Identifying gender by some word endings

Knowing the gender of French nouns is one of the hardest things for English students.  
Fortunately, we have some tips for you!
Note that they don't work 100% of the time (That would be too easy!), but it is as close you can get to a rule.  

1- Nouns ending with an -e are mostly feminine

This is not an absolute rule, but we can consider that easily 75% of words ending in -e are feminine.
Masculine words less often end in -e.

ATTENTION: 
-é, -ê, or are NOT considered as -e, but as a different letter, therefore don't necessarily follow that rule!

Now let's look at endings that don't match that first rule: you can easily remember them! 

 

2- However -age, -ège and -isme endings tend to be MASCULINE

-age 

Here note that the words following that rule all have -age as an ending to an existing word.
 
Ils se marient: je vais au mariage.They're getting married: I'm going to the wedding.
Les feuilles sont orange: c'est le feuillage d'automne.The leaves are orange: it's autumn foliage.
Dans ce pays, il y a un beau paysage.In this country, there is a beautiful landscape.
Quand tu colles des morceaux de papier ensemble, tu fais un beau collage.When you stick bits of paper together, you make a nice collage.
 
Whereas all the exceptions are very short words, where -age is not an extra ending:
une cage, une imagela nage (swimming), une page, la plage (beach), la rage ...
 

-ège

un manègea carousel
le collègethe secondary school 
un privilègea privilege
 
 
Exception: la Norvège (Norway)
 

-isme

le RomantismeRomanticism
le capitalismeCapitalism
le CubismeCubism
 
 

3- Nouns that don't end in -e are usually masculine

Again, this is not an absolute rule, but we can consider that easily 80% of words ending in consonants are masculine. Moreover, endings in  are also mostly masculine. 
Feminine words less often end in consonants or -é.

Now let's look at endings that don't match that first rule: you can easily remember them! 

 

4- However, these exceptions that don't end in -e tend to be FEMININE

-tion, -sion, -ssion

la nationthe nation
la punitionthe punishment
une évasionan escape
la précisionprecision
une émission de téléa tv show
une impressionan impression
 
Exceptionun bastion
 

-son

la maisonthe house
une conjugaisona conjugation
une saisona season
une chansona song
 
Exceptionsun poison, un pinson (type of bird), un vison (mink), un bison, un blouson ...
 

-té, -tié

la liberFreedom
la beauthe beauty
la communauthe community
une amitiéa friendship
la pitiéthe pity
 
Exceptions with -té: un député, un aparté, un côté (side), un été (summer), un pâté, le karaté, un traité (treaty), un comté (county), un comité ...
 

Abstract nouns in -eur 

la chaleurthe heat
la lenteurSlowness
la blancheurthe whiteness
la noirceurthe darkness
 
Exceptionsle bonheur (happiness), le malheur (misery), un honneur...
and all the non-abstract nouns in -eur: un ascenseur (elevator), un aspirateur (a vacuum cleaner), un chanteur (a singer)...

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Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Les feuilles sont orange: c'est le feuillage d'automne.The leaves are orange: it's autumn foliage.
une amitiéa friendship
un siègea seat / a siege
un stratègea strategist
la pitiéthe pity
un privilègea privilege
la chaleurthe heat
Quand tu colles des morceaux de papier ensemble, tu fais un beau collage.When you stick bits of paper together, you make a nice collage.
un manègea carousel
la lenteurSlowness
la communauthe community
la comparaisonthe comparison
le collègethe secondary school 
une saisona season
une impressionan impression
la maisonthe house
le CubismeCubism
la blancheurthe whiteness
la guérisonthe healing
Dans ce pays, il y a un beau paysage.In this country, there is a beautiful landscape.
la noirceurthe darkness
la liberFreedom
un piègea trap
la précisionprecision
la punitionthe punishment
le capitalismeCapitalism
une chansona song
la beauthe beauty
le socialismeSocialism
une évasionan escape
Ils se marient: je vais au mariage.They're getting married: I'm going to the wedding.
la fureurthe fury
une rougeura redness
une émission de téléa tv show
une conjugaisona conjugation
une possibilia possibility

-isme (masculine)


le RomantismeRomanticism

-tion (feminine)


la nationthe nation
Clever stuff underway!