Nouns — Les noms

Nouns are names of things. In English, you've learned that object names, like “pencil,” are nouns. So are place names, like “Paris” or “San Francisco.” And there are the “person” words, like “man” or “Theo,” that are also nouns.

Since there are so many things in the world, we need a lot of noun words to keep track of the objects, places and people in our lives! Most of the words in any language are nouns. Here are some examples of nouns in both English and French:

IMPORTANT TIPS TRUCS IMPORTANTS

You know how you write 33,515 with a comma between the 3 and the 5? Well, the French put a period there, so it's 33.515. Don't forget to swap your commas for periods when you write down big numbers!

<tgroup cols="2" align="center"> <colspec colnum="1" colname="col1" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="50%" align="left"/> <colspec colnum="2" colname="col2" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="50%" align="left"/> <thead> <row rowsep="1"> <td><p>English</p></td> <td><p>French</p></td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><p>desk</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>bureau</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>flower</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>fleur</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>bird</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>oiseau</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>cup</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>tasse</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>arena</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>arène</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>restaurant</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>restaurant</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>beach</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>plage</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>star</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>étoile</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>woman</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>femme</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>doctor</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>docteur</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>artist</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>artiste</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>Alexander</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>Alexandre</emphasis></p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <h2>Singular and Plural — <emphasis>Singulier et pluriel</emphasis></h2> <p>Just like in English, you add an “s” to the noun to say that there's more than one. One chair in French is a <emphasis>chaise</emphasis>, so two chairs are <emphasis>chaises.</emphasis> But words in French that end in a bunch of vowels get an “x” instead of an “s” to show they're plural. And words that end in “s” keep the “s,” whether they're singular or plural.</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2" align="center"> <colspec colnum="1" colname="col1" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="50%" align="left"/> <colspec colnum="2" colname="col2" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="50%" align="left"/> <thead> <row rowsep="1"> <td><p>Singular</p></td> <td><p>Plural</p></td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><p>bureau</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>bureaux</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>fleur</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>fleurs</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>oiseau</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>oiseaux</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>tasse</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>tasses</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>arène</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>arènes</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>restaurant</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>restaurants</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>plage</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>plages</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>étoile</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>étoiles</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>femme</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>femmes</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>docteur</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>docteurs</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>artiste</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>artistes</emphasis></p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <h2>Masculine or Feminine? — <emphasis>Masculin ou féminin?</emphasis></h2> <p>In many ways, French nouns are just like English nouns — but in one way they're not. French nouns have “gender.”</p> <p>Gender means that there are masculine words and feminine words. For example, <emphasis>fleur</emphasis> is a feminine word, and <emphasis>oiseau</emphasis> is a masculine word. A few words, like <emphasis>artiste</emphasis>, are not really one or the other, so they get to be both!</p> <p>To decide whether a noun is masculine word or a feminine word, all you have to do is learn whether it's preceded by a <emphasis>un</emphasis> (masculine) or a <emphasis>une</emphasis> (feminine). <emphasis>Un/une</emphasis> do the same job as “a” in English. Look at how it works:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="3" align="center"> <colspec colnum="1" colname="col1" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="40%" align="left"/> <colspec colnum="2" colname="col2" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="20%" align="left"/> <colspec colnum="3" colname="col3" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="40%" align="left"/> <thead> <row rowsep="1"> <td><p>English Noun</p></td> <td><p>Masculine or Feminine</p></td> <td><p>French Noun</p></td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><p>a desk</p></td> <td><p>M</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>un bureau</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>a flower</p></td> <td><p>F</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>une fleur</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>a bird</p></td> <td><p>M</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>un oiseau</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>a cup</p></td> <td><p>F</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>une tasse</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>an arena</p></td> <td><p>F</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>une arène</emphasis></p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>a restaurant</p></td> <td><p>M</p></td> <td><p><emphasis>un restaurant</emphasis></p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <h2>Learning “A” — <emphasis>Apprendre “Un”</emphasis></h2> <p>French kids learn their nouns with an <emphasis>un</emphasis> or an <emphasis>une</emphasis> so that they remember whether the noun is a masculine or a feminine word. Why? Because it's hard to know which is which. There's no real reason why <emphasis>étoile</emphasis> (“star”) is a feminine word and <emphasis>vent</emphasis> (“wind”) is a masculine word, but it is: <emphasis>une étoile, un vent</emphasis>. It's difficult to explain. Better just learn your <emphasis>un</emphasis> and <emphasis>une</emphasis> from the start.</p> <p>Both <emphasis>un</emphasis> and <emphasis>une</emphasis> become <emphasis>des</emphasis> in front of a plural word, no matter what the gender. 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