French Nouns

Understanding Nouns

  • A noun is a part of speech that stands for a person, thing, place, concept or idea.
  • In French, every noun has a gender - it’s either masculine or feminine.
  • The definite articles ‘le’ (masculine) and ‘la’ (feminine) are used to mean ‘the’.
  • To form the plural of most nouns in French, you add an ‘s’ at the end, but the pronunciation doesn’t change and the ‘s’ is silent. For instance, ‘chat(cat) becomes ‘chats(cats).
  • For nouns ending in ‘au’, ‘eu’, or ‘eau’, the plural is usually formed by adding ‘x’. For instance, ‘château(castle) becomes ‘châteaux(castles).

Noun Gender

  • The gender of French nouns is not always logical and must often be learnt by heart.
  • A few rules can help, like many nouns ending in ‘-tion’, ‘-sion’, and ‘-ure’ are feminine.
  • However, beware of exceptions such as ‘le lion(the lion) and ‘l’horizon(the horizon) - both ending in ‘-on’ but masculine.

Definite and Indefinite Articles

  • French nouns are introduced by articles.
  • Definite articles (‘the’ in English) are ‘le’ (masculine singular), ‘la’ (feminine singular), and ‘les’ (plural).
  • Before a vowel or mute ‘h’, ‘le’ and ‘la’ become ‘l’’.
  • Indefinite articles (‘a’ or ‘an’ in English) are ‘un’ (masculine) and ‘une’ (feminine). For the plural, regardless of gender, we use ‘des’.

Contracted Articles

  • French sometimes contracts the prepositions ‘à’ (to) and ‘de’ (of) with the definite articles. For instance, ‘à le’ becomes ‘au’, and ‘de les’ becomes ‘des’.
  • Understanding and recognising these contractions is crucial in mastering French grammar.

Partitive Articles

  • French uses partitive articles (‘some’ or ‘any’) to express an unspecified quantity.
  • They are formed with ‘de’ (of) + definite article ‘le’, ‘la’, ‘l’’, ‘les’.
  • Examples: ‘Du pain(Some bread), ‘De la confiture(Some jam), ‘De l’eau(Some water), ‘Des pommes(Some apples).