FR: We all went to his birthday party

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by yuechu, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. yuechu Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Hello/Bonjour à tous,

    I have a question about a WR dictionary entry example sentence:

    We all went to his birthday party.
    --> Nous sommes tous allés à son anniversaire.

    However, if the group is feminine, would one say and write:
    1) Nous sommes tous allées à son anniversaire.
    2) Nous sommes toutes allées à son anniversaire.
    or are both used à l'oral ?

    Thank you/Merci d'avance !
  2. Yendred Senior Member

    Français - France
    if the group is totally feminine, they would say "Nous sommes toutes allées à son anniversaire", both written and spoken. No exception.

    Concerning the spoken form, you will often hear "Nous sommes toute'h'allées" (without the liaison), although the correct liaison is "Nous sommes toute'z'allées"
  3. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
  4. yuechu Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Thank you both for your replies!

    (The following is just to fully understand usage from a descriptivist point of view, since the most important is to know the standard form, of course!)
    I think that in Europe, the "accord" is done correctly most of the time. However, I am curious if this same "accord" is usually done in French-Canadian French (à l'oral, I mean). In an advanced French grammar class years ago (for native speakers), I think I remember a Montreal professor telling me that it is not always done correctly/that there is hesitation with this type of grammatical agreement (although it is possible that I am thinking of a similar but different rule/situation with "tout/toute/tous/toutes agreement"!).

    A French Canadian friend wrote a blog post with the following sentences today:
    [Les Canadiens étaient] tous des hommes.
    [Les Belges étaient] tous des femmes.

    Although not correct in prescriptive grammar, is such usage common in Canadian French in this specific context (using "tous" (with s sonore) to refer to the subject in the feminine plural?)? (or is it correct here because the reader does not know the gender of the "Belges" (despite being all feminine) before this sentence?; all this assuming that it is not simply a typo because I think I've heard it before, but am not sure...)

    Thanks/Merci d'avance !
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2013
  5. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    This isn't about Canada or France. :) It's about sentences that have a subject of one gender and a subject complement that may have a different gender. Such sentences always offer the potential for confusion.

    Les victimes étaient toutes des hommes. (victime is always feminine)
    Les pigeons étaient tous des filles. (pigeon, meaning "fool, sucker, mark" is always masculine)

    The inverted sentences are less likely to be confusing:
    Les hommes étaint tous des victimes (tous describes hommes, not the fpl. noun victimes)
    Les filles étaient toutes des pigeons (toutes describes filles, not the mpl. noun pigeon, meaning "fool, sucker")
    When the subject has an obvious gender, using the proper form of tous is quite automatic for a native speaker:
    Les Français étaient tous... (all men, or mixed group)
    Les Françaises étaient toutes... (all women)

    But when we hear Les Belges, which has the same form regardless of gender, we automatically assume a mixed group, so we think of them as an ils, and it's easy to describe them as tous. Even so, if you know that les Belges is actually a group entirely composed of women, then the appropriate subject pronoun would be elles and they should be described as toutes. Using tous would be an error, but a very understandable one.

    Les Belges étaient tous très contents
    (all men, or mixed group)
    Les Belges étaient toutes très contentes (all women)
    Les Belges étaient toutes des femmes / des touristes / etc. (all women)

    Of course, you could just write Le groupe belge étaient entièrement composé de femmes.
  6. yuechu Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Thanks for your clear explanations, jann ! You offer good sentences in which there can be potential confusion.

    Actually, in this case, I chose "Belges" since the original sentence was a null-subject sentence. (or something similar to that... )

    En, yes I think you are right that in both prescriptive and descriptive grammars, this rule is almost always followed! (despite the confusing amount of entries for "elles sont tous" on Google (105,000,000), even taking into account grammar exercises and sentences with "tous les jours", etc... it is definitely not written much in Canada since there are double the hits for "elles sont toutes" compared to "elles sont tous" which are only in the couple of thousands) Effectivement, as you mentioned in the other "tout/toute/tous/toutes" thread, it was likely the "tout invariable-exceptions" I was thinking of!
    Thanks again !
  7. frenchifried Senior Member

    English - UK/US
    I think you will find that grammatically correct Canadian French is even more strict than European French - and if you are following Google - don't!

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