French Nouns with Two Genders

Noms avec deux genres

List | Quiz

The gender of French nouns tends to be a sticky grammar point for students, especially when it does not exist in their mother tongue. Although getting the gender right is very important, most of the time the wrong gender will not hinder your ability to understand or to communicate in French, because most words have a single gender.*

However, there are a number of French nouns which are identical in pronunciation (and often spelling as well) but which have different meanings depending on whether they are masculine or feminine.

Probably a good idea to memorize this list. :-)

un aide - male assistant
une aide - help, assistance, female assistant

un air - air, look, aria
une aire - area, zone, eyrie

un aller - one-way trip
une allée - avenue, path, aisle

un auteur - author
une hauteur - height

le bal - dance
la balle - ball (sports)

le bar - bar/pub, bass (fish)
la barre - bar/rod, barre, helm

le barbe - barb
la barbe - beard
les barbes (f) - ragged edge

le barde - bard (poet)
la barde - bard (armor for a horse, fat wrapped around meat)

le basilic - basil, basilisk
la basilique - basilica

le basque - Basque language
la basque - tails (of a jacket)

le boum - bang, explosion, (fam) success
la boum - (inf) party

le bout - tip, end
la boue - mud

le bugle - bugle
la bugle - bugleweed

le but - aim, goal, purpose
la butte - hillock, mound

le cache - card/mask (for hiding s.t.)
la cache - cache, hiding place

le capital - capital, money
la capitale - capital city, capital letter

le carpe - carpus
la carpe - carp

le cartouche - (archeology) cartouche
la cartouche - cartridge, carton

le casse - break-in, robber
la casse - breaking, damage, breakages

le cave - (familiar) idiot, sucker
la cave - basement, cellar

le central - center court, (telephone) exchange
la centrale - station, plant, group

le cerf - stag
la serre - greenhouse

le champagne - champagne
la Champagne - Champagne region

le chêne - oak tree/wood
la chaîne - chain, channel, stereo

le chèvre - goat cheese
la chèvre - goat

le chine - china, rice paper
la chine - second-hand / used trade
la Chine - China

le chose - thingie, contraption
la chose - thing

le claque - opera hat, (familiar) brothel
la claque - slap

le coche - stagecoach
la coche - check mark, tick (on a form)

le col - collar, neck
la colle - glue

le coq - rooster
la coque - hull, fuselage, cockle

le cours - class
le court - (tennis) court
la cour - courtyard, court of law

le crème - coffee with cream
la crème - cream

le crêpe - crepe material
la crêpe - thin pancake

le cric - jack
la crique - creek, inlet

le critique - male critic
la critique - criticism, review, female critic

le diesel - diesel fuel
la diesel - diesel automobile

un enseigne - ensign (rank)
une enseigne - sign, ensign (flag, banner)

un espace - space, room
une espace - printing space
une Espace - car model from Renault

le fait - fact
le faîte - summit, rooftop
la fête - party

le faune - faun
la faune - fauna

le faux - fake, forgery, falsehood
la faux - scythe

le fil - thread, yarn, string
la file - line, queue

le finale - finale (music)
la finale - final (sports)

le foie - liver
la foi - faith
une fois - once, one time

le foret - drill bit
la forêt - forest

le foudre - (ironic) leader, large cask
la foudre - lightning

le garde - guard, warden, keeper
la garde - guard duty, custody, private nurse

le gène - gene
la gêne - trouble, bother, embarrassment

le geste - gesture
la geste - gest, epic poem

le gîte - shelter, cottage; bottom round (meat)
la gîte - list, inclination of a ship

le greffe - court clerk's office
la greffe - transplant, graft

le guide - guide (book, tour)
la guide - girl scout/guide
les guides (f) - reins

un icone - icon (computer)
une icône - icon (art, celebrity)

un interligne - space (typography)
une interligne - lead (typography)

le jars - gander
la jarre - jar

le kermès - scale insect, kermes (tree)
la kermesse - fair, bazaar, charity party

le krach - stock market crash
la craque - (familiar) whopping lie

le lac - lake
la laque - lacquer, shellac, hairspray

le légume - vegetable
la grosse légume (informal) - big shot

le lieu - place
la lieue - league

le livre - book
la livre - pound (currency and weight)

Go on to page 2

*For example, un bureau (desk) is masculine and une chaise (chair) is feminine.

Saying "une bureau" or "un chaise" is incorrect, but still understandable. Other words have two different forms for masculine and feminine versions ( un avocat/une avocate, un acteur/une actrice) or a single form that refers to a man or a woman depending on which article is used ( un touriste/une touriste, un artiste/une artiste).

