Learning French in Paris, Leçon 2 – 1

Château de Pierrefonds

One of the more interesting parts of the French language is it’s use of masculine and feminine. In English you might hear something like, “She’s a good car” but you could also get away with,”He’s a good car”. That doesn’t work in French. The word for car (voiture) is feminine.

Of course, in English we do have words such as actor and actress and in French they have the same with acteur et actrice. But when we say,”Pleased to meet you, madam!” we don’t change the spelling of pleased. In French you do. Compare the same greeting said to a man and a woman.

French
English
Enchantée madame.Pleased to meet you, madam.
Enchanté monsieur.Pleased to meet you, sir.

See the extra e on the end of enchanté and the lack of it when talking to the male? This makes things a little bit more interesting. There are some rules although as in all things there are exceptions.

MasculinFemininMasculinFemininMasculinFeminin
-ais-aise-ois-oise-ain/-en-aine/-enne
[ɛ][ɛz][wa][waz][ɛ̃][ɛn]

It is all dependent on whether the subject of the sentence is male or female. If I ask a man whether he is French I use the spelling français and if I ask a woman I use the spelling française.

AnglaisMasculinFemininChanger
FrenchFrançaisFrançaise-e
AmericanAméricainAméricaine-e
ItalianItalienItalienne-ne
BelgianBelgeBelge
JapaneseJaponaisJaponaise-e
ChineseChinoisChinoise-e
GermanAllemandAllemande-e
CanadianCanadienCanadienne-ne
RussianRusseRusse
New ZealanderNéo-ZélandaisNéo-Zélandaise-e
Lawyerun advocatune advocate-e
Chefun cuisinierune cuisiniére-e
Writerun écrivanune écrivane-e
Journalistun journalisteune journaliste-e
Doctorun médecinune médecin
Modelun mannequinune mannequin
Musicianun musicienune musicienne-ne
Painterun peintreune peintre
Professorun professeurune professeure-e
Studentun étudiantune étudiante-e
Retiredun retraitéune retraitée-e
Waiterun serveurune serveuse-use

As you can see there are some exceptions but the majority of the time there is an e or en added in order to feminise a word.

Dans, chez et à la

Dans, chez and à la are all what are called propositions or prépositions in French. Words that show the relationship between the noun or pronoun and some other word or element ion the sentence.

For example,”He walks in the park” in French could be,”Il marche dans le parc”. Dans shows that he is in the park. Without it you don’t know how he relates to the park.

How about ,”He’s at the park”. In French that could be,”Il chez le parc”. It is actually quite close in some ways to,”Il à la parc” which would be,”He’s at the park” as well….actually, I am unsure on this one. On the net is says à al can be used as a shortened version of,”à la mode de” which means,”in the manner of”.

Other words and phrases

FrenchEnglishFormalInformalFeminine
Masculine
Quelle est votre nationalité ?What is your nationality?x
Je suis Néo-Zélandais.I am a New Zealander.xx
Je ne sais pas.I don’t know.
On n’en sait rien.We don’t know.
Qu’est-ce tu fait dans la vie?What do you do for a living?
Je suis étudiant.I am a student.
Je travaille dans une maison.I work in a house.
Je suis femme au foyer.I’m a housewife.
Je travaille dans une société.I work in a company.
Je travaille dans un restuarant.I work in a restaurant.
Je ne travaille pas.I’m not working.
Je suis retraité.I’m retired.
Je suis chomuse.I’m unemployed.x
Je suis chomuer.I’m unemployed.x
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