Why is French gendered?

Ever wondered why French words are divided into masculine, and feminine? To simply put, French is one of many gendered languages. So, you may ask, where did it all begin?

French stems from Latin. Similar to many Indo-European languages, French is gendered. Latin, as some of you might know, is gendered into masculine and feminine. Hence, it is to no surprise that French, like many Indo-European languages, had three genders; masculine, feminine, and neutral. It is however unclear of how gendered language or genders in French came to be specifically, but it could very much be due to their common fundamental root. 

The question again! WHY have genders? Isn’t it sexist?! Interestingly, French gender is separated into grammatical gender, and natural gender. Natural gender includes animate, and inanimate objects of a gendered person, animal or character. Whilst grammatical gender is used for nouns as a means of categorisation. Grammatical gender however, must NOT be confused with “natural gender” as it no longer exists in the French language, to describe people or objects. 

Here’s a little fun fact! English used to be a gendered language as well! Lucky for English speakers though, gendering in English stopped sometime during the Middle English period. The reason for having noun gendering is in regards to breaking nouns into classes. As mentioned earlier, noun gendering is mainly used for animate and inanimate objects. That is why, when talking about various objects at the same time, there is easier classification! 

Lastly, does having gender in French make it a sexist language? French students are taught that in most cases if not all, “the masculine dominates over the feminine”. Which ultimately means that if you enter a room filled with 20 women and only three men, the group has to be addressed in the masculine form. At the same time, French has the masculine AND feminine words of the same meaning, like many occupations; “acteur” and “actrice”. The answer to the question is up for debate, and a question only you can answer for yourself! 

For example:


Masculine Feminine Bef. vowel or -h Plural


le la l’


a un une /


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