The Language Nook – Le coin langues

EN to FR translation tip - plural nouns in English to singular nouns in French

Translation: from an English plural to a French singular

by | 25 Mar 2017 | Translation-wise


When translating a text from English to French, examples of the usage of plural nouns in phrases or sentences like the ones I gleaned on the web are not unusual:

  • Helping people improve their lives
  • The most popular way people hold their phones
  • Doctors shouldn’t wear their white coats in public

Watch out! These are typical instances where using a plural in French for their lives, their phones, their white coats would be incorrect!

Indeed, in French, where there is only one possessed object for each possessor, the rule is to use a singular noun.

So, the French translation of the above sentences would be:

  • Aider les gens à améliorer leur vie one life per person
  • La façon dont la plupart des gens tiennent leur téléphone  one phone per user
  • Les médecins ne devraient pas porter leur blouse blanche en public → one white coat per doctor

There you are! This was a quick and simple reminder not to get tricked.

Always think twice and remember that all plurals in English are not translated by a plural in French – sometimes, you need a singular noun. 🙂

You can also click this link to find out more about the difference between leur and leurs.


Get email notifications of new posts. It's free!
* required field

You may also like…

Subject position

Subject position

  When translating, it is important to remember that the subject position is often not the same in English and...


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This