https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

The Gender of Acronyms in French

Hey there! Is there a rule to specify the gender of an "English acronym" in French? I'm writing a text in French and I need to know how to determine the gender of loanwords, especially the acronyms. Thank you!

July 5, 2019

19 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jkidder

Presumably you are going to explain and translate any acronym for your audience. Use the gender of the translation.

If we take NASA as an example (or Nasa, as it would be styled in French), like jjspot has, it stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In French, that would be l'Administration nationale de l'aéronautique et de l'espace, which is feminine.

As for loanwords, use a dictionary.

Any other advice would depend on the reason you think you need to use English words in a French text.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

As already discussed above, the acronym 'NASA" is feminine because "Administration" is a feminine word in French, irrespective of the gender of modifiers.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Janet240859

Not quite! The french actually use "Nasa" as a true acronym - i.e. a word formed more-or-less from initials, rather than an abbreviation, but change NATO to OTAN - feminine. If you really have to use English abbreviations is a French paper, you would be better advised to get a technical dictionary and look them up individually if it is imperative that they are correct.

If it isn't for something professional, you could guess at each one, but you may reduce credibility of the rest of the material if your guesses are wrong.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

It's a paper with a technical language and I have to be accurate. I don't have a french technical dictionary so I have to use the internet and hardly find these technical words in french texts.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/45ejbuoS

Hi!

You can use the following tips to search without a dictionary :

  • in the google search, add "site:.fr" (without the quotes) to your search, to restrict the search to sites from France. You can also try with .be or .cq.ca for a change :)

For example : nasa site:.fr

  • If you're not sure how to translate the acronym, you can look for a wikipedia page in english that contains it, and then use the menu on the left of the page to switch the language to French.
July 7, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

Many thanks! Two useful tips! I'd already used the latter for several acronyms and it's a workable solution, and I'm gonna use the former as of today.

July 7, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Janet240859

As @jjspot says, you normally have to find and use the French version of the acronym, and the gender is the one you would start with if writing the expanded form. And from the position of the French language police, you would be held more at fault with an English acronym for using Franglais than from getting the gender wrong, so use either and wait for the ripples!

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

Is there a relationship between the gender of acronyms and the gender of every single in the expanded form? Actually, the words that acronym comprises.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jkidder

If you are looking for grammatical terms, the expanded form of any acronym that is used as a noun will necessarily be a noun phrase. The word that in French will determine the gender of the whole will be the head of the noun phrase in English—the word that all the other words can be said to describe.

For NASA, this will be "administration", as the other words answer the question, "which administration?"

For RAN, this will be "network", as the other words answer the question, "which network?"

Notice that in English the head is often the last word in the phrase, whereas in French it is usually the first.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Janet240859

I'm talking from empirical experience, rather than a formal rule, but all the ones I've come across use the gender of the first word in the expanded form. e.g. the UN in English is L'(a) ONU in French because the acronym stands for L'(a) Organisation des Nations Unies.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

But the way @jkidder tells it, is a bit different. Consider "RAN" starting with an "R" which stands for "the radio" in English and its French equivalent is 'la radio", a feminine word. Hence, the acronym "RAN" would be feminine?

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Janet240859

There are always exceptions! The French bizarrely use RAN and it is masculine (le RAN) - several publications online show that. The ones I'm more familiar with are more straightforward - La SCNF, le RER - both follow my (as I say, empirical) experience.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

Apparently, the only straightforward rule to determine the gender of acronyms is to use the gender of the main noun in the acronym.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jjspot

Could you write down the acronyms you'll use ? I can't think of a rule off the top of my head. I know NASA is feminine, but I don't really know a lot of English acronyms that aren't translated in French (e.g. UN is ONU).

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

Alright, there are many, let's begin with "RAN" which stands for "Radio Access Network", I need a general rule to specify the gender and the corresponding preposition afterward.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jkidder

I think I understand your question. You are looking at "radio access network" and seeing three nouns and wondering which one gives its gender to the acronym as a whole. Is that right?

The answer in this case is "network". The words "radio access" in this situation are describing "network". The translation into french would be "réseau d'accès radio", and the gender is masculine.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

Precisely, the acronyms are a combination of modifiers and a noun sorta. I need a prep for the entire phrase so as to use it as an acronym.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/betsys2003

It sounds like it's different in each case depending on what the "noun" is in each case, so you need to figure out what the noun is, what the gender of that noun is, and use that gender for the gender of the acronym.

July 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rezano_Khaggio

Imna find the main noun in the acronyms and use the gender of it for the acronym.

July 5, 2019
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