Nouns that change meaning depending on whether they're masculine or feminine

Look at these examples:

J'aime le livre de Paul.
I like Paul's book.

Cette boîte pèse une livre.
This box weighs a pound.

Nous avons fait le tour du musée.
We did the tour of the museum.
We went around the museum.

Il admire la Tour Eiffel.
He admires the Eiffel Tower.

J'adore la mode!
I love fashion!

Ils préfèrent le mode automatique.
They prefer the automatic setting / mode.

Il m'a offert le poste.
He offered me the (job) position.

Elle va à la poste.
She's going to the post office.

 

Notice that in some cases, some very common nouns change their meaning when their gender changes.

This is actually due to the fact that these two identical words often have completely different origins, and that the evolution of language coincidentally made them look the same.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

le/la livre


Cette boîte pèse une livre.
This box weighs a pound.


J'aime le livre de Paul.
I like Paul's book.


le/la mode


Ils préfèrent le mode automatique.
They prefer the automatic setting / mode.


J'adore la mode!
I love fashion!


le/la poste


Il m'a offert le poste.
He offered me the (job) position.


Elle va à la poste.
She's going to the post office.


le/la tour


Il admire la Tour Eiffel.
He admires the Eiffel Tower.


Nous avons fait le tour du musée.
We did the tour of the museum.
We went around the museum.


Q&A

David

Kwiziq community member

12 July 2018

4 replies

Pounds are not used in any French-speaking countries - are they?

Why does Kwiziq (and some other apps that teach French) make use of "livre" (meaning "pound") in their examples. I have seen it used for both weight and money. France and Canada use it for neither. The US use it for weight but are there any countries that use it for money any longer.

Is it just so we can read historical novels set in English-speaking countries? If so I would not expect to see it used so often when there must be many more useful vocab words that we could be encouraged to memorize.

Alan

Kwiziq community member

12 July 2018

12/07/18

"... are there any countries that use it for money any longer."

Well, there's the United Kingdom. If I go to France and want to change some money it's useful to know this word.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

13 July 2018

13/07/18

Hi David, 

The word 'livre' is just an example of a word with different meanings whether it is feminine or masculin. i.e.

'Une livre' can be a pound sterling or a pound (500g).

'Un livre' is a book .

It is up to you to decide whether a word in a vast vocabulary is useful to you or not.

It might be to someone else as Alan points out...

 

David

Kwiziq community member

13 July 2018

13/07/18

Yes, I am sorry I must have had a mental block to forget that the UK unit of currency is still the pound.

Linda

Kwiziq community member

4 August 2018

4/08/18

Actually I've heard livre used used by an 87 year old woman meaning 500gm when she was explaining a recipe to me!

Paul

Kwiziq community member

12 May 2018

2 replies

Prescriptive versus descriptive English

I read the Q&A for this lesson on collective nouns and the discussion at https://french.kwiziq.com/is-this-english-correct and I see where Kwiziq is coming from. However, it would clearer for many Engliish speakers if you left out the "how it is in English" versus "how it is in French" comparisons. There are too many interpretations of collective nouns in different forms of English, and many of us haven't learnt the English prescriptions, so we are probably making frequent mistakes in English. In other words, just give teach the French grammar.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

14 May 2018

14/05/18

Hi Paul - thanks for the feedback. I'm not sure if you posted this here but meant a different lesson? I can't see anything on collective nouns here. We constantly strive to make things clearer so if any part of a lesson is confusing, if you could quote the specific part under the lesson where it occurs we can take a look at it.  Merci!

Paul

Kwiziq community member

14 May 2018

14/05/18

That's right, it should be in Nouns that are plural in English but singular in French, and vice versaI have reposted it.Thanks.

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