Introduction to French nouns and gender

le maire - mayor
la mer - sea
la mère - mother

le mal - evil
le mâle - male
la malle - trunk

le manche - handle
la manche - sleeve
la Manche - English Channel

le manœuvre - laborer
la manœuvre - maneuver, operation

le manille - Manila cigar, Manila hat
la manille - (card game) manille; Manille shackle

le manque - lack, shortage, fault
à la manque - (familiar) crummy, second-rate

le mari - husband
la mari - marijuana ( apocope of la marijuana)
Marie - feminine name

le martyr - male martyr
le martyre - martyrdom, agony
la martyre - female martyr

le Maure - Moor
le mors - bit (horse-riding)
le mort - dead body
la mort - death

le mauve - mauve
la mauve - mallow plant

le mec (informal) - guy, bloke
la Mecque - Mecca

le mégot - cigarette butt
la mégot - cigarette

le mémoire - memo, report, memoirs
la mémoire - memory

le merci - thanks
la merci - mercy

le mi - mi (musical note E)
la mie - soft part of bread

le mi-temps  - (work) part-time
la mi-temps - (sports) half, half-time

le micro-onde - microwave oven
la micro-onde - microwave (electromagnetic radiation)

le mite - moth
la mythe - myth

le mode - method, way, mood
la mode - fashion

le moral - morale
la morale - moral (of a story), morals

le mou - softness
la moue - pout

le moule - mold
la moule - mussel

le mousse - ship's boy (apprentice)
la mousse - moss, froth, foam, mousse

le mur - wall
la mûre - blackberry

le nocturne - night hunter (bird), nocturn (religion), nocturne (music, art)
la nocturne - late night store opening, sports match, meeting

un œuvre - body of work
une œuvre - piece of work, task

un office - office, bureau
une office - pantry

un ombre - grayling (fish)
une ombre - shade, shadow

orange (m) - orange (color)
une orange - orange (fruit)

le page - page boy
la page - page (of a book)

le pair - peer
le père - father
la paire - pair

Pâques (m) - Easter
la pâque - Passover
les Pâques (f) - Easter

le parallèle - parallel (figurative)
la parallèle - parallel line

le pendule - pendulum
la pendule - clock

personne (m) - ( negative pronoun) no one
la personne - person

le pet - (familiar) fart
la paie - pay
la paix - peace

le physique - physique, face
la physique - physics

le plastique - plastic
la plastique - modeling arts, body shape

le platine - platinum
la platine - turntable, deck, strip of metal

le poche - paperback book
la poche - pocket, pouch

le poêle - stove
la poêle - frying pan

le poids - weight
le pois - pea, dot
la poix - pitch, tar

le poignet - wrist, (shirt) cuff
la poignée - handful, fistful; handle

le poison - poison, (informal) unpleasant man or boy
la poison - (informal) unpleasant woman or girl

le politique - politician
la politique - politics, policy

le ponte - (informal) big shot
la ponte - laying eggs, clutch of eggs

le poste - job, post, tv/radio set
la poste - post office, mail/post

le pot - jar, pot, tin, can
la peau - skin

le pub - pub/bar
la pub - ad ( apocope of publicité)

le pupille - male ward
la pupille - pupil (eye), female ward

le rade (slang) - bar, bistro
la rade - harbor

le radio - radio operator
la radio - radio, X ray

le rai - spoke (wheel)
la raie - line, furrow, scratch (fish) skate, ray

le réclame - (falconry) the cry to recall the bird
la réclame - publicity; en réclame - on sale

le relâche - rest, respite, break**
la relâche - rest, respite, break**, port of call
**For these meanings, relâche can be masculine or feminine.



le renne - reindeer
la reine - queen
la rêne - rein

le rêve - dream
la rave - rave party (but not rave meaning "turnip," which is pronounced differently)

le rose - pink (color)
la rose - rose (flower)

le roux - red, redhead, roux (soup base)
la roue - wheel

le secrétaire - male secretary, writing desk, secretary
la secrétaire - female secretary

le sel - salt
la selle - saddle

le soi - self, id
la soie - silk

le sol - ground, floor, soil
la sole - sole (fish)

le solde - balance (account), sale
la solde - pay

le somme - snooze, nap
la somme - sum, amount

le souris - smile (archaic)
la souris - mouse

le tic - tic, twitch
la tique - tick

le tour - tour, turn, trick
la tour - tower, rook (chess)

le tout - whole
la toux - cough

le trompette - trumpeter
la trompette - trumpet

le vague - vagueness
la vague - wave

le vapeur - steamer
la vapeur - steam, haze, vapor

le vase - vase
la vase - silt, mud

le vigile - night watchman
la vigile - vigil

le visa - visa (to enter a country)
la visa - Visa (credit card)

le voile - veil
la voile - sail

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lawless, Laura K. "French Nouns with Two Genders." ThoughtCo, Jun. 18, 2017, thoughtco.com/french-nouns-with-two-genders-1371193. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, June 18). French Nouns with Two Genders. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-nouns-with-two-genders-1371193 Lawless, Laura K. "French Nouns with Two Genders." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-nouns-with-two-genders-1371193 (accessed January 16, 2018).