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How do you say it when it has no defined gender?

For example in the phrase:

Eat it!

Is the French translation “mangez-la ! ” or “mangez-le ! ”, or neither?


Also, aside from in “c'est” where is “ce” used?

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The first question is answered there: french.stackexchange.com/questions/3326/… (well enough, I dare say). –  Nikana Reklawyks Nov 30 '12 at 16:56

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You could use Mangez ça!, although it's more a translation of Eat that!. Otherwise, by default you might use the masculine Mangez-le!.

EDIT : I made a wrong assumption, thanks Stéphane for the heads-up

Concerning C'est, it's a contraction of Ceci est. The word ceci is rather common place, and has pretty much the same meaning as cela, is the same way this and that have basically the same meaning.

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Le pronom c' résulte de l'élision de ce, pas de ceci ou de cela. Au pluriel c'est devient ce sont. Une autre façon de le voir : la tournure avec sujet et verbe inversés est est-ce. –  Stéphane Gimenez May 23 '12 at 20:00
    
Oups... J'avais jamais eu l'idée de chercher le pluriel pour savoir ce que représente c', je pensais bêtement (et à tort) que c'était ceci. Réponse corrigée! –  Alexis Pigeon May 23 '12 at 20:04

I would tend to say that your question is based on a false assumption: "it has no defined gender" - this situation should never happen in French at all as all nouns have a definite gender.

But yeah, in the case you don't want to name the thing or can't find a noun for it you can use "Mange ça!", or even simply "Mange!" if there's nothing else to eat. I'm deliberatley suggesting "Mange" instead of "Mangez" since I feel there isn't much respect involved at this point, but that would of course depend on the context.

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Mange-le ou Mange-la will most probably get the result you want.

The person will understand Mange le fruit ou Mange la pomme with the same end result.

In french every name has a gender, which is a mandatory syntactic attribute, not a matter of biology. We use it to know to which name relates an adjective (with an efficiency of 75%). As 50% of our vocabulary is masculine and 50% is feminine, you will always find a word with the appropriate gender describing your it.

In facts, if your it has no definite gender, it can only be amour, délice, orgue, gens, oeuvre, alvéole, après-midi, autoroute, enzyme, réglisse,... But even then, they take a gender as soon as they enter in a phrase.

About the distinction between grammatical and natural gender, did you know that according to wikipedia, in old English wif (wife) was neutral and wifmann (woman) was masculine ?

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