While learning French, the first struggle is to figure out the gender of French words. Most of the time, you must memorize the gender with the new word.
In order to facilitate the process, I always ask my students to buy a small notebook and Post-it Sticky Flags. Write one letter on one flag, and use them to divide your notebook into even page sections by the alphabetical order. Now you can start classifying your French words.
Draw a vertical red line in the middle of each page. Write the French words on the left side. Use red for feminine words, blue for masculine words. Write the English translation on the right side in black.
The color code is a great visual tool to facilitate the memory work. French students are often required to use this notebook tool called répertoire.
Now, there are rules you can learn. Keep in mind they are not 100% correct, but were jsut created to help non-natives.
Nouns designating females are usually feminine, and nouns designating males are usually masculine:
une fille (a girl), un garçon (a boy), une mariée (a bride), un marié (a groom), une élève (a female student), un élève (a male student).
Masculine words are often:
The names of languages: le français (French), le chinois (Chinese)
Words borrowed from English: le sandwich, le tramway, le T-shirt
Words borrowed from Latin-based languages, like Spanish or Italian, already have a gender that is kept in French: la salsa, la pizza, la paella, le guacamole…
Days, months, seasons, materials, colors, trees, weights and measures, compass points
le lundi (Monday), le printemps (spring), le plastique (plastic), le rouge (red), le pommier (apple tree), le kilogramme (kilogram), le mètre (meter), le nord (north)
Words ending in -eau, -o, -isme: le tableau (painting), le chapeau (hat), le stylo (pen), le vélo (bike), le socialisme (socialism)
Feminine words are often:
Words ending in -ion, -té, -eur, -esse: la nation, la population, la liberté (freedom), la quantité (quantity), la chaleur (heat), la princesse (princess)
Moral qualities, sciences, arts, fruits
la gentillesse (kindness), la chimie (chemistry), la peinture (painting), la musique (music), la pomme (apple)…
Copyright 2016, S. Berton, My Private French Class, Grammar and Conjugation, Level 1.