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Country gender in French

Gender of countries in French

by | 9 Jun 2018 | French Language

 

When learning French, you usually learn the name of a number of countries fairly early and then build up on your first list of countries as time goes on.

If you are reading this blog post, you have probably already learnt the names of a few countries. But now, you are wondering, how can you know which countries are feminine and which are masculine?

 

As a general rule, countries that end in -e are feminine:

  • la France, l’Angleterre, la Chine, l’Argentine, l’Algérie, la Colombie, la Mauritanie, l’Inde

 

All other countries are masculine:

  • le Nigéria, le Brésil, le Canada, le Japon, le Danemark, le Maroc, le Liban, le Pakistan, le Pérou

 

Of course, since we are talking about the French language, there are a few exceptions. Remember these 6 countries:

  • le Belize, le Cambodge, le Mexique, le Mozambique, le Suriname, le Zimbabwe.

 

Some regions or countries take their name after a common noun. In that case, you will have to use the article that matches the gender of the noun:

  • le Royaume Uni, is masculine because the noun royaume (kingdom) is masculine in French.
  • La Réunion doesn’t end in -e but the common noun réunion is feminine, so the country has the same gender, regardless of the final letter.

 

Careful though, here is the tricky part: the common noun is sometimes implied and not part of the name itself:

For example, Madagascar is not used with an article but is feminine even if it does not end in -e, but that’s because it is an island –une île– and what is really meant even if not uttered is l’île de Madagascar.

 

As I said, Madagascar is not used with an article. Here are some examples of other countries whose name is used without an article:

  • Bahreïn, Chypre, Cuba, Haïti, Israël, Malte, Monaco, Sainte-Lucie, Saint-Marin, Singapour, Sri Lanka

 

Some countries are plural:

Les États-Unis d’Amérique, les Seychelles, les Philippines, les îles Féroé, les Pays-Bas…

These are named after the common noun –état (state), pays (country), île (island, isle)– and the countries in question are a set of various states, lands or islands, hence the use of the plural.

 

 

Memo

General rule
Country name ending in -e Country name ending in another letter 6 exceptions: final -e but masculine
féminin masculin le Belize, le Cambodge,
le Mexique, le Mozambique,
le Suriname, le Zimbabwe.

 

Now that you know if the name of a country is masculine or feminine, make sure you know what preposition to use in front of it.

 

There you are! You now know what gender are countries of the world in French. Congratulations! 😉

 

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10 Comments

  1. Erwan

    I’m not sure Madagascar is feminine. To me, it sounds masculine, and the Wiktionary agrees with me. eXionnaire disagrees with me (though I have never heard of this website before and don’t know how trustworthy it is). Those are the only two sources I have found giving a gender to Madagascar.

    Reply
    • Yolaine Bodin

      Thank you for your comment Erwan.
      I am not sure at all why the Wiktionary says it is masculine. Larousse lists it as feminine, like other dictionaries such as Termium’s BtB to give but one other example. Besides, it follows the rule I explained in this blog post, i.e. since it is an island (une île), we use the feminine to talk about this country.
      I hope this is of help 🙂 Thanks again for your contribution.

      Reply
  2. Kiran

    Will it be le Cote d’Ivoire or la Cote d’Ivoire?

    Reply
    • Yolaine Bodin

      Hello Kiran, in French it is la Côte d’Ivoire, because the noun “côte” is feminine. For example, we also say La Côte d’Azur, la côte méditerranéenne etc. I hope this helps 🙂

      Reply
  3. Messan Amezoli

    “Le Madagascar ” and not “La Madagascar”

    Reply
    • Yolaine Bodin

      Hello Messan and thank you for your comment. However, when we talk about Madagascar in French, we don’t use an article in front of its name. So we just say “Madagascar”. However, if we need to use an adjective to describe Madagascar, because French adjectives must agree with the noun, we need to put the feminine form of the adjective. For example in a description you will see ”Madagascar est située au large du continent africain”. In this sentence située is in the feminine form. This is because it is an island, une île, so we keep the same gender to talk about it as the gender used for île, i.e. feminine.

      Reply
  4. Stephanie Robertson

    What gender is Australia? I’m assuming masculine since it doesn’t end with an e, but you never know!

    Reply
    • Yolaine Bodin

      Thank you for your question Stephanie. The French for Australia is “Australie” so it actually does end with an E and is therefore feminine. As is the case for Australia, a lot of countries that end in A in English end in E in French. Here are just a few examples: Albania = Albanie, Gambia = Gambie, Slovakia = Slovaquie, Russia = Russie, Argentina = Argentine.
      I hope this helps 🙂

      Reply
      • Stephanie Robertson

        Many thanks Yolaine. Very helpful but I should have worked out the Australie thing myself!
        Stephanie 😊

        Reply
        • Yolaine Bodin

          You are most welcome Stephanie. There is nothing wrong with not working something out oneself because it’s always an opportunity to learn or realise something we already knew in a way that we no longer forget 🙂

          Reply

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