1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. Can "son" be translated into …


Can "son" be translated into "her" as well?

Un pingouin met son œuf sur les pattes. I translated the above sentence: "A penguin puts her egg on the feet" and it got corrected with "its" replacing "her". It seems that'"her" is acceptable since it's usually female penguins that bear and and take care of her eggs. Can someone explain if I'm wrong please?

March 31, 2018



Yes, "son" can mean her, because it corresponds to the object, and because there's no specific word to denote a female penguin. It seems that in this case, they're assuming all animals are "its". The only thing th would say about your translation is that, in this case, it would be safe to assume that the feet in question are her own, so you could say "The penguin puts her egg on her feet."


Now I'm convinced that in English it's quite possible that a female penguin puts HER egg on THE male penguin feet, as they are imperial penguin fathers that take care of eggs, laid by mothers.


Oui, c'est fou mais le genre est d'accord avec le mot suivant. En votre cas le mot oeuf est masculin.


“Un Pingouin”is a masculine noun. You would have to specify if you are referring to a female penguin. Also, you obviously did not watch “The March of the Penguins”. I highly recommend it, as you will learn that is actually the father penguin that sits on the eggs and takes care of the young. http://earthsky.org/earth/male-penguin-eggs

Interestly enough though, when I google “pingouin’ it turns out that what we call penguins, the french actually call “un manchot” and “un pingoin” is actually some sort of related species of flying aquatic bird (a puffin perhaps?) https://www.futura-sciences.com/planete/questions-reponses/animaux-difference-pingouin-manchot-7348/ Yet french english dictionaries online translate A pinguin as “pingouin” and make not mention of “machot”. Can anyone clear up this Pingouin/machot discrepency for me?


The word "pingouin" properly refers to the razorbill and to the extinct great auk. The word "manchot" properly refers to penguins. But improperly or not, people have used "pingouin" for centuries to refer to penguins. The issue seems to be that "manchot" is a uniquely French word while cognates of "pingouin" are used in many languages to refer to penguins, and this usage has bled over into French.


Merci beaucoup! Thank you for your pingouin/ manchot expertise!

Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.