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For example, words ending by "-ette" are very likey to be feminine.

So, are there other rules that can help to assess the gender?

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Not beyond a few very specific cases that often have exceptions. See also Comment fait-on pour reconnaître et mémoriser le genre des noms? – Gilles May 24 '12 at 19:41

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I think the most useful rule of thumbs is that words ending with -e or -tion are usually feminine, others are usually masculine. I don't know if someone can come with precise figures, but I would say this holds for more than 80% of all words.

A lengthy but more refined version.

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You could also add -ssion, -ante, -ente, -inte and -ée to the "usually feminine". And -t to the "usually masculine". – Alexis Pigeon May 24 '12 at 10:01
@Alexis: Notice that -ante, -ente, -inte, -ée and -t are already included in the short and approximative rule :-) – Stéphane Gimenez May 24 '12 at 10:13
I disagree with -e: un téléphone, un bocage, un verre... juste quelques exemples (un autre) trouvés en quelques secondes. – mouviciel May 24 '12 at 13:17
@mouviciel: It's a useful rule when you speak and you don't know the gender of a word, it's a good guess. As I said, it's just a rule of thumbs. But maybe you disagree with the 90% proportion? If you know a better estimation, please share it. – Stéphane Gimenez May 24 '12 at 13:29
Ok I did a quick estimate using nouns extracted from a text, the proportion seems closer to 80%. (I didn't count words which admit both genders). – Stéphane Gimenez May 24 '12 at 13:43

The words ending with the sound "o" ("-eau") are generally masculine. Exemple: un château.

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The well known french poor man's rule for spanish is -o for masculine, -a for feminine. Ain't it working for french ? – Nikana Reklawyks Oct 17 '12 at 7:31
Ne fonctionne pas pour tout les mots. Par exemple la peau => nom féminin. Mais c'est vrai que la majorité des mots en eau sont masculin. – F. Geraerts Aug 27 '13 at 9:38

Même pour un francophone, le genre d'un mot n'est pas toujours évident, et de nombreux jeux de société ont des questions sur le genre des mots, surtout s'ils sont faiblement usités…

Pour mémoriser, j'accole systématiquement un adjectif (dont on peut reconnaître le genre à l'oreille) qui complète la signification, quitte à faire un pléonasme pour en confirmer le sens :

  • une grande apogée
  • un interstice tout petit
  • ...

edit remplacement de minuscule par tout petit

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I chanced on the following from Reddit:

I learned Spanish first and then French, and Spanish's gender is a lot more transparent for a novice. In Spanish, generally words ending in -o are masculine and those ending in -a are feminine. In French, generally words ending in a vowel SOUND are masculine and those ending in a consonant SOUND are feminine. The fact that a word like 'garçon' ends in a consonant letter but a vowel sound may be confusing for a new language learner.

With that said, there are a lot of times when French helps me figure out a gender in Spanish. For example, 'fuente' and 'puente' are ambiguous in Spanish, but in French, the equivalent cognates 'fonte' and 'pont' are pretty transparent.

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