What do French Gender and Number Mean ? (2023)

Understanding grammatical terms such as “gender” and “number” is not that obvious, and is often the reason why French language students don’t get French grammar.

Language methods use grammatical terms as if they were obvious.

However, my experience is that many students don’t really understand these words. So in some cases it’s not so much the French grammar itself they don’t understand, but the French vocabulary their book uses to explain it.

I’m very aware of that problem, this is why I always explain everything very clearly in my progressive French audiobook learning method À Moi Paris.

So, today I’ll explain the grammatical terms of “gender” and “number” in English and in French.

Table of Contents

What Does “Gender” Mean in Grammar?

Avoid a Terrible Mistake When Studying French

Why is a Noun Feminine or Masculine in French?

What Does Number Mean in Grammar?

What’s the Gender and Number of that French Word

(Video) Gender of French Words: Masculin vs Feminin

What Does “Gender” Mean in Grammar?

In English, gender is linked to the sex of a living being.

  1. A man is masculine, and to talk about him, you’d use masculine pronouns such as “him”, “he”, “his”.
  2. A woman is feminine, and you’d use “her, she, her” to talk about her.
    It doesn’t matter whether the said man and woman are “masculine” or “feminine” in their attitude. Here, these words are grammatical terms, they don’t mean “acting in a feminine/masculine way”.
  3. And things are neutral, like a book, and you’d use “it, its” to refer to it.

In French, all nouns – whether they refer to living beings or not – are either masculine or feminine. There is no “neutral” in French.

If it’s a living being, the gender will be determined by the sex: feminine or masculine. A female dog will be feminine. A male dog masculine. Again, no neutral in French, so all living being as well as… well everything… is either masculine or feminine.

So in French, all nouns have an “assigned” gender that needs to be memorised with the noun when you memorize it.

Some words ending tend to show the French word is masculine, and there are also some feminine word endings, but most of the time you can’t guess and just have to memorize the gender of the noun by heart.

For example:

  1. a book in French is masculine, un livre
  2. a table is feminine, une table
  3. freedom is feminine, la liberté
  4. Canada is masculine, le Canada
  5. and France is feminine, la France

Avoid a Terrible Mistake When Studying French

When you learn a new noun, you should always learn its gender at the same time since it will affect the spelling and pronunciation of the words related to it, such as French adjectives.

In books or French vocabulary lists, the gender of a noun is usually indicated with an (m) for masculine, (f) for feminine, or shown by the French article (le, la, un, une) that accompanies it.

Never learn from a list of French words which doesn’t include gender information, you’d be missing half of the information! (Be warned, the internet is unfortunately full of such lists…)

Make sure you also indicate the gender of nouns when you make your own French flashcards.

Why is a Noun Feminine or Masculine in French?

A question my students often ask me is “why is this French word feminine?” And “why is that French word masculine?”.

I don’t know. Nobody knows.

Why is “happiness” masculine in French: le bonheur, but “sadness” feminine in French: la tristesse ?

I don’t know.

Why can you find a synonym of “le bonheur” in French but now it’s feminine: joy, la joie is feminine in French.

I don’t know.

Is French language sexist?

Hum…. I don’t make the rules, so I’ll leave this debate to the philosophers…

“Why” is not a good question to ask there. It is what it is. And you need to memorize the gender of each noun in French. There is simply no way around it.

Note that there are emerging French “neutral” pronouns being used mostly within the LGBTQ+ community, such as “iel”.

(Video) Why knowing the gender of a French word is important

What do French Gender and Number Mean ? (1)

Mastering French Numbers

Master All Numbers From 0 To 999 999 999! The most in-depth audiobook about French numbers anywhere

(23 Reviews)

What Does Number Mean in Grammar?

In French grammar, number doesn’t mean 1, 2, 3 etc…

Number is the grammatical term used to talk about singular or plural, which means:

  • singular = one person or one thing
  • plural = more than one

French Nouns and Number

In English, adding a pronounced “s” at the end makes a noun plural: books, tables… This S is pronounced in English, so you can easily tell if you are talking about something singular “book” or plural “bookS”. You see it in writing, but you also hear it when you speak.

Some English nouns have an irregular plural: “children”.

(Video) French Gender of Nouns - Masculine and Feminine / French Grammar Course Lesson 3

In French, the plural of a noun is created by adding a silent “s” at the end, sometimes it’s a silent “x” and there are also irregular plurals. So, since the S of the plural is silent, how can you tell if something is singular or plural when you speak French?

