Actions

French Language French Grammar: Gender of compound nouns

From Polyglot Club WIKI

< Language‎ | French‎ | Grammar
This lesson can still be improved. EDIT IT NOW! & become VIP
Rate this lesson:
5.00
(2 votes)

Gender-of-Nouns-French-PolyglotClub.jpg
French-Language-PolyglotClub.png
Gender of compound nouns in French

Compound nouns fall into six main types in French, and it is possible to determine broadly the gender of a compound on the basis of the type it belongs to (although with some exceptions).


Video[edit | edit source]


Adjective + compound noun[edit | edit source]

Adjective + noun compounds normally take their gender from the noun. The noun part of the compound is highlighted in the following examples:

French English
un arc-boutant a buttress
un bas-côté a verge (e.g. of a motorway)
une basse-cour a farmyard
une belle-fille a daughter-in-law
un cerf-volant a kite
un coffre-fort a safe
un grand-parent a grandparent
un rond-point a roundabout
  • Exception: un rouge-gorge 'a robin'.


Noun + noun compounds[edit | edit source]

In noun + noun compounds the gender is determined by the more important noun, un camion-citerne 'a tanker (lorry)' is a type of camion 'lorry', so camion is the more important noun, and the compound is masculine, un hommegrenouille 'a frogman' is a type of homme 'man' (not a type of frog!), so home is the more important noun, and the compound is masculine. The important nouns are highlighted in the following examples:

French English
une auto-école a driving school
un bateau-mouche a Parisian tourist boat
un bateau-citerne a tanker (ship)
un camion-citerne a tanker (lorry)
un chou-fleur a cauliflower
un homme-grenouille a frogman
un hôtel-Dieu a hospital
une idée-force a central idea
un mot-clé a keyword
un oiseau-mouche a humming-bird
du papier-toilette toilet paper
une pause-café a coffee break
une porte-fenêtre a french window
un timbre-poste a stamp
une voiture-restaurant a restaurant car
un wagon-lit a sleeping car

Adverb + noun compounds[edit | edit source]

In adverb + noun compounds, the compound is usually the same gender as the noun, but there are exceptions:

French English
une arrière-pensée  a second thought
l'arrière-plan (m) the background
une contre-offensive a counter-offensive
un demi-tarif a half-price ticket
une demi-bouteille a half bottle
un hors-bord a speedboat
une mini-jupe a miniskirt
un haut-parleur a loudspeaker
un sans-travail an unemployed person
  • Exceptions: l'après-guerre (m) 'the post-war period', un en-tête 'a letterhead', le sans-gêne 'the lack of embarrassment'.


Noun + prepositional phrase compounds[edit | edit source]

The gender of noun + prepositional phrase compounds is usually that of the first noun:

French English
un aide-de-camp an aide-de-camp
un arc-en-ciel a rainbow
un chef d'oeuvre a masterpiece
un coup d'ceil a glance
un coup de pied a kick
un croc-en-jambe a trip
une langue-de-chat a long, flat, finger biscuit
la main d'ceuvre the workforce
un mont-de-piété a pawnshop
une pomme de terre a potato
un pot-de-vin a bribe
  • Exceptions to this generalization are: un tête-à-queue 'a spin' (head to tail in a car), un tête-à-tête 'a tête à tête conversation'.


Verb + noun compounds[edit | edit source]

Verb + noun compounds are usually masculine:

French English
un abat-jour a lampshade
un accroche-coeur a (kiss) curl
un appui-tête a headrest
des casse-noisettes nutcrackers
un cache-nez a scarf
un coupe-papier a paper-knife
un couvre-lit a bedspread
un cure-dents a toothpick
un essuie-mains a hand towel
un gratte-ciel a skyscraper
un ouvre-boîtes a tin-opener
un pare-brise a windscreen
un pare-chocs a bumper
un porte-avions an aircraft carrier
un porte-bagages a luggage rack
un porte-monnaie a wallet
un soutien-gorge a bra
un taille-crayons a pencil sharpener
un tire-bouchon a corkscrew
un trompe-l'oeil a "trompe l'oeil' (art)

Verbal phrase compounds[edit | edit source]

Compounds constructed from verbal phrases are masculine:

French English
le manque-à-gagner lost revenue
le on-dit rumour, gossip
le ouï-dire hearsay
un m'as-tu-vu a show-off
le qu'en dira-t-on the 'what might people say'
un faire-part an announcement card (weddings, births, funerals)
un laisser-passer a pass (document)
le savoir-faire know-how

Gender of Nouns (all lessons)[edit source]

Other Chapters[edit | edit source]

Table of Contents

Nouns


Determiners


Personal and impersonal pronouns


Adjectives


Adverbs


Numbers, measurements, time and quantifiers


Verb forms


Verb constructions


Verb and participle agreement


Tense


The subjunctive, modal verbs, exclamatives and imperatives


The infinitive


Prepositions


Question formation


Relative clauses


Negation


Conjunctions and other linking constructions


Source: Amazon

Contributors

Vincent and Marianth


Create a new Lesson