Le La - Rules for Articles / Gender in French


Introduction

In French language, there are two definite articles for nouns in singular: le for masculine gender and la for feminine gender. Both le and la become l' when they precede a noun beginning with a vowel or a silent h. All nouns in plural have the article les.

French native speakers know mostly intuitively what the article of each noun is. However, non-native speakers need to memorize the articles. There are several rules and guidelines determining the articles of some categories of nouns. But beware exceptions.

 
 

Rules for Masculine Gender

The following categories of nouns are masculine:

  • Names of trees: chêne, érable, amandier, pin;
  • Names of languages: anglais, français, slovaque;
  • Names of seasons: printemps, été, automne, hiver;
  • Names of months: janvier, juillet, décembre;
  • Names of days of the week: lundi, mardi, dimanche.

Furthermore, nouns with the suffixes below are masculine:

  • –ement: commandement, événement, retirement;
  • –ier: courrier, quartier;
  • –k: crack, tank;
  • –lon: papillon, melon, salon;
  • –oir: miroir, réservoir, savoir;
  • –ron: citron, macaron, vigneron;
  • –sme: capitalisme, cynisme, mécanisme;
  • –ton: bâton, canton, piéton;

Most nouns with the suffixes below are masculine:

  • –age: bagage, courage, garage;
    exceptions: cage, image, plage, rage;
  • –c: bloc, parc, tabac;
    exceptions: aérobic, fac;
  • –d: accord, canard, léopard;
    exception: barmaid;
  • –g: bourg, rang, sang;
    exceptions: santiag, tong;
  • –in: jardin, lapin, train;
    exceptions: fin, main;
  • –iste: hédoniste, motoriste;
    exceptions: liste, piste;
  • –m: album, denim, gram;
    exception: faim;
  • –non: canon, champignon, oignon;
    exceptions: guenon;
  • –ome: atome, idiome, syndrome;
    exception: cardamome;
  • –t: accent, aéroport, désert, mont, mot;
    exceptions: forêt, nuit, dent, part;
  • –u: bijou, château, niveau, pneu;
    exceptions: eau, peau, vertu;
  • –us: autofocus, jus, radius, virus;
    exception: vénus;
 
 

Rules for Feminine Gender

Nouns with the suffixes below are feminine:

  • –ade: décade, olympiade, salade;
  • –aison: maison, raison, saison;
  • –sion: révision, télévision, version;
  • –ssion: admission, compression, passion;

Most nouns with the suffixes below are feminine:

  • –tion: correction, rédaction, orientation;
    exception: bastion;
  • –ude: altitude, etude, fraude;
    exceptions: coude, prélude;
 
 

Nouns with Both Genders

Many nouns in French can have both genders. In some cases, the gender determines the meaning of the word:

  • le livre (book), la livre (pound);
  • le page (young nobleman), la page (page);
  • le tour (turn), la tour (tower);

In other cases, both genders are possible: après-midi, enzyme, interview.

Many nouns referring to persons and functions / professions have the same feminine and masculine form: le / la diplomate, le / la stomatologue.

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