To know whether the noun is singular or plural, you will have to listen to the words related to the noun, since the noun itself is likely to be pronounced the same way in the singular and in the plural.
For example: une table, des tables – a table, some tables.

In French, the word “table(s)” is pronounced the same way whether it is singular (une table) or plural (des tables), so whether it ends with an S or not. In both cases, it’s pronounced “tabl”.

Only the article (une, des etc…) changes.

Look For The Related Words That Complete the Noun

French common nouns will have a little word accompanying them.

This little word is important because it shows the number and gender of the noun. Like a pilot in a plane, these little words work together with French nouns to complete them. They are called definite, indefinite or partitive articles, or possessive, demonstrative, interrogative adjectives…

For example: ma table – my table, cette table – this table, quelle table ? which table? Etc… Not only do these words carry the notion of “my”, “this” and “which”, they also carry the number and gender in French.

They are a bit of a pain because they change according to the number and gender of the noun, but sometimes also according to other factors, likeFrench possessive adjectives.

But mostly, they are a pain because where in English you have one word, in French, we have three, or more…

For example, if you take the definite article “the” in English (easy enough), well, in French it’s not that easy… We have four different words meaning “the” !!

  1. le for a masculine word = le livre
  2. la for a feminine word = la table
  3. les for a plural word = les livres or les tables
    At least it’s the same for feminine and masculine plural!
  4. And we have a mutant form… L’ for a word which starts with a vowel or a H = l’ordinateur (masculine – computer), l’heure (feminine – hour)
    Again, it’s the same word for feminine and masculine words starting with a vowel or a h.

So, in total, there are four “the” in French. There could be six… consider yourself lucky!

This usually is super confusing for English speaking students (not Spanish students… it’s exactly the same in Spanish…)

Yet, typical teaching methods fly over this as if it was absolutely obvious. And this is how I meet intermediate level students who still make mistakes with their articles….

Even if you understand the logic, it doesn’t mean you are able to apply it easily. We are not robots! You need to practice to really make these concepts yours. This is so different from English! No wonder students need a little time to let it sink in!

Make sure you study French with a progressive French learning method, which really explains things clearly and gradually, giving you plenty of practice before you move on to the next point.

What do French Gender and Number Mean ? (2)
(Video) How to identify feminine and masculine in French - 5 Easy TIPS

À Moi Paris Audiobook Method

A new approach to learning both traditional and modern French logically structured for English speakers.

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French Pronouns and Number

Sometimes, only the context will tell you if something is plural or singular, since the pronunciation of everything will be the same in the singular and the plural.

It’s the case for many French verbs since the French pronouns “il, elle” singular (he, it, she) and “ils, elles” plural (they) are pronounced the same way! It can be very confusing!

For examples, the French pronunciation of “he is speaking” and “they are speaking” is the same in French: il parle = ils parlent = “eel parl””

Only the context will tell you if the “il(s)” is singular or plural in French.

Most students learn with a written method. So, since it’s written differently, it’s obvious enough. But they don’t realize “il” and “ils”, “parle” and “parlent” are pronounced the same way! And then they can’t understand the French when they speak.

Chances are that the students will also mispronounce the French words to try to make a difference between the singular and the plural. Hence the importance to always study French with audio, even for grammar!

What’s the Gender and Number of that French Word

So now that you understand the grammatical terms gender and number, you’ll be able to answer a typical French language class question: “what is the number and gender of that French word?”

For example, if I say “une table” – the gender is feminine, and the number is singular.

Both are show by the French article “une”in this example, however your French teacher may have withhold this information during the test if you had to memorize a list of French words! Gender and Number are part of the info and you need to learn this at the same time as you learn your French word.

(Video) Ask a French Teacher - How Can I Tell if a Noun is Masculine or Feminine?


What gender are numbers in French? ›

Overall, “numbers” don't have grammatical gender. However: if you consider digits, like for instance for the “loto” (chance game based on selecting numbers), you will say “le 2, le 4…”, all masculine ; “million” and “milliard” are masculine.

What is number or gender? ›

Examples of Gender and number in a sentence

Gender and number - A masculine pronoun when used herein refers to both men and women and words used in the singular are intended to include the plural, and vice versa, whenever appropriate.

How do you know if French words are masculine or feminine? ›

How do you know when to use masculine vs feminine words? The best place to start when trying to figure out the gender of a French word is by looking at the ending of the word. Words that use the articles le or un are going to be masculine, and words that use the articles la or une are feminine.

Is 9 a masculine or feminine number? ›

9 is a masculine number.

