Gender and Number of Nouns and Articles

A noun is a person, place or thing. In French, all nouns are masculine or feminine (gender / le genre) and singular or plural (number / le nombre). The French definite article is used more than the English definite article “the” wich is the only definite article in English whereas we have four in French.

The Definite Article

The French definite article agrees with the noun in gender and number.

Singular Plural
Masculine le les
Feminine la les
Masculine and Feminine before a vowel sound or mute h  




Masculine singular nouns take the definite article le. The genders of French nouns are hard to guess. You will learn them as you go along (every time you will learn a new noun, make sure to know the gender). Here are some masculine nouns with their articles :

le camion  the truck

le livre  the book

le chat  the cat

le pays  the country

le cheval  the horse

le père  the father

Feminine singular nouns take the definite article la. Here are some feminine nouns with their articles :

la boutique  the store

la fourchette  the fork

la chaussure  the shoe

la jupe  the skirt

la fille  the girl

la lampe  the lamp

Many feminine nouns end in -e, but don’t consider this a general rule. For instance, the nouns in the following list do not end in -e, but they are all feminine :

la chaleur  warmth

la main  the hand

la fleur  the flower 

la nuit  the night

la forêt  the forest

la paix  the peace

The definite aticle l’ is used before all singular nouns, masculine and feminine, starting with a vowel or a mute h. The -e or -a of the definite article is dropped. When the noun starts with h, pronounce the vowel that follows the h.

Here are some nouns with their gender in parentheses (m. or f.). Try to learn the gender for each noun :

l’ami (m.)  the male friend

l’amie (f.) the female friend

l’anglais (m.)  English (language) or the Englishman

l’anglaise (f.)  the Englishwoman

l’enfant (m. or f.)  the child

l’école (m.) the school

l’avion (m.)  the plane

l’hôtel (m.)  the hotel 

The plural definite article of all nouns (masculine and feminine) is les :

les livres  the books

les maisons  the houses 

les voitures  the cars

les touristes the tourists

The final -s of les is usually not pronounced : les voitures [lay vwa-tur] ; les touristes [lay too-reest]. However, when the -s of les is followed by a vowel sound, it is pronounced [z] and begins the following syllable, this is called a liaison : les_exercices [lay-zehg-zehrr-sees] (the exercises) ; les_hommes [lay-zohm] (the men). For more about the liaison and how to pronounce it read the lesson here.

The Indefinite Article

The singular indefinite article in French, corresponding to and an in English, is un for masculine nouns and une for feminine nouns.  Depending on the context, unune can also mean the number one : as-tu un euro ? (do you have one euro ?)

The indefinite article is the same for nouns beginning with a consonant or a vowel.

Here’s a list of masculine singular nouns with the indefinite article :

un ami  a friend

un avion  a plane

un lit  a bed

un livre  a book

Here’s a list of feminine singular nouns with the indefinite article :

une amie  a friend

une école  a school

une fille  a girl

une lampe  a lamp

The plural indefinite article of both masculine and feminine nouns is des, the English equivalent would be some. Here again, the final -s of des is usually not pronounced : des voitures [day vwa-tur] ; des touristes [day too-reest]. However, like with les, when the -s of des is followed by a vowel sound, we do the liaison and pronounce it [z] : des_exercices [day-zehg-zehrr-sees] (some exercises) ; des_hommes [day-zohm] (some men).

For more about the liaison and how to pronounce it read the lesson here.

Here’s a list of plural nouns with their gender in parentheses (m. or f.), with the indefinite article :

des maisons (f.)  some houses

des arbres (m.)  some trees

des garçons (m.)  some boys

des filles (f.)  some girls