Basic Nouns and Nouns of Quantity

All French nouns have a number (singular or plural) and a gender (masculine or feminine). Singular articles help you to identify the gender of nouns and should be learned with the nouns they modify. Although the gender of some nouns is quite obvious (those that refer to males are masculine, while those that refer to females are feminine), the gender of other nouns can be tricky and must be memorized.

The following list goes into more detail about the number and gender of nouns:

Some noun endings give you a hint as to gender:

  • Masculine endings include ‐acle, ‐age, ‐al, ‐eau, ‐et, ‐ier, ‐isme, and ‐ment.
  • Feminine endings include ‐ade, ‐ale, ‐ance, ‐ence, ‐ette, ‐ie, ‐ique, ‐oire, ‐sion, and ‐tion.

Some nouns can be either masculine or feminine:

  • artiste
  • camarade
  • collègue
  • concierge
  • élève
  • enfant
  • malade
  • secrétaire
  • touriste

Some nouns can be changed to the feminine by simply adding an ‐e:

  • un cousin → une cousine

  • un ami → une amie

Some masculine nouns (usually referring to professions) have a corresponding feminine ending:

 

Some words are always masculine or feminine no matter to whom they are referring:

Most French nouns are made plural by adding an unpronounced ‐s to the singular form.

The letters s, x, and z are all used to make plurals in French. If a singular noun ends in any of these letters, its plural form remains unchanged:

  • le fils → les fils
  • la voix → les voix
  • le nez → les nez

Nouns ending in ‐eau add ‐x to form the plural:

  • le château → les châteaux

Nouns ending in ‐eu add ‐x to form the plural, except that le pneu (tire) becomes les pneus (tires):

  • le cheveu → les cheveux

Nouns ending in ‐al change ‐al to ‐aux, except for le bal (which becomes les bals), le festival (which becomes les festivals), and le récital (which becomes les récitals):

  • l'animal → les animaux

Some nouns ending in ‐ou add ‐x to form the plural:

  • le bijou → les bijoux

Most compound nouns (nouns made up of two nouns that are usually joined by a hyphen) do not change in the plural. Remember, however, to change their respective articles:

  • les hors‐d'oeuvre

Note the following irregularities:

  • les grands‐mères
  • les grands‐pères
  • les grands‐parents

Some French words are always plural:

  • les ciseaux (scissors)
  • les gens (people)
  • les lunettes (glasses)
  • les vacances (vacation)
  • les mathématiques

French last names do not add an ‐s in the plural:

  • Les Dupont

Nouns that express quantity are followed by the preposition de (d' before a vowel) before the noun that follows. For example:

  • Je vais acheter une douzaine d'oeufs. (I'm going to buy a dozen eggs.)

  • Donnez‐moi un verre de lait. (Give me a glass of milk.)

High‐frequency nouns of quantity include:

  • une boûte (a box, a can)
  • une bouteille (a bottle)
  • une douzaine
  • une livre (a pound)
  • un morceau (a piece)
  • une paire
  • un panier (a basket)
  • un paquet (a package)
  • un sac (a bag)
  • une tasse (a cup)
  • une tranche (a slice)
  • un verre (a glass)