FR: genre des villes - gender of towns and cities

semiller

Senior Member
USA-English
Bonjour!

In general, is it true that you use the masculine adj. when talking about cities? For example, one says "Paris est beau." (rather than "belle") Do all other cities follow this pattern? One says for instance, "Lille et Bordeaux sont beaux." I realize that one would say, "Les villes de Lille et de Bordeaux sont belles" because "ville" is a masculine noun. Merci bien!

Moderator note: Multiple threads merged to create this one. For the specific case of Paris, see the corresponding thread: FR: Paris - genre (masculin / féminin).
 
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  • jann

    co-mod'
    English - USA
    Hello semiller :)

    Some towns are masculine, others are feminine, and so you would make the adjective agree accordingly. However, since we could state the name of most cities as "(la ville de) X," I believe you may also choose feminine agreement, even for masculine cities, and even when you don't actually say the words "la ville de..."

    This article will interest you. The link came from our Resources thread on Pays / Countries

    "Les villes de Lille et de Bordeaux sont belles" because "ville" is a masculine noun. Merci bien!
    A feminine noun, I think you mean to say, and yes, that works. ;)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    My impression is that most city names are feminine in French. And of course, as has been said, you can always use the feminine with the excuse that ville de is implicit.
     

    halldj

    Member
    English - UK
    I have a question relating to the topic of this thread, as well. Is the following sentence grammatical?

    Rouen est la plus grande ville de la Région Haute-Normandie; il se situe à 130km (80 miles) au nord-ouest de Paris.

    I'm talking about the use of the masculine il referring to something which has previously been referred to as la plus grande ville de la Région Haute-Normandie. It seems to me natural to use il in a somehow impersonal way, and indeed the text in which I wrote this has already been read by at least one native speaker of French, who didn't comment on the construction. But now that I'm looking at the sentence again, it seems to me that one could argue with this way of writing it.

    What I'm not talking about is:

    - the use of la Région Haute-Normandie as opposed to la Région de la Haute-Normandie - this is the standard way of referring to it, at least within the region itself
    - the inclusion of a conversion into miles in the text, which is done because the text could have a worldwide readership!

    Thanks!
     

    tilt

    Senior Member
    French French
    Rouen est la plus grande ville de la Région Haute-Normandie ; il se situe à 130km (80 miles) au nord-ouest de Paris.
    Grammatically, your sentence makes sense, because I wouldn't mind saying, for example, Le Château de Versaille est la plus grande maison de France, il se situe près de Paris.
    But in this particular case, the sentence really hurts my ears. It may be precisely because cities gender is ambiguous, but I'd prefer using elle, according to the feminine gender of ville:
    Rouen est la plus grande ville de la Région Haute-Normandie ; elle se situe à 130km (80 miles) au nord-ouest de Paris.

    Please, note that in French, a space is required before the semicolon, and not only after.
     

    halldj

    Member
    English - UK
    Thanks, tilt.

    In my original text, there is a space before the semicolon as well as after, but it didn't transfer when I copied-and-pasted the sentence into the forum, maybe because the majority of my post was in English, and therefore the English spell-checker was being used.

    While I'm posting, I'm reminded that I was going to respond to zold's latest post:

    tilt said: 'What about Paris est beau/belle en cette saison?'
    zold replied: 'You would say that ? it still sounds strange to me; I would rather say "C'est beau, Paris, en cette saison" ou "Paris, c'est beau en cette saison" '

    zold: the sentences that you would rather say are more informal than tilt's alternative, so, in most situations, you might be more likely to hear them than tilt's alternative; but tilt's alternative is the more formal version, equally grammatical, which is probably more appropriate in most styles of writing (for example). The construction with stylistic fronting (Paris, c'est beau ...) wouldn't be appropriate in most writing, so in the end it depends on what you want the sentence for!
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    Grammatically, your sentence makes sense, because I wouldn't mind saying, for example, Le Château de Versaille est la plus grande maison de France, il se situe près de Paris.
    Euh, oui, mais cela n'a aucun rapport. Dans ton propre exemple, qui est correct, le il est possible parce que ce pronom reprend le château de Versailles…
     

    tilt

    Senior Member
    French French
    Si on admet que Rouen est masculin, il peut très bien reprendre Rouen et je ne vois alors aucune différence avec mon exemple. :confused:

    Je me demande donc si ce n'est pas parce que la "masculinité" de Rouen est si peu évidente que par défaut, on se prend le féminin de ville.
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    Si on admet que Rouen est masculin…
    C'est bien là tout le problème !

