EN: feminine pronouns for inanimate objects

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by pidgin2, Jun 16, 2009.

  1. pidgin2 Member

    French - Belgium

    I'm giving somebody a hand at translating some pages of her recruitment agency website into English, which is not actually my field (just translating into English, I mean), and I found out she once referred to her company as a feminine noun, which isn't quite familiar to me. Here is the sentence:

    "Thanks to her network, [that company] now has clients and a candidate network that do not cease to grow in view of the successes obtained with the missions she was entrusted."

    Consequently, I'm wondering if I can write this elsewhere in the site:

    In addition to a relevant organization of the projects she is entrusted (with?) and a competitive offer, our team distinguishes herself by her..."

    Anyway, is this correct to consider 'network' and/or 'team' as feminine, or should I replace every 'she' and 'her' by 'it' and 'its'?

    Also, what are the feminine words in English, if any? What type(s) of words should be used as feminine?
  2. marget Senior Member

    Welcome to the forum!

    I don't think you can use she/her when referring to a company or a team. I think you should use "it" and "its".
    Examples of "feminine" words would be mother, daughter, aunt.
  3. pidgin2 Member

    French - Belgium
    Hello, and thanks for your reply and for welcoming me.

    That's what I thought. As far as I remember, during an English lesson the teacher talked about feminine nouns of things, like 'ship' and names of countries. Or maybe I'm mistaking this with Dutch.

    Once again thank you.
  4. marget Senior Member

    You're right about that. We do use feminine pronouns for ships and countries. I was going to mention it, but I wasn't sure you wanted that much detail.
  5. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    If that sentence was written by a native English speaker, then "she" and "her" cannot possibly refer to anything except the single female employee (the female owner?) who built the network and was entrusted with certain projects.

    Actually, are you sure that sentence was written by a native speaker? Is it possible that it was translated to English from some other language? Because the part "...that do not cease to grow in view of..." isn't wrong, but it just doesn't sound like native English. :p

    To my ear, a team or a company has to be "it" in English.

    It's true that a sailor will say "she" to talk about his ship, and that you will occasionally hear "she" to talk about e.g. "Mother [Country]"... but the vast majority of the time, we use "it" to speak of countries and boats. Inanimate objects don't have gender in English.
  6. lrosa Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    I can think of another example where we might use "she" to describe an inanimate object - when playing golf, there are native speakers who, upon seeing a good shot, will say "She's a beauty". It's interesting, though, that we never seem to use "he" to describe inanimate objects.

    Personally, I have never used and never plan to use "she" to describe inanimate objects.

    Also, shouldn't it be: the successes obtained with the missions with which she was entrusted ?
  7. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    I've never heard "she" for a golf shot, though I can imagine hearing "she's a beauty" from men talking about cars, planes, etc.

    I believe we can "entrust something to someone" or "entrust someone with something"... so both the original and your sentence sound fine to me, Lrosa. :)
  8. lrosa Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    Perhaps a regional way of speaking?

    Indeed, I found that use in my English dictionary, but in order to use "entrust" with "to" in this sentence, it sounds far more natural to me to say "the successes obtained with the missions that were entrusted to her", to the extent that the original sentence significantly impeded my comprehension.
  9. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    I see what you mean. I find myself doubting more and more that this was written by a native speaker! :p

    Pidgin2, it would be very helpful if you could provide the original (French?) sentence... :)
  10. lrosa Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    I'm pretty sure you're right, jann. From what I can see, the sentence was written by Pidgin's (French) friend, who probably included the feminine pronoun by mistake, with French in her mind...
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2009
  11. pidgin2 Member

    French - Belgium
    Thank you everyone for all your replies. Sorry for the delay, I actually didn't expect other replies. At least so many, but it makes it interesting to me.

    Indeed, I'm translating a few pages from a friend of my sister's's website (I guess this is wrong, and I should ask about that in another thread). She is the managing director of that recruitment agency, and she is a French speaker like me. That's also why I'm checking almost every word and every expression.

    I didn't think I would find it, as the site is kind of asymetrical, in the sense that the structure and the content of the pages don't always match from one language to another. I have to make sure it does. So here is the original sentence:

    "Grâce à son réseau, [XYZ] dispose aujourd’hui d’une clientèle et d’un réseau de candidats qui ne cesse de croître au vu du succès des missions confiées."

    There seems to be a difference in number between "cesse" and "cease", but I guess it's not the major problem.

    Thanks again for your attention.
  12. pidgin2 Member

    French - Belgium
    I rather meant between "do not cease" and "ne cesse".

    Thank you for the corrections about "entrusted". I actually didn't dare ask the question in the same thread.
  13. lrosa Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    You're right, it would be slightly better as "does not cease"
  14. pidgin2 Member

    French - Belgium
    Thank you for confirming that. On the other hand, I made a big mistake using a singular with "make sure it does".
  15. rbenham Member

    English - Australia

    A few points: Use of feminine for countries is embarrassingly dated, and for ships it is starting to get that way, although sailor types valiantly cling to it. Note, however, that in the days when English had grammatical gender, ship (or scip, as it was spelt) was neuter.

    In Australia, there are expressions like "She'll be apples" for "Things will be OK". I can also think of cases when people have used "he" or "him" for inanimate objects. It seems to be something that is sometimes done when talking down to people: "You put him over here". (This practice has its traces in PNG pidgin, and probably a few others.)

    Whether your use the construction "entrust something to someone" or "entrust someone with something", you can't omit the preposition. So you couldn't possibly say:
    even if it were correct to refer to a company as "she". You would need to say "the missions entrusted to it" or "the mission it was entrusted with" ("with which it was entrusted" is a slightly inferior alternative).

    All in all, although the (totally incorrect) use of feminine pronouns is the most glaring fault in the excerpts quoted, the whole thing is lamentably bad English. It is worth spending a few hundred pounds/dollars/euros on a professional translator--and always on one working into his/her native language!

    While I am here, I would point out that in
    the verb agreement is just plain wrong if ne cesse de is supposed to refer to both the clientèle and the réseau (and it would be pointles to mention the clientèle if it were not part of the subject of cesser); the verb should be in the plural.

    BTW I once did a translation relating to the German EU Commission presidency. The online version of my translation was actually taken down and replaced with a "corrected" version. My words "to advance the Commission's program of..." were replaced by the deathless "to help the Commission in her work" (emphasis added): the original specified the nature of this "work" (it was an ongoing program of doing something I forget), and I translated this, and somehow it had to be left out even though it wasn't clear from the context, but the feminine pronoun really showed the class of the "corrector"....

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