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

A1 Breakthrough
“Teacher/teacher”, “doctor/doctor” ... When is the feminine form used in profession names?
In your culture, is there a different word for the nationality of a woman or a man? Does the name of a profession change according to whether a woman or a man is practicing it?

For many words expressing nationality in French, there is a different form for men and women. However, some nationalities stay the same for both the masculine and feminine forms.

First names also have a different masculine and feminine forms: for example Aziz, François, Sami, Paul in masculine form, butAziza, Françoise, Samia, Paule, Pauline in feminine form. But there are some exceptions: Dominique, Claude, etc.

Since the end of the 20th century, a great effort has been made to give feminine forms to certain professions which used to be professions considered masculine in the past due to their status (médecin, ministre, maire, professeur, juge, chef…) or because they were considered too physical (maçon, camionneur, boucher…). In this case, we can say: la ministre, la juge, etc. Otherwise, professions have different masculine and feminine: enseignant, enseignante, chanteur, chanteuse, chef, cheffe, etc.

In Quebec, feminization has easily become part of common speech for people.
In Belgium and France, despite recommendations from the French Language Service (Service de la langue française), there is still some resistance. Nonetheless, the feminization of determiners preceding profession names has become standard (Madame la ministre, Madame la proviseure).

Practical exercises

Culture(s): Nationalities and professions - masculine and feminine forms

4 exercises
Listen • Intercultural (everyday life)