French is a much more gendered language than English. Which nouns are masculine and which are feminine can often seem arbitrary and random to non-native speakers. However, the language does contain some fairly consistent rules for determining whether a particular noun is considered masculine or feminine.
A few things to keep in mind: First, the French pattern of gendered noun endings is considerably more intricate than that of other Romance languages (most notably Spanish). Second, there are many exceptions to these rules. This lesson will include a representative sample of these exceptions, but it is simply not practical to list all of them. Third, some nouns are dual gender. They have different meanings when preceded by either a masculine or a feminine article.
Masculine Noun Endings
Masculine French nouns typically end in –age, -b, -ble, -c, -cle, -d, -de, -eau, -ège, -et, -eur, -f, -i, -ing, -isme, -k, -l, -m, -me, -ment, -n, -o, -oir, -one, -ou, -p, -r, -s, -ste, -t, -tre, -u, and –x.
Exceptions include la cage (cage), une cible (target), la fac (abbreviated form of faculty), une boucle (curly), la method (method), la clé (key), la peau (skin), la Norvège (Norway), la soif (thirst), la foi (faith), la faim (hunger), une ferme (farm), une jument (mare), la main (hand), la moto (motorcycle), la chair (flesh), la fois (both), la piste (track), la dent (tooth), la montre (watch), la tribu (tribe), and la croix (cross).
Many names of professions and mechanical or scientific things ending –eur are also considered feminine.
Feminine Noun Endings
Feminine nouns usually end in –ace, -ade, -ale, -ance, -be, -ce, -cé, -e, -ee, -ée, -esse, -eur, -fe, -ière, -ine, -ion, -ique, -ire, -ise, -ite, -lle, -mme, -nde, -nne, -ole, -rre, -se, -sé, -sion, -son, -té, -tié, -tion, -ude, -ue, -ule, and –ure.
Some exceptions to the rules for feminine noun endings are un palace (palace/luxury hotel), le grade (grade), un pétale (petal), un globe (globe), un precipice (precipice), un crustacé (shellfish), un pedigree (pedigree), un apogée (height), le golfe (gulf), le foie (liver), le cimetière (cemetery), le moine (monk), un dominion (dominion), un graphique (graphic), un navire (ship/vessel), un ermite (hermit), un gorille (gorilla), un dilemma (dilemma), le monde (world), le symbole (symbol), le verre (glass), le gypse (gypsum), un opposé (opposite), un blouson (jacket), le comté (county), le bastion (stronghold), le coude (eblow), un abaque (abacus), le ventricule (ventricle), and le cyanure (cyanide).
Most countries and names ending in -e are feminine. Abstract qualities and emotions ending in –eur are usually masculine.