    Dans l'exemple de halldj, le mot ville est explicite dans la phrase ; il est donc naturel de reprendre ce mot féminin par le pronom elle :

    Rouen est la plus grande ville de la Région Haute-Normandie; elle se situe à 130 km au nord-ouest de Paris.

    Mais par contre il est vrai que j'hésiterais entre Rouen est situé à 130 km au nord-ouest de Paris et Rouen est située à 130 km au nord-ouest de Paris
     

    geostan

    Senior Member
    English Canada
    This is right, because the modifier suggests there are several different Pretorias and the definite article is necessary to identify the one we refer to.
    Yet, in my own speech, this article is very likely to be masculine (le Pretoria d'aujourd'hui est différent de celui d'hier), whereas I tend to consider town names as feminine in other cases (Pretoria est belle la nuit).
    This is very interesting. How extensive is this curious concept? For instance, I doubt that it would apply to the city of Rome, which is clearly feminine, or Paris, which is clearly masculine.

    I checked with Grevisse (1960's edition,) and it states that this particular aspect of names of towns and cities is very nebulous, and that there is no standard established. Would this still be true? Or would other native speakers in other regions follow your example?
     
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    Fred_C

    Senior Member
    Français
    Hi,
    Rome has a real gender : feminine.
    Paris works more or less like Pretoria : without a well defined gender.
    You would say : "Le Paris de nos jours" and "Paris est belle la nuit".

    The reason is that most cities do not really have a gender, and you chose in the latest moment when you really have to. Usage forces your choice.

    Rome on the other hand is absolutely feminine.
    "La Rome antique", "La Rome actuelle", "Rome est très belle".

    I could add that it is safe to do like Paris or Pretoria with every city in the world, and Rome is clearly an exception...
     

    geostan

    Senior Member
    English Canada
    Thank you Tilt and Fred_C. I have learned something I was completely unaware of.

    So the following examples would be usual:

    Le lyon de nos jours Lyon est tres belle la nuit.
    Le Montréal de nos jours Montréal est tres belle la nuit. (This one really sounds odd to me. Perhaps because I always think of Montréal, and all major Canadian cities for that matter, as masculine. Well, maybe not Victoria and Regina.)

    Would any French Canadian speakers care to comment on this?
     

    Fred_C

    Senior Member
    Français
    Yes,
    Saying like this is the safest way.
    You will never hurt anybody's ears.
    Sometimes, you might come across a city which is an exception, but only people familiar with this city will know, while other Francophones won't. (Except for Rome, for which everybody knows)
    So sometimes, perhaps people will know that you are wrong, but you will never sound wrong to them.
    Because the few exceptions are only a matter of learnedness, not of usage.
     

    Grop

    Senior Member
    français
    Pour information (et pour ajouter à la nébulosité ;)), même si on parle généralement d'Antibes et de Nice au féminin, les vieilles villes (du moins ici) sont masculines: on va boire un coup dans le vieil Antibes, ou bien dans le vieux (c'est-à-dire le vieux Nice).
     

    Fred_C

    Senior Member
    Français
    Bonjour, Grop
    Votre contribution n'ajoute rien à la nébulosité, elle confirme au contraire ce qui a été dit.
    Tout va bien, donc.:)
     

    KaRiNe_Fr

    Senior Member
    Français, French - France
    Salut,

    Ne dit-on pas "le vieux Nice / le vieil Antibes" parce que justement on ne parle pas de toute la ville (féminin) mais d'un quartier (masculin) plus restreint ?
    Alors que (toute la ville de) Nice est belle la nuit... (et même le jour ! :p), le vieil Antibes est beau la nuit... (mais le reste est moche, ou beau mais que le jour ? :p)
     

