Can you tell me if chaque and tout are synonymes?

For example:

Chaque vie est importante/ Toute vie est importante = Every life is important

Toutes les vies sont importantes - All lifes are important

Am I correct?

3 Answers 3


I would say that you are correct. Still, "chaque" can be translated by "each" in some cases: http://www.wordreference.com/enfr/each

I think sometimes it can be complex to choose the right word (both in English and French).

Edit: of course, I meant you are correct in this example, they are synonyms in this context. I assume that you know that tout can have multiple use cases, as a noun, an adjective, an adverb, or a pronoun.

  • 1
    Downvote because not enough information; I think this is misleading or arguably just incorrect. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 9:18
  • I agree it's a simple answer, and it's on purpose, because I think it's almost impossible to find a rule so I only wanted to had the "each" word in the game. In his example, both ("chaque" and "toute") mean exactly the same thing, without more information about the context.
    – Destal
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 9:29

No, these are not synonyms. Chaque means each. Tout and its variants tous/toute/toutes mean all, any, every, or everything, and while every and any can be nearly synonymous with each, and therefore the two words can be used similarly in some contexts, there are many, many contexts where tout has a distinct meaning that is not interchangeable with chaque, which only ever means each.

The way you have translated the sentences to English is correct. I just want to be clear that tout and chaque are only synonyms in some contexts, not all.

Example of tout's non-synonymous usages:

Tout is often used to say refer to something's entirety, for example:

J'ai bu tout le lait.

This means I drank all the milk. This is different than saying you drank each milk, which would specifically imply there was more than one.

Or another:

Ça arrive tous les cinq jours.

This means It happens every five days. Again, this is a fixed expression for frequency that cannot use chaque. Similarly, tout le temps is a fixed expression meaning all the time....you wouldn't say each time, would you? That would be a separate meaning, translated by chaque fois.

A last example:

Il a tout fait.

This means He did everything, as if to say that he took care of a job that needed to be done. Again, it makes no sense to use chaque here.

  • Yes but in a sentence Chaque vie est importante/ Toute vie est importante = Every life is important is it correct?
    – user10544
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 9:18
  • I'm pretty sure that second sentence is not grammatically correct. Toute la vie est importante would mean All life is important, but that's a separate meaning from Each life is important. You can't write Toute vie as you have put there. Toutes les vies sont importantes is indeed equivalent to Chaque vie est importante, but that's what I mean-- they're synonymous in this context but not in general. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 9:21
  • So when you use Tout without an article?
    – user10544
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 9:24
  • 2
    @Aerovistae Toute vie.. is very correct French and strongly different from Toute la vie...
    – jlliagre
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 9:31
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    I share the same understanding as Simon (I'm French).
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 0:26

Definitely they are different !

Chaque is usually used when we tend to specify, like saying:

  • Every student must ....

  • Each item has a label.

and so on, so we would use here chaque, an example in french:

  • Chaque heure a 60 minutes

so it is a must that every hour to have 60 minutes in it, and every item to have a label ... it means there is no exception no matter what !

However,tout/toute/tous/toutes are used when we tend to generalize or describe a frequent habite/event, like saying:

  • We usually go jogging every morning.

  • The sun shines everyday in the sky.

so we would use here tout and its siblings.

And if we tried to substitute tout in the last two examples with chaque ,the meaning will be as specified as following:

  • Each morning we go jogging.
  • Each day the sun shines in the sky.

which will be understood as:

The first example:

There is no morning we don't go jogging no matter what !

The second example:

There is no day you won't see the sun shining in the sky no matter what !

And that is definitely false statement ! because there are some mornings that we maybe won't go jogging, as well there are some days that you won't see the sun shining because of bad weather !

Yes you can sometime substitute one for another, but the meaning will completely be different, as moving from Specifying <=> Generalizing and vice versa.

So in your example about the importance of life, when we say:

  • Toute vie est importante.

it sounds to refer to the life in general as a concept or a term. However, saying:

  • Chaque vie est importante.

means that every single life of every being is counted and important in specific.

I hope that I explained it well.

Bonne Chance ;)

  • 2
    I am not so sure that "Toute vie est importante." implies that there might be some that are not important. It doesn't come to my (french) mind when I hear it.
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 0:28
  • @Frank Yeah you are right...actually nor do I feel it that way ... though am not french ... maybe I should modify the answer a bit
    – wisdom
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 22:56

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