To possibly avoid embarrassing situations... chat et chien

I was just strengthening some French skills on the mobile app, specifically Animals, and just noticed something that could be more than mildly embarrassing for a Duolingo French student talking to a native speaker. Three times during the exercise I was asked to translate "La chatte et la chienne". This phrase is one that my Parisian high school French teacher warned us on the first day of her class not to use without knowledge of the following: At least from her experience in France, the female forms of these words are almost never used except in conversations that either would receive an R-rating in the US, or pertain to animal breeding, for exactly the same reason anglophones don't tend to use the female word for dog or the diminutive word for cat in "polite" discussion in English outside of very specific circumstances.

I'm wondering if any native speakers in the DuoFrench community could weigh in on whether this is still true? If this is all an outdated rule in modern French and the feminine forms are accepted, then I will be happy to stand corrected!

December 25, 2016


The rule is the same as in English.

Animals that exhibit sexual dimorphism usually have different names:

Bull = le taureau

Cow = la vache

Otherwise, unless you need to be clear about the gender of the animal in question, you use the generic term.

Dog (male) = le chien (le mâle)

Dog (female) = le chien (la chienne)

December 26, 2016

Thank you for your response!

December 26, 2016

lol when I get "chienne" I always translate it as ❤❤❤❤❤

December 26, 2016

Hi PallasRaven, I have just posted a comment about this on another discussion, the one about calling un chat, un chat. I am so glad to see someone else is thinking along the same lines as me. I was also told a similar version of what you posted - mind you, we were also warned about this at school, although the teacher wouldn't tell us what the feminine versions meant! Happy learning. Love your name by the way.

August 9, 2017
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