When describing an animal, do you use il/elle based off of the animal's gender or their species gender (like dog)?

ArielA2Kwiziq community member

When describing an animal, do you use il/elle based off of the animal's gender or their species gender (like dog)?

This may be a strange question, but if you have/see a female dog and you want to describe her, would you use il or elle since "dog" is a masculine noun but the dog itself is a female. Like would I say Il est très gentil or elle est très gentille? I am asking because where I live I always hear female dogs referred to as "il" even when everyone knows the dog is a girl. I don't know if that's just because they don't care about the gender of the dog, or because the proper way to refer to it is as "il" since dog is masculine. 

Asked 9 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Ariel, 

If I have understood your question correctly, yes, you would use the appropriate pronouns feminine or masculine to talk about them.

In French, the larger animals have a separate masculine and feminine noun but if you move to the world of insects or even birds I am afraid they don't and this can be very confusing to children. 

une chouette = an owl 
un hibou = an owl 

can be mâle or femelle but they are completely different species.

Just like -

une fourmi an ant

une araignée = a spider 

Here is a lesson on the larger animals -

Animals names are often different for male, female and baby in French

Hope this helps!

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Salut Ariel,

Female dog --  Bitch -> Une chienne

Male dog -- Dog -> Un chien

Bonne continuation.

Jim

ArielA2Kwiziq community member

The problem is the not the female form of dog in French, but more so if it is a masculine-gender (le) species but a specific animal is a female. Would il be used since the species is male, or elle since the animal itself is female? Same if the species was a female-gender (la) but the animal itself is a male. 

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Salut de nouveau Ariel,

If I am understanding you correctly  --

First, you will need to establish the collective noun for the group  --  "herd" for example

Then establish the individual animals' nouns (male / female) within the group.

Having established the above, then find the corresponding French noun(s) and articles accordingly for the species that you wish to research.

Bonne continuation.

Jim

When describing an animal, do you use il/elle based off of the animal's gender or their species gender (like dog)?

This may be a strange question, but if you have/see a female dog and you want to describe her, would you use il or elle since "dog" is a masculine noun but the dog itself is a female. Like would I say Il est très gentil or elle est très gentille? I am asking because where I live I always hear female dogs referred to as "il" even when everyone knows the dog is a girl. I don't know if that's just because they don't care about the gender of the dog, or because the proper way to refer to it is as "il" since dog is masculine. 

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