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.
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! 😉
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.
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.
Will it be le Cote d’Ivoire or la Cote d’Ivoire?
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 🙂
Thank you so much for this article!! Helped me a lot! 😊
“Le Madagascar ” and not “La Madagascar”
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.
What gender is Australia? I’m assuming masculine since it doesn’t end with an e, but you never know!
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 🙂
Many thanks Yolaine. Very helpful but I should have worked out the Australie thing myself!
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 🙂
Hi,thank you this has helped me alot since i am about to do an exam tomorrow
Thanks for your comment Dave, very happy to be of help. Good luck for your exam! Fingers crossed 🙂
Comment *yolaine this was very helpful I have to submit a research project tommorow and this really helped I just hope I get an A+
Hello Zamrah Ibraheem, thank you for your comment. I am really glad if this article of the gender of countries in French helped you and I hope you’ll get the A+ you aiming for in your research project. Best of luck! 🙂
Thanks yolaine , and I got an A+ plus extra marks and was awarded best French researcher♥♥
Congratulations! That is fantastic 🙂
yolaine pls is there a way to determine the preposition of means of transports
my teacher there is no way we just have to learn it the way it is she was like we have to learn French the French way and I believe that even the hardest of nuts has a solution
Thank you for your question Zamrah Ibraheem. Yes, there definitely is a way to know what preposition to use in French when talking about means of transports. Actually, this will be my next blog article, so watch out for it! Coming soon… 🙂
OK thanks pls do it soon I can’t wait
pls when will the next article come out
yolaine pls your article should come out before next week
because I have another research project on it.
Hello Zamrah, the article will be online very soon. I would have liked to work on it earlier but I can only write for my blog when I have free time from work and I was extremely busy recently with translations and conversation classes. I hope to be posting the new blog article this weekend. Thank you for your patience 🙂
The article is now online! You will find it here
I hope you find it helpful. 🙂