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If I were writing a book about a male turtle named, say, Roger Tortue, when would I use the feminine and when would I use the masculine?

Example sentences:

Roger est très (vieux/vieille).

Roger Tortue est très (vieux/vieille).

Roger (le/la) tortue est très (vieux/vieille).

Roger est (un/une) tortue très (vieux/vielle). (Il/Elle) aime se promener.

Roger aime se promener. Mais, (ce/cette) tortue est très (vieux/vielle), et (il/elle) marche donc très lentement.

Roger, comme (tous/toutes) les tortues, est (vert/verte).

(Tous/toutes) les tortues sont (verts/vertes), et Roger est donc (verte/vert) aussi.

If this were a children's book, would it matter if Roger was a human-like cartoon turtle or an actual, real turtle?

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For your last question, you could ask the same question in English : Would it matter if Roger [...] for saying It or He for Roger the turtle. –  Sifu Aug 4 at 19:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

(I could be wrong, I have no sources to back me up)

  • Roger est très vieux.

  • Roger Tortue est très vieux.

    This is a weird case. For me, that would be kind of a surname, so the agreement would be masculine.

  • Roger la tortue est très vieux.

    Same as the last one.

  • Roger est une tortue très vielle. (Il/Elle) [both work, depending on the desired focus] aime se promener.

    This is exactly like in English saying "it" or "he" for an animal.

  • Roger aime se promener. Cependant, cette tortue est très vielle, donc elle [since we spoke of "la tortue", it needs to be feminine] marche très lentement.

  • Roger, comme toutes les tortues, est vert.

    Roger est vert.

  • Toutes les tortues sont vertes, donc Roger est vert aussi.

General rule is that the adjectives get their gender from their noun. Choosing one or the other moves the focus toward "la tortue" or "Roger".

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2  
Roger la Tortue (nickname, like Fanfan la Tulipe) est très vieux. It sounds weird, but less than with the feminine agreement. –  Stéphane Gimenez Aug 4 at 21:41
    
@StéphaneGimenez, yeah.. Giving it a second look, I have to agree with you, let me change that. Thanks also for the corrections you made to my post. –  Sifu Aug 5 at 11:53

I would agree with Sifu's answers, although his explanation for «Roger la tortue est très vieux», claiming "la tortue" is a sort of surname, is a little unsatisfying: "la tortue" is a qualifier or a second predicate for Roger, who remains the subject of the verb être, thus the predicate "vieux" is masculine; conversely in «la tortue Roger est très vielle/la tortue, Roger, est très vielle», "Roger" is a qualifier or a second predicate for "la tortue", thus the predicate "vielle" is feminine.

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A second predicate would appear between commas: Roger, la tortue, est très vieux. This is rendered pretty distinctly in speech. Also, “La tortue Roger” (Roger is a first name) does not sound right. –  Stéphane Gimenez Aug 11 at 19:51

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