One thing that constantly trips up Anglophones when they’re trying to speak French is the gender of nouns. Virtually all nouns in English are neuter (with the obvious exception of those referring to boys, girls, men, and women) so it’s all new. Moreover, there seems to be no particular logic.
Well you’re right. There’s no way to reason out whether a particular noun is masculine or feminine. You just have to memorize them; in time, you will get used to hearing words in context and the right article will come off your tongue naturally.
But in the mean time, life must be lived and the correct articles (le or la) and numbers (un or une) should be used. (I heard a story once about a guy so frightened about making a mistake that he always asked for two, rather than say une when the correct choice was un. ) And don’t get your panties in a twist if the shopkeeper corrects you. Trust me, you will never forget it! Finally, if you are ordering items at the boulangerie or marche, remember to use your thumb, not your index finger, to indicate one, and your thumb and index finger to indicate two, and so on. For quick reference, here’s a cheat sheet for some of the things you may be buying daily.
These are just a few of the fruits you’ll find in a French market. I’ve limited the list because I’ve never heard of anyone buying one cherry or one grape. Thankfully, the article for multiples is les, no matter whether it’s masculine or feminine.
|Lime||Le citron vert|
For other fruits and vegetables, you will want to tell the vendor that you want a bunch (une botte), a handful (une poignée,) a small box (une barquette), a dozen (une douzaine), or just the amount in grams or kilos (for example, cent grammes or un demi-kilo).
No translations here because these items are almost all uniquely French.
Le chausson aux pommes
Le pain au chocolat
Le pain aux raisins