How to find the gender of things in French?

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In French, do objects have a sex? Where does this strange idea come from? Who decided one day that the toothpaste was a man and the toothbrush a woman? This is a question I have always asked myself.

And I have the impression that no one really has a historical answer to it.

How to answer this question that a child would ask: ” So the table is the desk wife? ”

Milner, a linguist, wrote in 1988: ” We could talk about the group “le” and the group “la” rather than masculine or feminine gender.

Indeed, the masculine and feminine appellation seems a bit ridiculous for objects.

1. Gendre in various languages

You have probably noticed that the genre does not exist in all languages.

Some languages, like Danish, are have four genders: the masculine; feminine; neutral (gender neither masculine nor feminine); and the common (gender used for the masculine and feminine together).

Others, such as Russian, modern Greek, German or Slovene, have 3 genders: masculine, feminine and neutral.

English lost the gender at the Middle English stage. It is considered that English has a residual grammatical gender because some names have a hybrid behavior: animals, sometimes male or female and neutral, and, more surprisingly, land or sea vehicles often represented by the female pronoun.

Finally, some languages ​​have no gender: most of the languages ​​of Asia, the majority of Amerindian languages, the Uralic languages ​​(Turkish, Mongolian, Japanese, Korean, etc.), the Finno-Ugric languages ​​(Hungarian, Finnish , Estonian), and an isolated case among Indo-European languages: Armenian

Moreover, in languages ​​where gender exists, words do not always have the same kind! ‘’Book’’ is masculine in French, neutral in German and feminine in all Slavic languages! It is so disturbing!

2. How to learn the gender in French

For native speakers, it seems that the gender is learned during early childhood in a natural and unconscious way without posing any problem.

But for non-native French students, this is one of the most complicated thing to master. Even at an advanced level many students make mistakes.

Rest assured, the fact of deceiving gender does not block communication, and Francophones are used to foreigners making mistakes about it.

However, we must admit that Latin-speaking people will still have fewer problems learning genders, because of the similarities between their language and French.

3. Classification according to the endings

So how can you know if a word is masculine or feminine?

Even if it does not seem like it, there are some rules related to the words endings.

Somewhat, intuitive people may not be attracted by this kind of complex classification.

However, rational and scientific people will no doubt be interested in these statistics and rules. That’s why I’m showing them to you here.

Masculine words are ending with:

terminationNumber of wordsExamplestatistiquesExceptions
AGE1773Un garage99.66%Une cage, une image, la nage, une plage, une page, la rage
ISME1008Le plurilinguisme100%0
MENT794Un changement100%0
UM280Le maximum100%0
EME97Un problème96.9%La bohème, une crème
EU35Un feu100%0
IL122Un mail100%0
ING116Un parking100%0
US168Un busVénus
PHONExUn téléphone100%0
SCOPExUn télescope100%0
T1976Le vent99.41%Une forêt, une nuit, une dent, une part, la plupart
R1556Un déjeuner90%La mer, la chair, une cour, une tour +   all words ending with ‘’eur’’
ON± 262Un pantalon± 99 %

Feminine words are ending with:

terminationNumber of wordsExamplestatistiquesExceptions
ADE193Une limonade98.45%Un grade, une jade, un stade
UDE46Une certitude93.48%Un prélude, un interlude, un coude
TION / SION2067Une profession100%0
URE509La littérature97.25%Une augure, le bromure, le cyanure, le chlorure, un hydrocarbure, le mercure, un murmure, un parjure, le sulfure.
EURLa peurLe bonheur, un ascenseur, un ordinateur, un batteur, le bonheur, le malheur, l’honneur, le deshonneur, le labeur, un moteur.
ENCE / ANCE499une différence100%0
986La beauté99.99%Le karité
IE1070La vie99.44%Un brire, un caddie, un génie, un incendie, un messie
ÉE233Une dictée89%lycée périgée trophée pedigree musée
LLE438une ville95.9%Un antirouille, un arsouille, un bacille, un bidonville, le braille, un chevrefeuille, un codicile, un colibacile, un drille, un gorille, un lactobacille, un millefeuille, un pedzouille, un portefeuille, un pille, un streptobacille, un vaudeville
AISON72Une liaison100%0
ITE739Une gingivite94%Trilobite, anthracite, plébiscite, gîte, graphite, satellite, théodolite, comité, ermite, termite, granite, rite, mérite, site
ETTE327Une allumette98.5%Un squelette
CE500Une place89%espace crustace exercice bénéfice office artifice précipice dentifrice armistice vice service silence

4. Other classifications

We can classify some words according to what they represent:

Masculine:

 ExemplesExceptions
Chemical bodiesle cobalt, nickel, soufre0
Treesun sapin, érable, chêne0
languagesle français, l'anglais0
Timedays: le lundi, un samedi …0
Timemonths: ce janvier, cet août …0
Timeseasons: un hiver, un été, un automne, un printemps0

Feminine:

 ExemplesExceptions
Sciences’namesLa chimie, la grammaireLe droit

5. Difficulties

Some words change of gender according to their meaning. Here is a list that will allow you to avoid any confusion:

Masculin Féminin
Le mode d'emploi
the user manual
La mode des vêtements d'été
fashion summer clothes
Un moule à gâteau
a cake mold
Une moule dans la mer
a mold in the sea
Un pendule au bout d’un fil
a pendulum at the end of a thread
Une pendule qui donne l’heure
a clock that gives the time
Un poêle pour chauffer la maison
a stove to heat the house
Une poêle à frire
a frying pan
Un livre à lire
a book to read
Une livre (unité de poids)
one pound (unit of weight)
Un manche de hache
an ax handle
Une manche de chemise
a shirt sleeve
Un tour qu’on joue
a trick played
Une tour
a tower
Un vase à fleur
a flower vase
La vase au fond d’un marais
the mud at the bottom of a swamp
Un voile qu’on se met sur la tête
a veil that is put on the head
Une voile de bateau
a sailing boat
Un physique agréable
A nice physique
La physique et la chimie
Physics and chemistry

Voilà! I hope you liked this article and that French gender has no secret for you now!

Leave a comment to tell me your opinion about this topic or ask questions.