Is 1 a masculine number? ›

First of all, let us talk about numbers depicting masculine characteristics. Numbers 1, 5 and 7 are considered to be masculine. They are extremely powerful. If your Life number is one of these numbers, you have to ability to excel in whatever you do.

Are French pronouns Nonbinary? ›

To express the non-binary, use gender neutral pronouns in French: While the English tends to use “they” to reflect the non-binary, in French the most common gender neutral pronoun is “iel” (singular) or “iels” (plural).

Is pizza masculine or feminine in French? ›

pizza noun, feminine

J'ai mangé la pizza entière parce que j'avais faim. — I ate the whole pizza because I was hungry. J'ai mis une pizza au four. — I popped a pizza in the oven.

What gender is a bed in French? ›

Masculine Feminine

What are 5 feminine nouns in French? ›

elle, enne, emme, esse, erre, ette… La pelle (shovel), une selle (saddle), la chaussette (the sock), la fillette (the little girl), La tristesse (sadness), la terre (earth), la femme (woman)…

Who decides the gender of French words? ›

No explanations exist as to why French nouns have a gender or how the gender of any noun was originally determined, so you cannot rely on a rule to guide you; however, certain endings do generally indicate a feminine or masculine noun.

How do you know when to use UN or UNE in French? ›

In French, the indefinite articles are placed before a common noun: “Un” before a common noun in the singular masculine. Example: un garçon. “Une” before a common noun in the singular feminine.

What gender is number 2? ›

The number two, on the other hand, suggests togetherness and cooperation—stereotypically feminine qualities.

Is the number 7 masculine or feminine? ›

7 is a highly spiritual number, associated with mysticism. 7 is a masculine number as it is assertive, cold confident and attention seeking.

What does it mean to agree in gender and number? ›

The Gender and Number clause allows for one gender to be used for either gender and that the singular may mean the plural and vice versa. Standard Gender and Number.

Is 5 a feminine number? ›

Is 5 masculine or feminine? The number 5 is both masculine and feminine. Even numbers are feminine while odd numbers are typically masculine-aligned. 5 is an odd number, but it represents balance and polarity, so it's molded with equal amounts of feminine and masculine traits.

What does the number 8 symbolize? ›

In Pythagorean numerology (a pseudoscience) the number 8 represents victory, prosperity and overcoming. Eight (八, hachi, ya) is also considered a lucky number in Japan, but the reason is different from that in Chinese culture. Eight gives an idea of growing prosperous, because the letter (八) broadens gradually.

Is the number 8 male or female? ›

The power and strength associated with number 8 are said to be feminine energy which can give you the strength to achieve your life's goals.

Is number 6 masculine? ›

Is 6 a masculine or feminine number? Six is a feminine number and the epitome of feminine characteristics. In numerology, even numbers like 6 are feminine while odd numbers are masculine. The number 6 is characterized by essential qualities of feminine energy such as warmth, sensitivity, and a nurturing nature.

Is the number 3 masculine or feminine? ›

3 is a masculine number.

Is 5 a masculine number? ›

It is a pivotal point between the numbers 1 and 9. 5 is a masculine number but exhibits feminine traits too.

What pronouns do Lgbtq use in French? ›

In French, there is not neutral pronoun, but inclusive people use a new French pronoun like “iel”, “ielle” (pronounce it like [yell] in English) or even “ille” (any of these 3 are fine). Some people use “ul”, “ol”, “ael” or “ele”. We sometimes also use “on”.

How do non binary people use French? ›

Indeed, in English, a non-binary pronoun can work, because the rest of the sentence is not affected. Well, in French it's possible too. To do so, you just need to use the inclusive language, which involves the use of the “point médian” for example: Iel est souriant.
The gender-neutral pronoun iel.
6 more rows
Nov 9, 2022

What language has no gender pronouns? ›

There are some languages that have no gender! Hungarian, Estonian, Finnish, and many other languages don't categorize any nouns as feminine or masculine and use the same word for he or she in regards to humans.

Why is orange feminine in French? ›

Exception: “Orange” is only masculine as a color – as a fruit it's feminine. Same thing for “rose.” As a color, it's masculine, but as a flower, it's feminine. Exception: Most shrubs are also masculine, but vines are feminine (la vigne). Exception: la tomme de Savoie is a cheese exception.

Is salad in French feminine? ›

Answer and Explanation: Salad is la salade in French, a feminine noun.

Is lemon feminine in French? ›

"An apple and a lemon, please." Sasha Lee: Une pomme et un citron, s'il vous plaît. Michael: Here, the word for "apple" is feminine and the word for "lemon" is masculine.

