Identifying gender by some word endings

Knowing the gender of French nouns is one of the hardest things for English students.  
Fortunately, we have some tips for you!
Note that they don't work 100% of the time (That would be too easy!), but it is as close you can get to a rule.  

1- Nouns ending with an -e are mostly feminine

This is not an absolute rule, but we can consider that easily 75% of words ending in -e are feminine.
Masculine words less often end in -e.

ATTENTION: 
-é, -ê, or are NOT considered as -e, but as a different letter, therefore don't necessarily follow that rule!

Now let's look at endings that don't match that first rule: you can easily remember them! 

 

2- However -age, -ège and -isme endings tend to be MASCULINE

-age 

Here note that the words following that rule all have -age as an ending to an existing word.
 

Ils se marient: je vais au mariage.
They're getting married: I'm going to the wedding.

Les feuilles sont orange: c'est le feuillage d'automne.
The leaves are orange: it's autumn foliage.

Dans ce pays, il y a un beau paysage.
In this country, there is a beautiful landscape.

Quand tu colles des morceaux de papier ensemble, tu fais un beau collage.
When you stick bits of paper together, you make a nice collage.

 
Whereas all the exceptions are very short words, where -age is not an extra ending:
une cage, une imagela nage (swimming), une page, la plage (beach), la rage ...
 

-ège

un manège
a carousel

le collège
the secondary school 

un privilège
a privilege

 
 
Exception: la Norvège (Norway)
 

-isme

le Romantisme
Romanticism

le capitalisme
Capitalism

le Cubisme
Cubism

 
 

3- Nouns that don't end in -e are usually masculine

Again, this is not an absolute rule, but we can consider that easily 80% of words ending in consonants are masculine. Moreover, endings in  are also mostly masculine. 
Feminine words less often end in consonants or -é.

Now let's look at endings that don't match that first rule: you can easily remember them! 

 

4- However, these exceptions that don't end in -e tend to be FEMININE

-tion, -sion, -ssion

la nation
the nation

la punition
the punishment

une évasion
an escape

la précision
precision

une émission de télé
a tv show

une impression
an impression

 
Exceptionun bastion
 

-son

la maison
the house

une conjugaison
a conjugation

une saison
a season

une chanson
a song

 
Exceptionsun poison, un pinson (type of bird), un vison (mink), un bison, un blouson ...
 

-té, -tié

la liber
Freedom

la beau
the beauty

la communau
the community

une amitié
a friendship

la pitié
the pity

 
Exceptions with -té: un député, un aparté, un côté (side), un été (summer), un pâté, le karaté, un traité (treaty), un comté (county), un comité ...
 

Abstract nouns in -eur 

la chaleur
the heat

la lenteur
Slowness

la blancheur
the whiteness

la noirceur
the darkness

 
Exceptionsle bonheur (happiness), le malheur (misery), un honneur...
and all the non-abstract nouns in -eur: un ascenseur (elevator), un aspirateur (a vacuum cleaner), un chanteur (a singer)...

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

la beau
the beauty


une saison
a season


la pitié
the pity


la maison
the house


un privilège
a privilege


Ils se marient: je vais au mariage.
They're getting married: I'm going to the wedding.


le Cubisme
Cubism


la blancheur
the whiteness


Quand tu colles des morceaux de papier ensemble, tu fais un beau collage.
When you stick bits of paper together, you make a nice collage.



la noirceur
the darkness


la comparaison
the comparison


un piège
a trap


un siège
a seat / a siege


la punition
the punishment


le collège
the secondary school 


le capitalisme
Capitalism


une impression
an impression


le socialisme
Socialism


la guérison
the healing


la fureur
the fury


la lenteur
Slowness


une émission de télé
a tv show


la liber
Freedom


une possibili
a possibility


la précision
precision


une amitié
a friendship


une chanson
a song


un stratège
a strategist


une évasion
an escape


Dans ce pays, il y a un beau paysage.
In this country, there is a beautiful landscape.


la chaleur
the heat


une rougeur
a redness


un manège
a carousel


une conjugaison
a conjugation


la communau
the community


Les feuilles sont orange: c'est le feuillage d'automne.
The leaves are orange: it's autumn foliage.


-isme (masculine)


le Romantisme
Romanticism


-tion (feminine)


la nation
the nation


Q&A

noel

Kwiziq community member

19 July 2018

5 replies

How do you conjugate habiter

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

20 July 2018

20/07/18

Hi Noel,

Do you have a specific tense in mind?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

22 July 2018

22/07/18

Check out this useful page: http://www.verbix.com/languages/french.html

-- Chris. 

noel

Kwiziq community member

24 July 2018

24/07/18

No Cecile, no  specific tense per se I only want to know because this has been a challenge. I  believe I need to read more of French stories in order to acquaint myself.

noel

Kwiziq community member

24 July 2018

24/07/18

Perhaps I should find out here. Where can I find reading material that can be of help? I am an absolute beginner so I really need reading resources with aids to understand.

noel

Kwiziq community member

24 July 2018

24/07/18

Hi Chris,

This site is very helpful. Thank you

Charles

Kwiziq community member

25 March 2018

1 reply

chemical elements ending in 'e'

Chris

Kwiziq community member

26 March 2018

26/03/18

Hi Charles,

All the chemical elements ending in -e are masculine:

l'antimoine, le souphre, le platine, le néodyme, l'astate, l'oxygène, le brome, le phosphore, le carbone, le chlore, le brome, l'iode, le titane, le mananèse, le tungstène, le lanthane

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

P.S.: In questions like these, Google is your friend :)

Robert

Kwiziq community member

6 June 2016

1 reply

'la fourmi' ? Is this just a one off exception or is there a patten?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

6 June 2016

6/06/16

Bonjour Robert, Most nouns that end in -mi are masucline, but there really aren't many - maybe 15, so the pattern isn't terribly useful. In any case, la fourmi is the only exception.

Robert

Kwiziq community member

27 April 2016

1 reply

I assme the 'le réfrigérateur' is not abstract; so it is masculine not feminin..

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

27 April 2016

27/04/16

Bonjour Robert ! Très bonne déduction: on dit bien LE réfrigérateur ! Bravo!
I'll be right with you...