reasons. 

-Last but not least, it is still widely pronounced in Southern France (français méridional or francitan) 

In fact, pronouncing the final -e while building vocabulary can be a fine way to memorize spelling and gender.  

Final-e has several functions:

 1. as the vowel [ə] in 9 grammatical words: ce, de, je, le, me, ne, que, se, te 

 2. as the feminine marker for humans and some animals, ex. éléphant / éléphante (silent); 

3. as the indicator of a pronounced final consonant that otherwise would be silent, ex. Irelande [irlãd];

French Basic Gender Rule compared to other Romance languages















We can see from the table that:

1. French does not have a specific masculine marker (Ø).

2. French has a specific marker for feminine (-e) but it is mute.

3. Other Romance languages have 2 very distinctive final vowels -a and-o as gender markers.


Where do regular nouns come from?

Regular nouns account for 70% of all nouns and thus deserve to be better known. 

Regular nouns are:

  • Mostly from Latin origin: 
Masculine and neutral Latin nouns became masculine in French: 
furnus m. > four m. (oven) ;   
ovum nt. > œuf m. (egg

Feminine nouns as well as plural neutral nouns in-a (similar to the marker of feminine gender in Latin) became feminine in French:

familia f. > famille f.  (family) ;  arma nt. pl. arme f. (weapon

  • …or introduced to French through Latin:

Celtic > lat. carrus m.  > Fr. char m. (kart

Greek > lat. chimia f. > Fr. chimie f. (chemistry

  • Loanwords from other Romance languages:

Italian lista f. > Fr. liste f.  (chemistry

Portuguese caramel(o) m. > Fr. caramel m.,

Spanish casa f. > Fr. case f. ( hut

Provençal capdel m. > Fr. cadeau m.  (present

  • ...or introduced to French through them:

Bantou > Port. banana f.  > Fr. banane f. (banana

Arawak  > Sp. patata f. > Fr. patate f. (potato

Arabic > It. magazzino m. > Fr. magasin m(shop

  • Loanwords from many other languages:

English  north > Fr. nord m. 

Dutch  bricke f. > Fr. brique f.  (brick) 

German  akkordion > Fr. accordéon m. (accordion

Germanic   bank m/f. > Fr. banc m. (bench

  • Suffixed nouns:

Feminine suffixes: riz + -ière f.rizière f. (rice field

Masculine suffixes: glace f. + -on m. > glaçon m. (ice cube

  • Nominalised verbal roots:

Feminine (root + -e) : attaquer v. attaque f. (attack) ,

Masculine (root + Ø) : désirer v. désir m. (desire

  • Compound nominal nouns:

Feminine noun based: queue f. queue-de-cheval f. (pony tail

Masculine noun based : amour m. > amour-propre m. (self-esteem

  • Feminine learned compound words:

Feminine roots from Greek or Latin: 

biblio- + thèque f. bibliothèque f. (library)  

Feminine suffix -ie: 

géographe + -ie f. géographie f.  (geography

  • Words converted from other grammatical classes:


   (adjectives) alternative, central(power plant, moyenn(average), rond(circle 

   (participles) arrivé(arrival), prise, vu(view, imprimante (printer) 


   From adjectives:  bleu (blue), essentiel (the essential), français (French language, massif (massif) 

   From participles:  arrêté (decree), calmant (tranquillizer), fini (finishing touch), revenu (income 

   Others:  devoir (infinitive) duty , bien (adverb) goods, pour (preposition) pros (& cons)

  • Trans-gender nouns

From masculine to feminine

   aubain m. (foreigneraubaine f. (opportunity)

   bassin m. (pound) bassine f.(wash bassin), 

   cours m. (course of a river) course f. (race);

From feminine to masculine

   billette f. (letterbillet m. (ticket)

   diagnostique f. (science)  > diagnostic m.  (diagnostic)

   machine f. (machinemachin m. (thing, foo)

   voie f. (wayconvoi  m. (convoy)



French Gender (Confusing!) PARADOX

 Final -e is known to be the French female marker for nouns referring to human beings (ami m. boyfriend > amie f. girlfriend), animals (lion m. > lionne f.), and for adjective agreement with feminine nouns  (un grand sac ma big bag >  une grande avenue f. a big avenue). Nevertheless, when it comes to nouns other than the ones referring to human beings, it is perfectly fair to say that "feminine nouns end with a final -e", as more than 7 feminine nouns out of 10 do so. Unfortunately, the other way around cannot be stated: "final -e is NOT the marker of feminine gender", as we find nearly as many masculine nouns bearing a final -e than feminine nouns.  This paradox gets everyone confused... 

In the case of feminine nouns, there is a clear gender to form relationship : feminine nouns have a very high chance to end with a final -e), but the opposite (form to gender relationship) is not  true : nouns ending with -e are not really more likely to be feminine. 

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Copyright © Ginette Guillard-Chamart 2009. All rights reserved.   

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