2.2 Nouns and Articles

What is a Noun?

A noun is a person, place, or thing. Like English, nouns in French may be singular or plural. However, unlike English, French nouns can be either masculine or feminine. The easiest way of determining the gender of the noun is to learn the noun along with its corresponding definite article.

Definite Articles

A definite article is specific, it defines the number and gender of the noun it corresponds to. In English, the only definite article is the, whereas in French there are four of them: la, le, l’ and les.

Definite Articles
Gender Singular Plural
Masculine le, l’ les
Feminine la, l’ les

Please note, le or la change to l’ before a noun beginning in a vowel or an h (the h is silent in French).

Gender Singular Plural
Masculine le livre, l’homme les livres, les hommes
Feminine la chaise, l’amie les chaises, les amies

Important Note

In the examples above, note that le and la both become l’ when they come before a noun beginning with a vowel or a silent h: l’homme, l’université. This is called élision.

When les is followed by a word starting with a vowel, the normally silent final s of les is pronounced, making a /z/ sound. This additional sound linking two words is called liaison.

Exercise 1: Definite Articles

Fill in the Blanks

Plural  Formation

As in English, the plural is generally formed by adding an s to the end of the singular form of the noun. Note, however, that the s is not pronounced. In spoken language, the article is often the only indication that a noun is singular or plural.

Important Notes

Generally, to form plurals, you can follow these rules:

  • Add an s to the end of the word. Example: la chaise/les chaises (the chair/the chairs).
  • Nouns ending in s, x, or z do not change in the plural. Example: la souris/les souris (the mouse/the mice).
  • Nouns ending in al, ail, or au in the singular end in aux in the plural. Example: l’animal/les animaux (the animal/the animals).
  • Nouns ending in eu, eau or ou in the singular add x in the plural. Example: le bijou/les bijoux (the jewel/the jewels).

Keep in mind that there are exceptions and that not all nouns follow the rules above.

Exercise  2: Nouns and Definite Articles

Fill in the Blanks

Indefinite Articles

The second type of articles in French are indefinite articles. These correspond to the English a (an) (singular) and some (plural). Just like the definite article, the indefinite article has different forms for masculine, feminine, and plural.

Indefinite Articles
Gender Singular Plural
Masculine un des
Feminine une des

Don’t forget that to write the plural form of most singular nouns, you add an s to the end of the word.

Gender Singular Plural
Masculine un livre des livres
Feminine une craie des craies

Exercise 3: Indefinite Articles

Fill in the Blanks

This section includes content derived from Liberté, originally released under CC BY-NC-SA, and Tex’s French Grammar, originally released under CC BY 3.0.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Introduction to French (2nd ed.) Copyright © 2017 by Rita Palacios and Edited by Michelle Schwartz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book