Culture(s) / Nationalities and professions: what are the differences between masculine and feminine ?

A1 Breakthrough

In your culture, are there different words for saying women’s and men’s nationalities? Does the name of a profession change according to whether a woman or a man is practicing it?

For many words indicating nationality in French, the form changes according to whether it is a woman or a man. But some nationalities stay the same for both the masculine and feminine forms.

Surnames also have different feminine and masculin forms, for example: François, Léo, Paul in the masculine form, but Françoise, Léa, Paule, Pauline in the feminine. However, some exceptions exist: Dominique, Claude, etc.

Since the end of the twentieth century, a big effort has been made to give feminine forms to certain professions which used to be considered masculine because of either their status (doctors, ministers, mayors, professors, judges…) or because they were considered too hard, physically (mason, truck driver, butcher…). Otherwise, professions have different masculine and feminine forms: enseignant, enseignante, chanteur, chanteuse, etc.

In Quebec, this feminisation has been easily assimilated into the spoken language.
In Belgium and in France, despite the recommendations of the ‘Service de la langue française’ (an authority on French language usage) there is still some resistance. Today however, the feminisation of the determinants which precede a profession has become standard in Belgium (Madame la ministre). When it comes to France, it has been observed that the names and determinants of professions tend not to change (Madame le juge).



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