French Vocab: 10 French Suffixes To Guess Gender

Gender in French is a significant concern among my students. Not only we know that it’s hard to choose, but most of us don’t have a single clue of what will be feminine or masculine. The good news is that gender is not a serious mistake and that we actually have statistics to determine and make a better choice among the genders.

The ending of a noun can be a clue to its gender. Some endings (actually suffixes*) can determine the gender of a noun. Because the same suffix is basically associated with a particular gender. (un aspirateur, le professeur, etc. but une agrafeuse, la menteuse, etc. when it’s feminine)

For example, -age, -al, -et, -ier, -isme, -ment, -leur are masculine suffixes (un mariage, le bocal, le cabinet, un rosier, l’immobilisme, un couronnement, le générateur), whereas -ade, -ance, -ation, -ence, -esse, -ette, -euse, t-é and -ude are feminine suffixes (une sérénade, la romance, une libération, la différence, l’étroitesse, la disette, une sulfateuse, la liberté, une certitude).

Here are some common masculine and feminine endings.

Feminine words main endings:

  • -ade : la pommade
  • -aille : une bataille
  • -ison, -sion, -tion : la prison, la révolution, la pension, version, nation… Most of the time these words are from a latin origin with a feminine gender.
  • ance : une balance, chance
  • asse : une paillasse. It often adds a pejorative meaning : une feignasse, une pétasse…

Masculine words main endings:

  • -r, er, ier : un pommier, un papier – for all fruit trees and nouns coming from infinitive : le diner…and men jobs : plombier, pompier, brancardier, infirmier
  • l : un vitrail, un portail
  • d : un poignard
  • -as : un bras
  • -t : un mot, un pot, but : une dent, une nuit, une forêt

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