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French Course with Mathilde, lesson 21 – Feminine gender

In this lesson a particular aspect of French nouns: how to form the feminine of a noun in French language.

unlike English, French nouns can be masculine or feminine. Generally speaking, the feminine form of nouns, qualifiers and past participles is formed by adding an –e to the masculine. Ex: un ami (a friend, m.) – une amie (a friend, f.). But you probably noticed that French language is rich of exceptions, these particularities are:

  • Masculine nouns already ending with –e don’t change in the feminine form: Ex: un élève (a student, m.) – une élève (a student, f.), even though some of these nouns replace the final –e with the suffix –esse, as in prince – princesse, maître – maîtresse.
  • Masculine nouns ending with –f replace –f with –ve in the feminine form. Ex: veuf – veuve (widow)
  • Masculine nouns ending with –x replace –x with –se in the feminine form. Ex: époux – épouse (bridegroom and bride)
  • Masculine nouns ending with –er replace –er with –ère in the feminine form. Ex: infirmier – infirmière (nurse)
  • Masculine nouns ending with –el, -en, -on, -et double the final consonant and add a final –e. Ex: Daniel – Danielle; gardien – gardienne (guard); champion – championne; cadet – cadette (the younger son / daughter).
  • Masculine nouns ending with –an, -ain, -in follow the general rule of the final –e in the feminine form, except for paysan – paysanne (farmer); Jean – Jeanne; copain – copine (mate).
  • Masculine nouns ending with –eur and coming from verbs replace –eur with –euse in the feminine form. Ex: rêveur – rêveuse (dreamer), from rêver (to dream), except for empereur – impératrice (emperor) and supérieur – supérieure. On the contrary, masculine nouns ending with –teur and not coming from verbs replace –teur with –trice. Ex: acteur – actrice
  • Then, as in English, some feminine nouns have completely different forms compared to their masculine equivalent: Here you are a list of the most common: these ones refers to people…
  • Fils – fille (son – daughter) – Frère – soeur (brother – sister) – Père – mère (father – mother).

Finally, always remember that most nouns referring to professions have the same form for masculine and feminine. So, you will say: un / une avocat (lawyer);  un / une docteur (doctor); un / une écrivain (author); un / une professeur (professor). If you want to make a distinction, you will use Madame (or Mademoiselle) le professeur, Madame le docteur, etc. Anyway, some masculine nouns referring to professions have a feminine equivalent: un artisan – une artisanne (craftsman); un chirurgien – une chirurgienne (surgeon); un employé – une employée.

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