Dialogue

Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Michael: How can a word be masculine or feminine?
Aurore: And how can you tell its gender?
Michael: At FrenchPod101.com, we hear these questions often.
In the following situation, a language learner is out buying groceries. Sasha Lee, a high school student, is at a supermarket with her friend (Doriane Dantois). She says to the clerk,
"An apple and a lemon, please."
Sasha Lee: Une pomme et un citron, s'il vous plaît.
Sasha Lee: Une pomme et un citron, s'il vous plaît.
Doriane Dantois: Une seule pomme et un seul citron?
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Sasha Lee: Une pomme et un citron, s'il vous plaît.
Michael: "An apple and a lemon, please."
Doriane Dantois: Une seule pomme et un seul citron?
Michael: "Only one apple and only one lemon?"
Michael: Did you notice that the nouns,
Aurore: pomme
Michael: and
Aurore: citron,
Michael: are preceded by different-sounding versions of the article,
Aurore: un?
Michael: This is because in French, every noun has a gender, and the article changes to match that gender. Other Romance languages have masculine and feminine nouns, too. It's a trait that comes from Latin. In fact, it's common among many languages in the Indo-European language family. But gender here doesn't mean that a word is somehow male or female. People don't think of certain objects as somehow being like a man or somehow like a woman. And in most cases, the gender of a French word is based on the gender that was assigned to it in Latin.
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the conversation.
Do you remember how Sasha (@hero-daughter) says,
"An apple and a lemon, please."
Sasha Lee:
Une pomme et un citron, s'il vous plaît.
Michael: Here, the word for "apple" is feminine and the word for "lemon" is masculine. But how do we know which nouns are which? The easiest way to tell the gender of a noun is by looking at the last letter of the word.
The general rule is that if a noun ends with an -e, it's feminine. For example,
Aurore: la pomme
Michael: meaning "apple,"
Aurore: la femme
Michael: meaning "woman," and
Aurore: la lune
Michael: meaning "moon."
Nouns that end with any other letter are generally masculine, like
Aurore: le citron,
Michael: "lemon,"
Aurore: le mec,
Michael: meaning "guy," or
Aurore: le soleil,
Michael: meaning "sun."
The only thing is, there are lots of exceptions. For example,
Aurore: le fromage,
meaning "cheese," is masculine even though it ends with an -e.
Another example is
Aurore: la voix,
Michael: meaning "voice." This word is feminine even though it doesn't end with an -e.
Because there are so many exceptions to the general pattern, it's best to learn nouns and their articles together.
Michael: Now let's take a quick look at how adjectives are affected by the gender of the nouns they modify.
Do you remember how Sasha's friend (@HIGHSCHOOL-FRIEND-F) says,
"Only one apple and only one lemon?"
Aurore: Une seule pomme et un seul citron?
Michael: Here the noun,
Aurore: pomme
Michael: Follows the word,
Aurore: seule,
Michael: And the word,
Aurore: citron,
Michael: follows the word,
Aurore: seul.
Michael: Both
Aurore: seule
Michael: and
Aurore: seul
Michael: mean "only." But they are different because the word changes its form depending on the noun it modifies. In other words, when an adjective is modifying a masculine noun, it must also be masculine, and when an adjective is modifying a feminine noun, it must also be feminine. Since the word for "lemon" is masculine, the word for "only" must be
Aurore: seul.
Michael: And because the word for "apple" is femine, the word for "only" must be
Aurore: Seule.
Michael: So far we've learned that the ending -e is the best way to identify a feminine noun. Other words are usually masculine. However, there are many exceptions to this rule, so it is best to remember a noun's gender when learning the noun itself.
Michael: There are, however, a few other indicators.
Some endings that almost always indicate the masculine gender are
Aurore: -age,
Michael: as in
Aurore: le fromage,
Michael: or "cheese,"
Aurore: -ment,
Michael: as in
Aurore: le document,
Michael: or "document,"
Aurore: -eau
Michael: as in
Aurore: l'oiseau,
Michael: or "bird," and
Aurore: -oir
Michael: as in
Aurore: le miroir
Michael: or "the mirror." If you see these letter patterns when you're studying French, it's safe to assume those nouns are masculine.
Some feminine ending patterns are
Aurore: -tion or -sion
Michael: as in
Aurore: la nation
Michael: meaning, "the nation,"
Aurore: -té
Michael: as in
Aurore: la liberté
Michael: or "liberty" and
Aurore: -euse
Michael: as in
Aurore: la chanteuse,
Michael: or "the singer." You can assume that words ending with these letter patterns are feminine.
Michael: Let's review. Respond to the prompts by speaking aloud. Then repeat after the French speaker, focusing on pronunciation.
Do you remember how to say,
"An apple and a lemon, please."
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Aurore as Sasha Lee: Une pomme et un citron, s'il vous plaît.
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Aurore as Sasha Lee: Une pomme et un citron, s'il vous plaît.
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Une pomme et un citron, s'il vous plaît.
Michael: And how to say,
"Only one apple and one lemon?"
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Aurore as Doriane Dantois: Une seule pomme et un seul citron?
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Aurore as Doriane Dantois: Une seule pomme et un seul citron?
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Une seule pomme et un seul citron?
Michael: Great job. Now you know how to use gender in French. That's all there is to it!
Be sure to download the lesson notes for this lesson at FrenchPod101.com — and move onto the next lesson!

3 Comments

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FrenchPod101.com Verified
Monday at 06:30 PM
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What French learning question do you have?

FrenchPod101.com Verified
Wednesday at 08:54 PM
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Bonjour Wee,

We do! Just type in a tense or key words in the search bar (magnifier icon at the top of the screen) and you should find what you're looking for!


Bonne journée,

Marion

Team FrenchPod101

Wee
Tuesday at 12:25 AM
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Hi, do you have any lessons on conjugating verbs( changing the suffix of a word) depending on tenses? If so , is there any rule to it?Also, do you have a lesson on French sentence construction?