Feminine or masculine, that is the question you often ask yourself as a French learner. After hours trying to figure out why “cheveux” (hair) is masculine and “chaise” (chair) feminine, you came to the inevitable conclusion: the gender of French nouns was randomly chosen by a bunch of sadistic linguists.
You may have heard that there is only one way to know the gender of a noun, to learn it by heart.
Luckily this is one of many myths about the French language, and you can actually know the gender of a French noun with more than 80% accuracy just by looking at its ending.
Why French genders matter
You can’t master French if you don’t master French genders. Luckily, the use of French genders is pretty straightforward, even if your language doesn’t use genders for nouns.
Before you discover how to easily know the gender of French nouns with 80% accuracy, you need to know that the gender has an influence on:
-The article you use before a noun
-The ending of adjectives and verbs
How to know the gender of French nouns with 80% accuracy
Associate each gender with a vivid image
Your French teacher told you to do this, and this may be the only solution in some cases. But instead of simply learning each word and its gender by heart, it can be smart to associate each gender with an action in your brain.
You could imagine that masculine nouns fall into water while feminine nouns are eaten by a monster. Associating each noun with such a vivid image helps you remember its gender more easily.
The association needs to be personal, this must be something you will easily remember. For example, If you love to sing, you could sing each word with a different tone depending on its gender.
Guess the gender based on the word’s ending
According to a study by McGill University, a noun’s ending indicates its gender in 80% of cases . Based on this study, here is a list of typically masculine and typically feminine noun endings.
Nouns with these endings were found to be of the same gender in more than 90% of cases.
I don’t recommend you to learn these endings by heart since it would be extremely boring. Instead, bookmark this page and regularly look at this list.
After a while, you will see that you can intuitively guess the gender of a noun based on its ending...
This article was originally published on French Together by Benjamin Houry. Read the full version here.