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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ardi_94

[French] what to do if you're not sure which gender to use

I recently started French and it's going well, my question is what to do if you're not sure which gender to use (for a person)? Do you guess and wait for the other person to correct you? or is there a way to get around this by using a different sentence or word that you know the gender of?

UPDATE: I don't mean how to ask someone their preferred gender. I'm mostly talking about names that you can't figure out the gender for. Example: Paul (which is used a lot in Duolingo) is a masculine name, but if someone comes from the middle east, they might not know that. And obviously, if the person is present, you can ask them; however, if we are talking about that person in their absence, not knowing which gender to use can confuse the person we are talking to.

May 8, 2020

11 Comments


[deactivated user]

    If you mean gender of the person you are speaking to - best to check as getting that wrong can really offend. But just any word in any sentence - you can check or guess or try rephrasing with words you do know, but ask the person you are talking to to help if you make mistakes.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ardi_94

    Yes, I mean the gender of the person I'm talking about, is there a way to use their name with a word like "they" that has no gender?


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EvChan0

    The best way to avoid the gender (and the only way I know) is to use yourself as the subject of the sentence : instead of saying "They are so likeable", you say something like "i like them", which become "je l'aime bien" (l' doesn't have a gender)

    Other exemples : - I invited them -> Je l'ai invité(e) (when you speak, nobody can tell if you're speaking about a girl or a boy, because é and ée are pronounced the same).

    But just a little warning, it's pretty hard in French not to use any gender when you speak about someone :/ I don't know if I am being clear ^^'


    [deactivated user]

      No - you really are stuck in France, and most of Europe!

      Of course, you could be really friendly, and constantly refer to them as "we", including yourself in every conversation - but that may lead to a harder situation to resolve when you eventually find out the right gender and they think you and they (so easy in English!) are an item.....

      You could just say in these days you don't ever like to assume, and although it is of course obvious, can they please confirm how you should address them - but do be sure they see you ask everyone!


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

      The real problem is when you always forget the gender-related rules,

      when you can't remember whether a noun is masculine or feminine


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ardi_94

      I don't mean how to ask someone their preferred gender. I'm mostly talking about names that you can't figure out the gender for. Example: Paul (which is used a lot in Duolingo) is a masculine name, but if someone comes from the middle east, they might not know that. And obviously, if the person is present, you can ask them; however, if we are talking about that person in their absence, not knowing which gender to use can confuse the person we are talking to.


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

      It's no different in French or any other language. If you want to know somebody's preferred gender label, you have to ask them.

      One difficulty with languages like French is that there's no neuter or neutral form. If you change the gender of the noun, you also have to change the gender of accompanying adjectives and participles. That's almost impossible! Also, in French every noun is either masculine or feminine, with no neuter form.

      I read up on this issue a couple months ago. Unfortunately, I didn't save links for my research. But you can find lots of info with your search engine.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ardi_94

      I'm not talking about preferred gender, perhaps I needed to be more clear, please see my update


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

      How do you do this in English? The genderedness of people is one thing we have in common. You have to know someone's gender to refer to them by a pronoun. You do the same in French - most of the time, you can tell, for cases where you can't, you can ask or you can make a guess and apologize if wrong.

      If what you do in English is use "they" for anyone you're unsure of, you should be aware that's not perfect either. Most people who identify as male or female don't want to be referred to as "they" any more than people who are nonbinary want to be referred to as "he" or "she." "They" really only works well in English if you are referring to an unknown person (like "Oh you went to a new doctor, were they nice"). As someone who is not the most gender stereotypical but still identifies as a woman, I would be a little offended if you assumed I was a "they."


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ardi_94

      I'm not talking about preferred gender, perhaps I needed to be more clear, please see my update

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