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Three gender changing nouns when expressed as plurals.

I thought I would share this odd piece of trivia of which I have only just become aware.

There are 3 nouns that change gender in plurality and it is an exception that exists for these 3 nouns only.

un amour, un orgue and un délice - a love, an organ, a delight

For example:

Un amour heureux becomes des amours heureuses in the plural

Quel délice becomes Quelles délices in the plural.

Le grand orgue becomes Les grandes orgues in the plural.

C'est bizarre, non ?

December 14, 2017



In case some are interested, here's an entry about these three nouns by the Académie Française, where you can see that, depending on the meaning and/or the language level, the plural may also have the same gender as the singular.

It would have been too simple if their plurals were always feminine, no? ;)


That was very interesting and has muddied the waters somewhat. Yes, apparently far too simple. Merci l'Académie Française !


Oh my word, too simple indeed...

Ah la belle langue, you never cease to amaze!


What's the origin behind this?


A friend signed me up to a site called "Frantastique" as a gift. The site is based in France and the lessons are excellent and entertaining. Today's lesson emphatically pointed out that these 3 nouns are the only exception of gender changing nouns in the plural.


Is there an explanation for why the agreement is like this?


At the time, we didn't sure about the genders in France. We could use the feminine and the masculine for hundreds of words. But now, we kept only three words. I hope that my explanation is good. Have a good day!


Very interesting. Merci de l'avoir partagé.

Il semble qu'il y avait aussi un film:


[deactivated user]

    As a French, I don't make the distinction between them :

    Un amour heureux -> Des amours heureux

    Quel délice -> Quels délices

    Le grand orgue/La grande orgue -> Les grands orgues/Les grandes orgues


    Too bad! These used to be taught in elementary school, but I am not sure all elementary teachers are aware of these rules.

    [deactivated user]

      It's the evolution of the language ! ^^


      This fact is very well known by teachers, probably not taught to youngsters early, you might progress in french studies to learn that.

      But it's a kind of common fact for many people, especially for "amours" as many songs or poems use this world.

      In particular, a Serge Gainsbourg song, based on a Jacques Prévert poem is very famous (La chanson de Prévert, great song I think).

      More recently, Damien Saez sang "les amours mortes".


      I dig up this post to bring some solace to french learners:

      As we know that gender is a problem to learners, and as we have some tricky exceptions to a thing that is not a rule, we also put some words that can be either masculine or feminine without meaning change.

      You can for exemple say "un ou une après-midi" (afternoon), or "un ou une autoroute" (highway).

      That's a gift, you can talk about your afternnon trip on the highway in french without even thonk about it. Keep in mind that your car is feminine, as in S. King's book...

      If you are interested in going further, we then can speak about words that changes of meaning when changing of gender...

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