Enlighten me! Why "nombreaux" here and not "nombreuses"

"Mais plus les années passent, moins ils sont nombreux."

I guess there exists some wonky rule of grammar I don't know about here, because I was under the assumption that because "année" is feminine, the adjective would agree with it. Silly me, right?

So my line of thinking was that it might have been, "Mais plus les années passent, plus elles sont nombreuses."

Would someone kindly explain to me why this is not correct? Thank you for your help in advance! We're all in this together, people! :D .

June 28, 2012


Hello jesuisunmonstre.

I think that this means that the longer time goes, the number of something else (not years) decreases. The something else would therefore be masculine. Dragons? Horse-drawn sledges? Who knows? This is the problem with translating out of context. :( We have no way of knowing what ILS is in "moins ILS sont NOMBREUX."

Thanks for raising this. I haven't come across this yet but now I am warned.

June 28, 2012

I think mizotte's explanation is perfectly reasonable. I'm clutching at straws here, but French "année" of course has a male twin: "an". It's not at all elegant, but it is just possible that the writer is referring to "années" and changes the gender at the same, i.e: "Mais plus les années passent, moins les ans [ils] sont nombreux". Since there are some dubious conventions about using "années" for duration and "ans" for counting intervals of time ... .

June 28, 2012

Interesting question! The phrase "Les années sont nombreuses" has 60000 hits on google, "Les années sont nombreux" has 0, which would suggest your thinking was correct.

I do remember from my textbooks that there is a certain wonky rule of grammar regarding the gender of adjectives placed after their noun in a compound sentence, but I don't remember the specifics of it. I think it might have been only for the subjunctive tense, but I'm grasping at straws there.

The other possibility is a genuine mistake by whoever wrote that- it is not unheard of even for native speakers to forget the correct gender when the noun and its adjective are placed a long way apart in the sentence.

June 28, 2012

Thanks for your response. I guess we'll see!

June 28, 2012

@mizotte that's the best explanation, I didn't think of it as an out-of-context issue.

June 28, 2012

I think this is the "wonky grammar rule" I was thinking of. It doesn't apply in this case.

Normally when a compound tense is preceded by a direct object, there needs to be agreement. However, this is not the case with the causative, which has no direct object agreement.

Il a fait travailler les enfants. Il les a fait travailler. (not "faits") He made the children work. He made them work.

J'ai fait étudier Christine. Je l'ai fait étudier. (not "faite") I made Christine study. I made her study.

June 28, 2012

I think you're right, Mizotte! I didn't think about that. Thank you! Case closed, right?

June 28, 2012
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