The feminine of words ending in -eur (basic)

Deciding on the feminine of French nouns and adjectives ending in -eur can be a little trickier than with some other endings. On this page, we'll give you a few practical rules of thumb that will work most of the time. (If you're studying the language to an advanced level and want to know more details, then in a later section, we look at details of when to use -eur and -trice to make feminine forms.)

How to decide on the feminine form: the simple answer

If you're learning French to GCSE level or some other equivalent exam where you've been studying for a couple of years or so, you don't need to get bogged down in all the complications. If you use the following simplified rules, you'll get the form right almost all the time, and in the cases where these rues don't work, nobody will think you've made a terribly bad mistake (bear in mind that there are actually a few cases where native French speakers disgree on the feminine forms of these words). OK, this is what you need to remember:

  • if the masculine ends in -cteur or is a "long" word ending in -ateur, then change -teur to -trice in the feminine;
  • otherwise, change -eur to -euse;
  • remember that meilleur(e) (better, best) is regular.

By "long", we mean, say, three syllables or more.

Examples

Here are some examples applying the above rules. Make sure you understand for each word why the feminine ends up with the particular form it does:

MasculineFeminineMeaning
acteuractriceactor/actress
chanteurchanteusesinger
facteurfactricepostman/woman; maker, manufacturer
menteurmenteuseliar
pêcheurpêcheusefisherman/fisherwoman, angler
producteurproductriceproducer
programmeurprogrammeuseprogrammer
travailleurtravailleuseworker

More details...

The simple rules above will work practically all the time. However, as we see in the next section, the rule for when to use -eur or -trice in the feminine can actually be described a bit more strictly.

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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.