Singular They

DamianA2Kwiziq community member

Singular They

The questions regarding the quiz for this lesson don't take into account singular they.

"Il faut manger", could absolutely be translated as "They must eat." unless there's something I'm missing.

Asked 2 years ago
JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Damian,

Il faut ... means "It" is necessary    --  grammatically this would mean third person singular.

This expression would indicate a firm obligation/necessity.

Hope this helps your understanding?

Jim

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Agree with Jim, here are two examples examples:

Il faut manger. -- One must eat / It is necessary to eat.
Il leur faut manger. -- They must eat.

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Perhaps Chris and Jim are not familiar with singular they:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

Of course, in French you're much more likely to know the actual gender (e.g. "un ami" instead of "a friend"). Even if somehow you don't know the gender you can still use "il lui faut" - because lui is gender neutral.

But I do think there might be some cases where "il faut" is used when we'd use singular they in English.

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

@ Alan

Sorry but I don't see the relevance. We are discussing the French language. They (Ils, Elles) are the subject pronouns third person plural in French.

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

@ Alan,

No! Don't agree  --  lui is third-person singular indirect object pronoun and it relates to him or her depending upon context

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Thanks, Alan, I see what the question really was about. In English you can use "they" to denote gender neutral references. This doesn't work in French, though. French, as already mentioned, is a language which has grammatical genders firmly built into its structure. In some cases you can use "on" if you want to remain indistinct.

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

One more point - according to the lesson, using an indirect object pronoun sounds very formal, so you're more likely to hear "il faut" even when it's referring to a specific person. To get an equivalent register in English you would have to use the appropriate pronoun instead, which could be anything - including both singular and plural they.

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
"But I do think there might be some cases where "il faut" is used when we'd use singular they in English." (Re Alan)

To comment on the above point.       Il faut etc. could well be a statement made in a general sense in the presence of more than one person but not directed to the group. One could imagine general critical safety advice about fire escape procedure for example  -- the necessity to follow a particular route to safely evacuate (say) a building? 

Singular They

The questions regarding the quiz for this lesson don't take into account singular they.

"Il faut manger", could absolutely be translated as "They must eat." unless there's something I'm missing.

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