Below is the quote from Candide:

Candide et Martin aperçurent distinctement une centaine d'hommes sur le tillac du vaisseau qui s'enfonçait ; ils levaient tous les mains au ciel et jetaient des clameurs effroyables ; en un moment tout fut englouti.

"Les mains" is feminine plural, why not "toutes les mains"? I am a newbie in French, please explain it to me in English, many thanks!

  • You could rephrase it like this: "Tous levaient les mains au ciel".
    – Destal
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 9:56

2 Answers 2


"Tous les mains" is indeed invalid as a unit (since "mains" is feminine), but it is nonetheless a valid sequence of words in this sentence because it is not being used as a unit. "Tous" is an pronoun, not an adjective here. It is not connected to the following noun phrase; rather, it refers back to the subject "ils" (with which it agrees).

This may become more apparent if you try to translate the text to English: "They raised all their hands to heaven" doesn't make as much sense as "They all raised their hands to heaven.../All of them raised their hands to heaven..."

Note that the pronoun "tous" is pronounced /tus/, with the consonant sound /s/ at the end, unlike the adjective "tous" which is /tu/ before consonants and /tu.z/ before vowels.

Here is a thread on the Wordreference forums that you may find helpful: FR: tout / toute / tous / toutes

  • 3
    And to add a generalizing element, the asker can expect to see this subject + verb + tous quite often. « Est-ce que vous avez tous vos feuilles de papier ? Bon, on peut commencer ... »
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 14:01
  • WRONG big time. see RRMX (i'm french...), the correct translation is "they all raised their hands" Commented May 16, 2017 at 8:54
  • @PatrickLepelletier: Which part of this answer should I change? Are you saying it is overly literal to include "to heaven" in the English translation?
    – sumelic
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 12:31

tous here applies to ils, not les mains. Therefore, it is perfectly valid.

In English you would phrase it as They were all raising their hands

You can trust Voltaire with his French, it was top notch!

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