The Difference between Avocado and Lawyer in French

Did you know that the same word in French can have different meanings depending on gender?

In French, every word has a gender. Of course, garçon (boy) is a masculine word and fille (girl, daughter) is a feminine word, but words like arbre (tree) and chaussure (shoe) also have a gender: masculine and feminine respectively.

Gender is very important, since it determines what kinds of adjectives and other words you use with the noun. For instance, you use one word for the for masculine words (le), and another word for the for feminine words (la).

It’s important to realize, though, that some words in French can be both masculine and feminine.

Of course, this happens the most often, and in the most clear-cut way, with people:

le chanteur (male singer)

la chanteuse (female singer)

le fiancé (fiancé)

la fiancée (fiancée)

However, many words not related to people have two possible genders as well, and in this case, gender often determines meaning. In other words, if the word is masculine, it has one meaning, and if it’s feminine, it has another.

Here are some examples:

Masculine Feminine
chèvre goat goat cheese
livre book  pound (weight or currency)
avocat/avocate avocado, male lawyer female lawyer
manche handle sleeve, English Channel

J’achète un livre qui coûte une livre.
I’m buying a book that costs one pound.