French Nouns

Nouns are words that are used to refer to things, places, animals, persons or ideas in a general (as in the case of common nouns) or particular (as in the case of proper nouns) way. Since common French nouns are always either feminine of masculine (with a few exceptions found in words that can be both masculine and/or feminine, also known as “epicene nouns”) , it is convenient for foreign learners to memorize the appropriate gender taking the word’s correspondent article (definite or indefinite) as a reference. Examples:

 

Le visage (The face).
La université (The university).
Un bureau (A desk).
Une voiture (A car).

 

Note that most nouns that finish with “-eau”, “eaux”, “age”, and “ment” are masculine; as much as those finished with “e”, “ée”, “ure”, “ence”, “ance”, “té”, “ette”, “ion” are likely to belong to the feminine gender (this includes names of countries and people).

 

In order to feminize a (singular) masculine noun, a suffix is added to the word, the most common one of these being “-e” (nouns finishing in this letter remain intact and can be used for both genders equally). Other suffixes employed to transform nouns include: “-eure”, “euse”, “esse”, and “-rice”; this is mostly applied to profession titles and adjectives. For example:

 

MASCULINE FEMININE
Employé

employée           (employee)

Extérieur

extérieure          (exterior)

Flatteur flatteuse            (flattering)
Traducteur traductrice         (translator)
Maire

mairesse             (mayor)

 

In order to pluralize a noun (either masculine or feminine), the letter “-s” is added toward the end of the great majority of words. For example:

 

SINGULAR          PLURAL
frère (brother)

frères (brothers)

four (oven)

fours (ovens)

mur (wall) murs (walls)
Traducteur traductrice         (translator)
Maire

mairesse             (mayor)

 

Special rules are applied to words with certain terminations, such as:

 

  • “eu”, “eau”, and “au”, which take an extra “x” at the end when becoming plural. For example:

 

SINGULAR          PLURAL
cheveu (hair)

cheveux (hairs)

gâteau (cake)   

gâteaux (cakes)

manteau (coat) manteaux (coats)

 

  • “al”, which needs to be replaced by “aux” in order for the word to become plural. For example:

 

SINGULAR          PLURAL
animal (animal)

animaux (animals)

cheval (horse)

chevaux (horses)

manteau (coat) manteaux (coats)

 

Note, also, that nouns finishing with the letters “s”, “z” and “x”, DO NOT require any changes in order to become plural. For example:

 

SINGULAR          PLURAL
le nez (the nose)

les nez (the noses)

le fils (the son)

les fils (the sons)

le prix (the prize) les prix (the prizes)

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