I'd like to try learning French, having failed to do so at school, but one thing that puts me off is the idea of learning word genders.

The idea that a lampshade or a radiator is masculine or feminine seems completely ridiculous and my brain refuses to participate in this game.

If I were to learn French but I got the gender of objects wrong, would what I was saying be understandable by a French speaker?

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    It's important, but not indispensable. A French speaker would understand you, sometimes they will be surprised to hear a gender mistake, but still they will understand what you're saying.
    – Maël
    Jul 18, 2020 at 8:03
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    One side-comment: pay attention that noun genders are quite common. It is not only in French but in many languages: Spanish, German, Russian, etc. Roughly half the known languages, if I remember correctly, though I don't know in therms of population. So I would not say it is "completely ridiculous" even if it seems awkward to you as an English speaker.
    – Steph
    Jul 25, 2020 at 7:04
  • A trick to learn the kind of words: use your ears! Learn the words with an adjective that we often encounter with it : "un radiateur brûlant" (the gender + the accent on the û :-) and " une lampe brûlante" ... but beware, "vaste, riche, pauvre" do not have a gender.
    – Personne
    Jul 25, 2020 at 10:40
  • … en ayant le genre de l’article (concept) ET celui de l’adjectif (perception auditive) vous associez la mémoire du mental et la mémoire émotionnelle.
    – Personne
    Jul 25, 2020 at 17:56
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    The idea that there are irregular forms for the past tense of verbs in English is repellent, I refuse to participate in this game. If i speaked and writed using only regular forms, can I still be understanded?
    – grandtout
    Aug 9, 2020 at 10:43

3 Answers 3


If I were to learn French but I got the gender of objects wrong, would what I was saying be understandable by a French speaker?

Yes, of course, assuming the rest of your French is correct enough. Using wrong noun genders is a very common mistake made by people for whom French is not the mother tongue, and especially native English speakers for whom this concept is foreign.


If the gender is uncertain/wrong, context would be the biggest indicator in a conversation. For example, you've almost definitely heard of the "Tour de France" and the "Eiffel Tower." In French, these are <<Le Tour de France>> and <<La Tour Eiffel>> respectively. Le Tour would be the ride/turn, while La Tour would be the tower.

Regardless, grammatical genders are important in any language using them, unless proper grammar is not an issue.


the notion of gender in French is one of the most difficult points to grasp in the language, and especially for the English-speaking world. French distinguishes the masculine from the feminine whether for people as for "objects". there is also the "neutral" gender (who is not male nor female).

below 2 very light description links, but which can be used as a basis. "le vs la" http://www.frenchtutorial.com/en/learn-french/basics/le_la_les
"genders" https://www.france-pub.com/french-masculine-feminine.php in english with french sample

know that in French for example: "une armoire" (a cupboard) on one side and on the other hand "un meuble" (a furniture) on the other, yet a cupboard is a piece of furniture ;) (une armoire est un meuble)

other sample .. "un arbre est dans la forêt" (a tree is in the forest) we say "la forêt" (a designed forest) and une "forêt" (one of forest)

But, "un arbre" (a tree) can't say "le arbre" ! -> "les arbres" or "des arbres" (trees) is ok (

there are no grammatical global rules (except for certain cases), and it will simply be necessary to know if it is an "le/un" or "la/une". this is one of the mistakes (funny for the French) that all non-French speaking foreigners do the most You learn it n time

Here a review on the knowledge of "gender" at school (9 year olds) http://ekladata.com/93tBec2fivol3yOFXLCMpdCCwjo/Fiches-Orthographe-CM1.pdf practice, and get corrected ;)


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