Unit 2.1

Feminine Noun formation


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Introduction

Nouns refer to a person, place, thing, event, substance or quality.

We can form a feminine version from a masculine noun when the person we’re talking about is a woman.

Form

Feminine nouns can be formed from masculine ones by just adding a suffix. The various cases of the formation of feminine nouns are: regular and irregular.

Regular

In most cases we obtain the feminine form by adding –ess to the masculine form.

Masculine Feminine
Count Countess
Host Hostess
Manager Manageress

Irregular

But we can find some exceptions that regularly occur:

  • Nouns with suffix –tor or –ter: change to –tr and add –ess;
Masculine Feminine
Actor Actress
Waiter Waitress
  • Nouns with suffix –e: add –ss;
Masculine Feminine
Prince Princess
  • Nouns with suffix stressed vowel + consonant: double the consonant and add –ess.
Masculine Feminine
God Goddess

Example

Regular:

  • The countess gave birth at eleven.
  • Our hostess is a nice woman.
  • The manageress checks the rooms at weekends.

Irregular:

  • She is my favourite actress.
  • This girls is a waitress.
  • The princess got married and lived happily ever after.
  • Athena is an ancient goddess.

Use

We use feminine nouns when the person we’re talking about is a woman, and the noun has a possible feminine version.

There are exceptions and irregularities that need to be studied by heart.

Summary

It is possible to obtain the feminine version of nouns from masculine forms. In most cases, we are able to do it by simply adding an -ess.

For example:
— “Lion” ⇒ “Lioness” = We add -ess at the end of the noun.

However, there are some irregularities within feminine formation, depending on the ending of the nouns.

For example:
— With suffix -tor or -ter, we change –tor to –tr and add -ess: “Conductor” ⇒ “Conductress“.
— With suffix -e, we add -ss: “Prince” ⇒ “Princess“.
— With suffix stressed vowel + consonant, we double the consonant -d and add -ess: “God” ⇒ “Goddess“.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.

Exercises

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