What is a single French woman called? ›

In France men are addressed as Monsieur and women as Madame or Mademoiselle. While a Monsieur is a monsieur no matter what, a Madame is a married woman and a Mademoiselle an unmarried woman.

Is Lazy feminine in French? ›

This is one of my favorite adjectives as I enjoyed being lazy each and every day! If you are a man in you want to say I am lazy you would say, “Je suis paresseux.” This is the masculine form of the adjective. If you are a woman you must use the feminine form. Hence, you would say, “Je suis paresseuse“.

What number is Neuf in French? ›

Numbers in French: 1-20
NumberIn FrenchPronunciation
17 more rows

Is it a girl or boy in French? ›

The masculine is used, for example, for the word "garçon." It's masculine: "Le garçon" [the boy]. Feminine nouns are introduced by the indefinite article une (a) or the definite article la (the). The noun fille (girl) is feminine, so we say une fille (a girl) or la fille (the girl):

What are numbers in French? ›

Zéro, un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix. Très bien!

Are numbers determiners in French? ›

Déterminants. Determiners are a category of grammatical terms including articles, numbers, and non-qualifying adjectives. Unlike descriptive adjectives,* determiners serve two functions: they introduce and modify nouns at the same time. Determiners are used much more frequently in French than in English.

Are numbers adjectives in French? ›

Understanding French Numerical Adjectives.
Types of Numerical Adjectives.
NameUsed forExamples
Cardinal numbersCountingun, deux, trois
Ordinal numbersRankingpremier, deuxième, troisième
2 more rows
Feb 4, 2019

Why is pizza feminine in French? ›

Gender in French is etymological. Pizza is feminine because it is in Italian, and also, we “feel” that.

What is the female of garçon? ›

Unlike English, however, all French nouns also have a gender: masculine or feminine. In some instances, the gender of the noun is apparent: un garçon (a boy) is masculine, whereas une fille (a girl) is feminine.

Does everything in French have a gender? ›

In French, all nouns are either masculine or feminine. This is called their gender. Even words for things have a gender. The gender of French nouns can be quite unpredictable, although there are some rules to help you.

What is called 29 in French? ›

vingt-huit. [van-weet] 29. vingt-neuf.

How do you say 1.5 in French? ›

Hence the decimil 1.5 is written 1,5 and read as 'un vigrule cinq'.

What is the rule for numbers in French? ›

Numbers are invariable in French, i.e. numbers are always spelt in the same way. Thus, 2 will always be written deux, 40 quarante etc. J'ai rangé les quatre livres que je viens d'acheter dans ma bibliothèque. (I put the four books I've just bought in my bookcase.)

What are the 7 determiners? ›

Some of the main types of determiners are:
  • Definite and indefinite articles.
  • Demonstrative determiners.
  • Possessive determiners.
  • Numbers.
  • Distributive determiners.
  • Interrogative determiners.
  • Quantifiers.
  • Determiners of difference.
Sep 18, 2022

Why are numbers like that in French? ›

The number system in French is derived from that used in Gaulish, the Celtic language spoken in France before the modern Romance language drove it out. If you look at the counting systems of modern Celtic languages like Welsh or Scottish Gaelic, you'll see a similar pattern to that in French.

Do French adjectives agree in gender and number? ›

Agreement of adjectives

Adjectives describe a noun and all French adjectives agree with the noun in gender and number. The general rule is that for feminine nouns, add -e, for masculine plural nouns, add -s, and for feminine plural nouns, add -es.

What are the 4 rules for adjectives in French? ›

When you use an adjective it must agree with the noun it is describing in both gender – masculine or feminine – and number – singular or plural. This means that French adjectives can have up to four different forms: masculine singular; feminine singular; masculine plural; and feminine plural.

What are the 2 rules for adjectives in French? ›

In French, adjectives have two specific rules that are very different from English: 1) Adjectives must agree with the gender and the number of the noun they describe. 2) Adjectives are generally placed after the noun unless they describe BANGS.

Is yellow in French masculine or feminine? ›

Masculine singularFeminine singularEnglish


1. French Gender and Plural of Nouns - French Vocabulary - Lesson 1
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2. Why are French words masculine and feminine? Finally understand gender in French
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3. Masculine and feminine in French 👩‍❤️‍👨 gender in French explained simply (French lesson)
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4. Gender of French Nouns: Same Word Different Meaning I
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5. Gender of French Nouns: Same Word Different Meaning II
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6. Feminine Words in French
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