3.1 Nouns, articles and adjectives

In French we have something special that is not really known to English. There is a gender to everything, not only for persons, animals, personifications, but also to abstractions and every not-living thing. The table is feminine and a car is - surprise - feminine too. This might not come as a surprise but it does not make things easier. Especially as there is no logic in knowing, which gender which thing has. In Spanish there is at least the ending, that tells you most of the time whether it is masculine or feminine, but here it is different. Also, if you know another language with this gender differentiation, like Spanish or German - unfortunately the gender is not the same in the other languages. The only thing you can do is - learn the noun with the article.

In some cases (for living things, professions and occupations) there mostly is a masculine form and a feminine. The feminine form was created by adding a suffix to the masculine form. There is a great variety of these morphemes (suffixes or prefixes with a grammatical or contentwise meaning) and unfortunately the rules are so complex that it is easier to just learn again both forms - the feminine and the masculine one.

Examples for suffixes of feminine nouns derived from the masculine form
un chien une chienne
  a dog a she-dog
  un apprenti une apprentie
  an apprentice an apprentice (girl)
  un compositeur une compositrice
  a composer a woman composer

You might have noticed that we have used an article, to be precise an indefinite article. We will come back to this topic a bit later.

You will also notice that the formation of the plural might be challenging. There is not only one manner of forming the plural, but many as is shown in the following examples.

Examples for different forms of plural
le cheval les chevaux
  the horse the horses
  le fléau les fléaux
  the nuisance the nuisances
  la souris les souris
  the mouse the mouses

Here you have seen the definite articles with the nouns. You probably have also noticed that English actually knows only one definite article - French has more creatitivy, there are three of them.

And, as if things with men and women would not be complicated enough there might be also differentiations with the plural forms in written forms, even though the pronunciation is the same.

ami amie amis amies
  friend (male) friend (female) friends (males) friends (females)  

This differentiation into genders does not only apply for nouns, but also for articles and adjectives. They all have a specific ending depending on whether it is a feminine or a masculine thing. So, we will have a lot of interesting things to discuss - the nouns and their articles, the plural forms and the adjectives in the corresponding forms. In addition - last but not least - there are partitive articles that are again not used and not known in English. However, just do not worry, we will go on step by step and then you will see, it is not as difficult as it sounds.

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