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

un privilège
a privilege


la noirceur
the darkness


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.


un siège
a seat / a siege


un piège
a trap


la punition
the punishment



la comparaison
the comparison


le capitalisme
Capitalism


le collège
the secondary school 


le socialisme
Socialism


une impression
an impression


la lenteur
Slowness


la fureur
the fury


une émission de télé
a tv show


une possibili
a possibility


la guérison
the healing


la liber
Freedom


une amitié
a friendship


la précision
precision


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


un stratège
a strategist


la chaleur
the heat


une chanson
a song


une évasion
an escape


un manège
a carousel


une rougeur
a redness


la beau
the beauty


la communau
the community


une conjugaison
a conjugation


une saison
a season


la maison
the house


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


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


le Cubisme
Cubism


la pitié
the pity


la blancheur
the whiteness


-isme (masculine)


le Romantisme
Romanticism


-tion (feminine)


la nation
the nation


Q&A Forum 7 questions, 12 answers

How about some examples that FOLLOW that 75%-80% instead of just exceptions.

You say that most words ending in -e are feminine, and yet don't give a single example...  Same for masculine....  Wouldn't it make sense to actually list at least a few of the most common words that someone at the A1 level should know? I would be more likely to remember a rule if I'm looking at examples of that rule....  I mean, isn't that the point of examples?  To help clarify and to help it stick in you brain.  You only give examples of words that are the exceptions.  While I understand your point, it seems kind of odd to me. 

Asked 5 months ago

The idea, I'm guessing, is the memorise the exceptions rather than the words that follow this pattern.

But to help you out (though I don't know what exactly qualifies as a A1 level word)

Feminine words ending in e-- La chose, la vie, une heure, la tête, la voiture, la famille, une idée, la porte.

Masculine words ending in consonants-- Le jour, un enfant, le moment, le mois.

Thanks for your response, Michelle.  I wasn't so much asking for someone to help ME out, but just trying to point out what might help other people. First let me say, this site is awesome. I know it's an enormous amount of work, and they can't make everyone happy. But I spend a lot of time on this site, so when something sticks out as not being quite as clear as the other lessons, I try to point it out.

The examples you gave in your response would be great for a beginner. And I think at least a few of those types of words should be in the lesson. I know it's not a matter of memorizing a big list, but your brain is going to associate SOMETHING from this lesson with the title, like it or not...  Soooo, ok, we can identify most words by their endings. Hmmm, I remember it's one way if it ends in -e, and the other way if it ends in a consonant.... But which was which?? There were exceptions.... and exceptions to the exceptions..... Oh, I remember LA NATION was one of the examples...  So I guess that means if it ends in a consonant, its feminine. Our brains do this whether we like it or not. And by giving tons of examples of exceptions, and none of the rule itself, we aren't really helping at all. That's just my two cents. Your mileage may vary.....

How about some examples that FOLLOW that 75%-80% instead of just exceptions.

You say that most words ending in -e are feminine, and yet don't give a single example...  Same for masculine....  Wouldn't it make sense to actually list at least a few of the most common words that someone at the A1 level should know? I would be more likely to remember a rule if I'm looking at examples of that rule....  I mean, isn't that the point of examples?  To help clarify and to help it stick in you brain.  You only give examples of words that are the exceptions.  While I understand your point, it seems kind of odd to me. 

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Too many exceptions!

This feels like memorization is my only resort. 

Asked 6 months ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

Knowing the guidelines (I won't call them "rules") you'll be right in about 80% of all cases. The remainder is rote memorization.

Too many exceptions!

This feels like memorization is my only resort. 

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Non-abstract nouns in -eur

There is at least on expection--la fleur is feminine. Might be the only one but I think you should add it. 
Asked 7 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super star

Thank you for pointing this out Michelle....

Non-abstract nouns in -eur

There is at least on expection--la fleur is feminine. Might be the only one but I think you should add it. 

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How do you conjugate habiter

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super star

Hi Noel,

Do you have a specific tense in mind?

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

-- Chris. 

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.

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.

Hi Chris,

This site is very helpful. Thank you

How do you conjugate habiter

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chemical elements ending in 'e'

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

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 :)

chemical elements ending in 'e'

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

Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq language super star
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.

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

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

Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Robert ! Très bonne déduction: on dit bien LE réfrigérateur ! Bravo!

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

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Getting that for you now.