Nouns in French have masculine and feminine genders (see ‘Articles’ page). We need to remember that besides people or animals, the gender of a thing is arbitrary and has no logic. It must therefore be memorised. The best is to learn noun and gender at the same time right from the start.
The gender sometimes affects the noun ending or spelling
un chat / a male cat
une chatte / a female cat
un chien / a male dog
une chienne / a female dog
Gender also affects the adjectives that relate to nouns. Adjectives might be right next to the noun or elsewhere in the sentence.
un beau papillon (m) / a beautiful butterfly
une belle fleur (f) / a beautiful flower
le fils (m) est petit / the boy is small
la fille (f) est petite / the girl is small
le chat (m) est brun / the cat is brown
la chatte (f) est brune / the (female) cat is brown
le manteau est vieux / the coat is old
la veste est vieille / the jacket is old
Plurals are added to the masculine or feminine forms.
le mouton est blanc – the sheep (singular) is white
les moutons sont blancs – the sheep (plural) are white
la vache est blanche – the cow is white
les vaches sont blanches – the cows are white
When two nouns in a group have different genders, the masculine forms of adjectives are always used.
les vaches et les moutons sont blancs – the cows and sheep are white
le camion est vert – the truck is green.
la voiture est verte – the car is green
le camion et la voiture sont verts – the truck and the car are green
The same rule applies to past participles (the ‘ed’ form of regular verbs in English, like washed, cleaned, etc. ) when they act as adjectives.
les fleurs que j’ai remarquées et ensuite cueillies – the flowers that I noticed and then picked