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French Grammar Tips

Is a French word masculine or feminine?


It may be confusing at times to determine the gender of a French noun.

The gender of nouns is on the whole, arbitrary. 

Here are a few tips to help you along the way if you are a beginner French learner.


Feminine French words:

Nouns ending in:

-ette such as: maisonette, courgette or fourchette

-tion such as:  nation, augmentation or addition

-sion such as:  pension, tension or mission

-ure such as: sculpture, voiture or cure

-té  such as: variété, qualité or difficulté

-ence such as différence, conséquence or absence

-ance such as abondance, performance or tolérance

-ie such as partie, vie or série


Masculine French words:

Nouns ending in:

-eau such as: bateau, chapeau, oiseau

-ment such as: établissement, paiement or évènement 

-teur such as: acteur, professeur or directeur

-phone such as: microphone, saxophone or dictaphone

-scope such as: horoscope, téléscope or stethoscope


Of course there are exceptions to the rule. As we say in French, "l'exception confirme la règle."

On our blog, we will soon explore exceptions as well as other tips to help you learn the gender of French nouns.


Which preposition should I use for countries?


I live in France. J'habite en France.

I am going to France. Je vais en France. 

You may have noticed that although you change prepositions in English depending on the verb and the type of action it involves, in French you will keep the same preposition for a given country.

The trick is to know which preposition to use.

For masculine countries which start with a consonant, we use "au": au Royaume-Uni, au Portugal, au Canada, au Pakistan, au Mexique, etc. 

For all feminine countries and masculine countries starting with a vowel, we use "en": en Italie (f), en Iran (m), en Australie (f), en Colombie (f), etc.

If a country is plural, we use "aux": aux Etats-Unis, aux Pays-Bas.


Conjugation of French Verbs



corresponding to the to the three infinitive endings: -ER,-IR,-RE.

They are termed regular as they give a conjugating pattern for a great number of French verbs which have one or other of these infinitive endings.

The form of the verb ending in ER, IR, RE is termed the - infinitive

The verbs are preceded by personal pronouns specifying who or what is carrying out the action described by the verb.

Tu parles = you think

Il and elle = he and she.  Ils is used for a group of masculine nouns or a group of males and elles is used for a group of feminine nouns or a group of females.


 French regular verbs ending in ER in the present tense form:

For example the verb  -parler- meaning to speak in English 

The basic form of a verb is termed - the infinitive - which is normally preceded by "to" in English e.g., " to speak"

 The stem equals the verb in its infinitive form minus its ending, e.g. parl/er

When we conjugate we separate the stem from the ending.

We remove the ER and add the following endings to the verb stem: e, es, e, ons, ez and ent:

Je pense

Tu penses

Il  pense

Nous pensons

Vous pensez

Ils pensent


ER verbs with peculiarities:

The stem of some French verbs change and they are called stem-changing verbs.

They have the same conjugation endings as the regular ER verbs. They have two different verb stems according to the personal pronouns preceding them when the verb is conjugated. (The personal pronouns are also referred to as grammatical persons).

The first and second person plural have the same stem as the infinitive.

The first, second, third person of the singular conjugations and the third person plural have different stems.

Verbs with the last vowel of the stem ending in e or é go through a change of stem as follows before endings in e, es, ent  also in the Future and Conditional: 

Verbs of types mener, espérer, jeter, appeler -present indicative-


Final vowel of stem in e such as in the verb men/er change e  to è.

je mène

tu mènes

il mène

nous menons

vous menez

ils mènent     

They also make this change in the future and conditional and the e which follows is soft rather than silent:

Je mènerai: je mènerais

Verbs endings -eter and -eler produce the open sound in the e by doubling the consonnant:

jeter    -    je jette          rappeler   -   je rappelle


Many verbs ending -eter and -eler follow the pattern of mener changing the e to è:

congeler    -    je congèle          peler     -     je pèle 


Most common verbs changing this way:

acheter (to buy), ciseler  (to engrave),  geler (to freeze),  déceler (to disclose),  démanteler (to dismantle),

peler (to peel),  haleter (to pant),  racheter (to buy back)


Verbs endings [CONSONANT] er change the é to è before a silent e in the  same way (except in the future and

conditional tenses:

espérer  -        j'espère    however

j'espérerai;     j'espérerais


Verbs ending -cer and -ger change the c to ç and the g to ge before a and o keeping the c and the g soft:

commencer  - nouse commençons

manger         - nous mangeons


Verbs ending -oyer and -uyer change the y to i before a silent e:

envoyer   -  j'envoie

appuyer   -  j'appuie 

 French regular verbs ending in IR in the present tense form

We add the endings to the basic part of the verb: is, is, it, issons, issez and issent

Je finis

Tu finis

Il finit

Nous finissons

Vous finissez

Ils finissent


French regular verbs ending in RE in the present tense form

Add the following endings to the verb stem: s, s, -, ons, ez and ent:

Je vends

Tu vends

Il vend -

Nous vendons

Vous vendez

Ils vendent





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