Promoting French and American friendship and understanding…
Perfect Switch Hitters:
I wanted to start the language section of my blog slowly with a simple, interesting post that has nothing to do with verb conjugation (these fun-filled tables can wait a few more weeks). If you have studied French, then you are probably aware that nouns can be either masculine or feminine. If this concept seems strange, then you should consider clicking on another blog section while you’re still ahead… What some people are not aware of is that some French nouns can swing both ways, depending on whether they are preceded by “Le” or “La”.
Below is a table with several examples of these homonymes parfaites:
|le tour – to take a ride around, “Le Tour de France” or “faire un tour” (take a walk)||la tour – the tower (“La Tour Eiffel”)|
|le livre – the book||la livre – a unit of weight (pound)|
|le mode – the method or way of doing something||la mode – fashion, style (à la mode)|
|le poste – the job position||la poste – the post office|
|le voile – the veil||la voile – the sail|
|le manche – the handle (like on a knife)||la manche – the sleeve (“La Manche” also is the French name for the English Channel)|
|le mémoire – the thesis||la mémoire – memory|
|le foie – the liver||la foi – faith|
|le moule – the mold||la moule – the mussel|
|le somme – the small nap||la somme – the sum|
|le poêle - the woodstove||la poêle - the frying pan|
|le mort - the dead man||la mort - death|
|le secrétaire - the small desk||la secrétaire - the secretary|
|le critique - the critic||la critique - the judgement|
When speaking French, using the incorrect gender can completely mangle the meaning of your phrase (as well as generate some well-deserved snickering). The phrases below nicely illustrate this point:
Il faut avoir la foi! - You must have faith!
Il faut avoir le foie! - You must have liver!
La somme de toutes les peurs - The sum of all fears
Le somme de toutes les peurs - The nap of all fears
Le mode d’emploi - The user’s manual
La mode d’emploi - Fashion/Trends in the workplace
Wanna Be Switch Hitters:
Fortunately there are only a handful of nouns that can take both masculine and feminine articles while keeping the same spelling. It is also important to be aware that there are several other homonyms nouns in the French language with different spellings on paper, but exactly the same sound when spoken. In these cases, choosing the wrong gender can be very confusing! Below are just a few examples:
|le pot (the “t” is silent) – the pot1||la peau – the skin|
|le cours – the class (le cours de français)||la cour – the king’s court, courtyard|
|le mal - evil / the male||la malle - the trunk|
In conclusion, I hope this article helps to demonstrate how important it is to memorize not only the spelling, but also the gender when learning French nouns. Here is a common nursery rhyme to help you hone your skills:
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