https://www.duolingo.com/nicmkos

"Les moutons" vs. "Les brebis" for "Sheep"

I'm a bit confused about when to use " les moutons" and when to use "les brebis" when talking about sheep in general. From several websites I've been to, it would seem that "le mouton" means "sheep" in general, while "la brebis" refers specifically to a female sheep and "le bélier" refers specifically to a male sheep, just as in English we have the general "sheep" and the specific "ewe" and "ram."

However, it appears that in some contexts, "les brebis" is used to refer to a group of sheep in general, even when they are not all female. From how Google Translate translates sentences, for example, it would seem that when talking about sheep in the "a type of animal" sense, one uses "les moutons" (e.g., "Most sheep are white" --> "La plupart des moutons sont blancs"), while when talking about sheep in the "a type of livestock" sense, one uses "les brebis" (e.g., "The shepherd leads the sheep" --> "Le berger conduit ses brebis").

Is this analysis correct, or is there some other reason for calling a flock of not necessarily all-female sheep "les brebis" instead of "les moutons" in certain contexts?

2 years ago

9 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Kangourex
  • 25
  • 21
  • 17
  • 6
  • 4

"Mouton" = Male, neuter OR the species in general

"Brebis" = Female sheep no neuter

"Bélier" = Male sheep no neuter

"Agneau" = Male Baby from (of ?) "brebis" and "bélier"

"Agnelle" => Female Baby from (of ?) "brebis" and "bélier"

PS : Neuter = "Remove Sex organs"

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/corvusalbus
  • 17
  • 14
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 11
  • 11
  • 10
  • 8
  • 8
  • 6
  • 6
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 9

Oops, there's a typo there.

Agneau = male lamb

Agnelle = female lamb

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nicmkos

But then why does "The shepherd leads the sheep" use "brebis" when that sentence is referring to sheep in general?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kangourex
  • 25
  • 21
  • 17
  • 6
  • 4

Shepherd = Berger

Wiki : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berger

Berger est une personne chargée de guider et de prendre soin des troupeaux de moutons

Berger is a person guiding and taking care herds of moutons

BUT

Ce mot est dérivé du latin vervex, signifiant brebis.

This word is derived from latin vervex, meaning brebis

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nicmkos

Thanks for the reply! So I use "brebis" instead of "moutons" when I am referring to sheep with shepherds because "berger" comes from "brebis"?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kangourex
  • 25
  • 21
  • 17
  • 6
  • 4

Generally, a shepherds guiding and taking care moutons (species), but these moutons (species) are brebis(female no neuter). For their milk.

The bélier (male no neuter) and mouton (male neuter) don't need a shepherds just a grazing.

But the both should be accepted.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nicmkos

Okay, I get it now. Thank you so much!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jolynnedougherty
  • 25
  • 23
  • 14
  • 8
  • 5
  • 717

Here is a classic French children's song about shepherds and sheep for your listening pleasure :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KIjaV251o0

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EvAxvB

Il Pleut, Il Pleut Bergere, the tune and animation are lovely, thank you. I have not got the hang of how it translates to English correctly yet.
Is he really saying that she is beatiful in a corset - "...en corset qu'elle est belle? It sounds like it may be a very ancient song.

2 months ago
Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.