    Nicomon

    Senior Member
    Français, Québec ♀
    Le lien que tilt a donné au post #5 [...] celui-ci
    On y lit entre autres ceci :
    De façon générale, on a tendance à utiliser le féminin pour les noms de villes qui se terminent par un e muet ou par es, et le masculin dans les autres cas. Ainsi, Rome, Venise, Londres, Vienne, Lisbonne, Bruxelles, Marseille sont féminins, tandis que Montréal, Paris, New York, Lyon, Orléans sont masculins.
    et en réponse à Karine :)
    Par ailleurs, on observe que, quel que soit le nom de la ville, c'est toujours le masculin qui s'emploie quand le nom de la ville est précédé de tout (tout Québec ou le Tout-Québec) ou d’un adjectif, par exemple vieux ou grand.
    Moi je dis que je vis dans le Montréal bilingue, mais je crois que je dirais Montréal est belle (enfin... pas partout :rolleyes:) la nuit.
    Cependant, cette réponse n'engage que moi. D'autres Québécois diraient peut-être Montréal est beau. À vrai dire, je ne sais pas.

    Geostan, would you think is it safe to guess that the a in Regina and Victoria which make you say those are feminine are sort of equivalent to the e in French?
     
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    geostan

    Senior Member
    English Canada
    Geostan, would you think is it safe to guess that the a in Regina and Victoria which make you say those are feminine are sort of equivalent to the e in French?
    Possibly, but I wouldn't say necessarily that they are feminine, just that of all the major Canadian cities, they would be the two for which I would hesitate.

    In the case of Regina, of course, it is a Latin word which in Latin is feminine, but whether that connection is felt is another matter. But I was interested in reading that you follow the same notion as Tilt and Fred_C. So it must be wide spread.

    In future, I will adapt my thinking to this.
     
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    Gil

    Senior Member
    Français, Canada
    Moi je dis que je vis dans le Montréal bilingue, mais je crois que je dirais Montréal est belle (enfin... pas partout :rolleyes:) la nuit.
    Cependant, cette réponse n'engage que moi. D'autres Québécois diraient peut-être Montréal est beau. À vrai dire, je ne sais pas.
    Il y a des Québécois qu'il vaut mieux ne pas contredire:
    «Montréal, ô ma ville, tu t'es fait belle pour recevoir ton pasteur et ton prince»,
    :D
     

    tilt

    Senior Member
    French French
    À l'occasion de la ré-émergence de ce fil, je retombe sur ceci dans le message #24 de Nicomon, extrait d'un site qu'elle donne en lien :
    [...] tandis que Montréal, Paris, New York, Lyon, Orléans sont masculins.
    Orléans, masculin ?
    Ce sont les gens de la Nouvelle-Orléans qui vont être contents d'apprendre ça ! :D
     
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    Fred_C

    Senior Member
    Français
    Tout à fait !
    Pour moi, Orléans ne constitue pas une exception à la règle du genre peu défini énoncée dans les premières contributions à ce fil.
     

    Nicomon

    Senior Member
    Français, Québec ♀
    À l'occasion de la ré-émergence de ce fil, je retombe sur ceci dans le message #24 de Nicomon, extrait d'un site qu'elle donne en lien :
    Orléans, masculin ?
    Ce sont les gens de la Nouvelle-Orléans qui vont être contents d'apprendre ça ! :D
    Bonjour,

    Je réanime ce fil, parce que la question du genre des villes a été soulevée ailleurs.

    Il ne faudrait pas confondre deux villes différentes. Il est aussi question de la Nouvelle Orléans dans l'article de la BDL. ;) Lu en googlant :
    Ainsi, Orléans (en latin Aurelianum) est généralement masculin : Orléans fut délivré par Jeanne d'Arc
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Moi je dis que je vis dans le Montréal bilingue, mais je crois que je dirais Montréal est belle (enfin... pas partout :rolleyes:) la nuit.
    Cependant, cette réponse n'engage que moi. D'autres Québécois diraient peut-être Montréal est beau. À vrai dire, je ne sais pas.
    Naturellement, je dirais que Montréal est beau (même Verdun commence à fleurir ces temps-ci :D), mais j'ai entendu ''belle'' pas mal aussi.
     
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