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Verb endings for specific people/animals etc?

I've looked at the verb endings table which gives the correct verb endings to use for standard persons: "je", "il" "ils", "nous" etc. But what about things that fall outside of these terms. For example saying "the elephant eats the..." or "Michael drinks the...". I'd hazard a guess that you would use the same ending for "Ils/elles" for "the elephant" as it is kind of a third person? Or maybe the same as for "Il/elle" when naming a specific person? Or am I terribly wrong on this? I really struggle with tenses and persons even in English so a little help would be great.

December 2, 2012



male elephant = il [verb],

male or mixed gender elephants = ils [verb],

female elephant = elle [verb],

female (only) elephants = elles [verb]

And inanimate objects have gender too, but you will just have to learn those: "La table est ... ", "Les tables sont ...".


Thanks. So basically just treat the animals/objects as though they are gendered people? "L'elephant boit...", "Les elephants boivent..."? "Michael boit.."?


Yes, you've got it, but don't forget the accents: " L'éléphant boit ... "


Hi, 1km. I'll be careful here, because you are right more often than I am. It's the gender of the word which matters, not the gender or sex of the thing to which it is attached, isn't it ?

I think that the WORD « éléphant » being masculine means that you would always use « il » or « ils ». « L'éléphant femelle est content (not « contente ») ; il (not « elle ») a trouvé son petit éléphanteau. »

Perhaps in a story for a child : « Maman éléphant est contente : elle a trouvé son petit éléphanteau » would be possible ? (« Maman » is a feminine word.)


One thing I've wondered, can an adjective ever change the gender of a noun? Or is the noun's gender always prioritized. I don't know much so excuse the poor examples, but how about something like "the masculine person". Would the article still be the gender of the noun (la/une personne masculin)?


I can't think of an example, as the adjective usually describes or modifies the noun - not the other way around.

As a matter of interest, there are some French words that have both genders, but different meanings, for example coming back to elephants for a minute:

le mort (corpse) / la mort (death)

le manche (handle) / la manche (sleeve)

le rose (colour pink) / la rose (the flower).


Thanks. I haven't managed to learn the accent typing-codes yet, that is the next job on the list!


@Mizotte - Have a look at this article from Le Figaro: http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2012/08/16/97001-20120816FILWWW00280-mort-de-la-plus-vieille-elephante-deurope.php

I think where you are talking about a specific female elephant then you would use elle and accord accordingly. I'm away from home and without any reference materials to back this up - so I could well be wrong here.


Thanks for the link. I'm pretty sure I have got it now: in the case of elephants, you would use "éléphante", with appropriate feminine forms of adjectives and pronouns when referring to a particular female.


1km is right (again). French nouns are gendered, yes, be them persons, animals or objects and the adjective depend on the noun : - la grande femme - la grande éléphante - la grande porte. If you hear or read "elle est grande", "elle" can therefore be a person, an animal or an object. Now for more subtle notions: - "une personne" can be a man or a woman. Therefore, you need to respect the following: "John est une grande personne". - some animal names are only masculine or only feminine: example : "une souris" (mouse); "un requin" (shark). In most cases, you will disregard the fact that the 'souris' can be a male and that the 'requin' can be a female. You will therefore use the adjective and the pronoun matching the noun gender : - "une petite souris" - "un gros requin". If you intend to be specific on the sex of the animal (in a child story), you will have to add something like "le petit Papa souris" or "la grande maman requin". There, the new qualifying name takes priority.


This is for 1km - I always enjoy your comments very much, so I hope you don't mind my pointing out that the word you need, above, when you write "accord accordingly" is "agree". I've noticed you doing this before so thought I'd mention it. We say that adjectives "agree" with their nouns, ie with the gender of the noun - or whether it's singlular or plural.


Hi elka, no I don't mind and you are right of course, although in my brain only English words "agree". French words "accord", as in "L'accord du nom et de l'adjectif". So it comes out a little oddly.

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