EN: family - singular / plural

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by lonesomecowboy, Mar 6, 2010.

  1. lonesomecowboy Senior Member

    Bonjour à tous,
    J'ai un problème de traduction. Par quel pronom reprend-t-on "family" en anglais ?
    Ex : Certaines personnes n'aiment pas leur famille ; ils la détestent même.
    Some people don't like their family ; they even hate "it" / "them" ?

    Merci pour votre aide.

    Note des modérateurs : nous avons fusionné plusieurs discussions pour créer ce fil.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2010
  2. marget Senior Member

    I would never say "it", but I would easily say "them".
  3. Irishsyl New Member


    Par quel pronom personnel sujet doit-on remplacer le nom "family" ?

    par exemple, dans la phrase : "his family is important", par quoi on peut remplacer "his family" ?
    --> "it is important."
    --> "they are important." ?? ou autre chose ?

    thx !!!
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2010
  4. msezda Senior Member

    "it is important" would be correct.
  5. Frinsp Member

    I'm sorry I don't believe the last post made any sense at all, but I would say they are important, or it is important, with more of a tendancy for saying the first.
  6. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Strictly speaking, family is singular, so you replace it with "it".

    On the other hand, English is a much more flexible language than French, and strict logic is often abandoned. For example, I bet 95% of English speakers would say:

    The family is an important concept in sociology. It is found in all societies...
    The family was important to him when he was ill. They visited him in hospital and brought food...

    Context is all.
  7. marget Senior Member

    Excellent examples, Keith Bradford. I would say "it" after all in the context you've provided.
  8. drassum Senior Member

    french - france/île de la Réunion

    Le nom "family" s'accorde, il me semble, au singulier. Pourtant, j'avoue hésiter à employer un pronom singulier ou pluriel : "my family is great, I love it/them".

    Quelqu'un pourrait-il m'expliquer ce qu'il est préférable d'employer?

    D'avance un grand merci pour vos réponses.
  9. AFrenchGuy Member

    France, french
    Dans l'attente d'une réponse sans équivoque, je pense que tu devrais utiliser "them". En langue anglaise il y a souvent des termes singuliers qui se rapportent à plusieurs individus, et dans ce cas on utilise des verbes et pronoms au pluriel.

    Par exemple, la page "Police" de Wikipedia version anglaise commence ainsi :
    "The police are a constituted body of persons empowered by..."

    Cependant, il serait bon d'avoir l'avis d'un natif, car je ne serais pas à l'aise pour dire "My family are great"...
  10. moustic Senior Member

    near Limoges
    British English
    Personally, I would say "my family is great", but there are lots of google hits for "my family are great".
    In the following sentence, I would also say "I love them, they are really supportive".
  11. Perdrix

    Perdrix Member

    Jacksonville, FL
    English - USA
    I agree with moustic on both counts. Also, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "My family are great".
  12. Maharg Senior Member

    Midlands, UK
    English (Britain)
    It is gramatically correct to say 'My family is great' because family is a singular noun, however, informally people often use 'are' for this type of noun because they are thinking of the plurality of the people involved, e.g. 'the government are greedy'. This is not strictly correct.

    In English, you would say I love them, not it.
  13. marianneBLANC Senior Member

    French - France

    Contexte : description d'un château : "The Rossel family was present in Languedoc region."

    Une personne de langue anglaise me dit qu'il est plus correct de mettre "were" dans ce contexte ?

    En français ce serait acordé à "famille" donc was (enfin il me semble...)

    Est-ce différent pour l'anglais considèrant que famille est un groupe de personnes donc pluriel ?

    Merci pour vos éclaircissements.

  14. Rachafouine Member

    Je laisse un ou une Anglophone confirmer cela, mais "were" me paraît correct. C'est ce qu'on appelle un nom non dénombrable, comme "the police".
    On dit par exemple "the police are looking for..."
  15. Transfer_02 Senior Member

    Espoo, Finland
    English - British
    Both "was" and "were" are OK in English, though I would add that nowadays the plural form is used more and more (eg The team were late for the match - Doesn't sound so nice to my ears but maybe I am just old fashioned).
    In your case I'm not sure which I would choose, it would depend on the whole paragraph. Is it a large, extended family with several generations spread out across the whole region or a nuclear family living inside the four walls of the château...
  16. radiok Senior Member

    UK English
    I've heard a rule that says that collective nouns take the plural in British English and the singular in US English.

    According to wikipedia (second paragraph under Metonymic merging of grammatical number), though, it's a little more complex, and British English can use singular or plural depending on the context.

    In your example, I personally would tend towards the singular, unless your article goes into enough detail about separate family members that the single collective entity of the family is overshadowed by the individuals within it.
  17. marianneBLANC Senior Member

    French - France
    Many thanks. Then I will go for the plural form.
  18. Omelette

    Omelette Senior Member

    UK English
    That would be incorrect in American English . In British English there is a tendency to use the singular - in this case 'was' - when the familly is regarded as a single unit (rather than a collection of individuals) which seems to be the case here.
    So, either way, I'd go for 'was'. :)
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2013
  19. swintok Senior Member

    English - Canada
    For me the decision whether to use the singular or plural depends on how I'm conceptualising my family at the time: a single collective or a group of individuals. This can change even within a single conversation.

    My family is great! = taken all together, I like my family regardless of certain individuals or their foibles.
    They visited me every day when I was in hospital. = collectively a family cannot visit, but individual members of a family can.

    My family is great! I love them!
    This sounds perfectly natural to me, since taken as a whole I think my family is great and I love each member of it.

    My family is great! I love it!
    This also sounds perfectly natural, but there is a subtle difference. Taken as a whole I think my family is great and I love the fact that I am part of this collective group.

    The Rossel family was present in Languedoc region. = emphasis on the collective. The Languedoc was the home of a collective group called the Rossels.
    The Rossel family were present in the Languedoc region. = emphasis on the individual. Several members of the Rossel family lived in the Languedoc region, perhaps all together, perhaps separately in various places or at various times, perhaps all the members or only some of the members.

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