If you’ve been studying French for a while know, you know that the gender of French nouns can be one of the most difficult aspects of French grammar to learn.
Why is une chaise (= a chair) feminine but un fauteuil (= an armchair) masculine? There’s no set rule!
The good news is that the gender of French nouns doesn’t really matter most of the time. No matter what gendered article you use, people will generally still understand what you meant.
However, as we already saw in last week’s lesson, sometimes a word will change its meaning depending on whether it’s masculine or feminine. So, in these cases, the gender of the French word does matter.
Today, we’ll move on to part 2 of that lesson with 12 more French words that can change gender (and meaning!)
Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson
- Understand the differences between 12 French words with different meanings, depending on their gender
- Know how to use your new French vocabulary in everyday life
Bonjour c’est Géraldine.
Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !
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Mi-temps means “half-time.”
La mi-temps (feminine) is the name for a half of a game, especially in soccer. It’s also the name for the half-time break in the game.
Les Bleus ont marqué trois fois pendant la première mi-temps.
The “Bleus” (= “Blue team,” national French team) scored three times in the first half-time alone!
Je vais passer aux toilettes vite fait pendant la mi-temps.
I’ll go to the bathroom quickly during the half-time break. (“vite fait” = quickly (colloquial))
Un mi-temps (masculine) however, is short for un travail à mi-temps (= a part time job).
Pierre pris un mi-temps pour pouvoir s’occuper de ses enfants.
Pierre switched to a part-time job so he could take care of his kids.
La physique (= physics) is a science.
La physique est la matière préférée d’Arthur.
Physics is Arthur’s favorite school subject.
Le physique however, means “physique / build / looks.”
Le physique est un élément important si on veut devenir mannequin.
Looks are an important thing if you want to become a model.
La mousse (= foam / moss / mousse):
J’aime avoir de la mousse dans mon bain.
I like to have foam in my bath (bubble bath).
Une mousse is also sometimes used as a cute colloquial word for “a beer.”
Je vais prendre une mousse pour l’apéro.
I’ll have a beer for the “apéritif.”
In the masculin, un mousse is a young sailor, an apprentice (or the old-timey “cabin boy”.)
Mon fils s’est engagé dans la Marine, il va être mousse.
My son joined the Navy, he’s going to be an apprentice on a ship.
La somme is the sum, the total amount. It’s often used for “a sum of money.”
J’ai fait la somme de nos dépenses. Tu me dois une somme de 80 euros.
I tallied all our expenses. You owe me a sum of 80 euros.
La Somme is also un département (= French administrative subdivision) in Northern France, named after its biggest river. It was a battlefield for La Bataille de la Somme in World War One.
In the masculine, un somme is “a nap.”
“Taking a nap” is faire un somme or more colloquially piquer un somme.
Je suis crevée, je vais faire un somme après le déjeuner.
I’m exhausted, I’m going to take a nap after lunch.
La mort is “death.” It’s feminine in French.
La Mort de Marat est un tableau de Jacques-Louis David peint en 1793.
“La Mort de Marat” (= Death of Marat) is a painting by Jacques-Louis David that was painted in 1793.
Je n’aime pas parler de la mort.
I don’t like to talk about death.
Le mort (in the masculine) is a deceased (man).
Its feminine is la morte (= the dead woman)
Le mort a été retrouvé au pied d’un arbre.
The deceased was found at the foot of a tree.
Faux (pronounced “foe”) is mainly an adjective (in the masculine) that means “fake, untrue.” Its feminine is Fausse (pronounced “foss”).
As a noun, it can mean:
→ Un faux (= a fake, a forgery.)
Je suis au regret de vous annoncer que cette peinture est un faux.
I’m sorry to tell you that this painting is a fake.
(Note: “Je suis au regret de…” is a very formal way to say “I’m sorry to…”)
→ Une faux (= a scythe.)
Ma tondeuse à gazon est en panne, j’ai plus qu’à sortir ma faux.
My lawnmower is broken, now I need to take out my scythe.
In the feminine, we can also say une fausse to say “a fake one.” It’s less specific than “a forgery.” For instance:
Je m’y connais en montres, et ça c’est une fausse.
Believe me, I know a lot about stopwatches, and that one is fake / is a fake one.
And we could then talk about une fosse (= a pit)… But you can’t follow a trail of French language oddities for too long lest you get lost 🙂
It’s time for a quiz to test your knowledge and remember more!
How do you say the following in French:
- A nap?
- A forgery?
- A beer (familiar French)?
(Answers : un somme / un faux / une mousse)
Et toi ?
Écris une phrase en français avec un mot de la leçon (dans les commentaires).
Write one sentence in French with a word from the lesson (in the comments).
For example, you can write: “J’adore faire un somme après manger” (“I love to take a nap after eating.”)
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Allez, salut 🙂