La tête et le corps ne font qu'un. On ne peut dissocier l'une de l'autre et quand on subit moralement, le physique craque...

I wonder if "l'un(e)" ought to correspond to the noun placed first: in the given sentence, to the feminine "la tête", or to the masculine "le corps" if the two nouns were in reverse order.

1 Answer 1


The order matters here and allows the feminine for the first pronoun. However, the masculine is possible too in this case

La tête et le corps ne font qu'un. On ne peut dissocier l'un de l'autre...

The feminine is unlikely to be used and possibly not grammatical when the first substantive is masculine and the second feminine, although the old rule of proximity would have allowed it1. I haven't found occurrences of such a case.

The feminine is mandatory if both substantives are feminine:

Ici, l'on ne s'intéresse pas à la Nature pour elle-même et l'on tend à placer Nature et Révélation seulement en regard l'une de l'autre...

Here are some examples where the feminine is not carried out:

Le citoyen de Tocqueville: Non, messieurs, la démocratie et le socialisme ne sont pas solidaires l’un de l’autre.

Que la pensée et le langage aient besoin l'un de l'autre...

1 There is an ongoing effort to reestablish this rule.

  • 1
    As my french teacher once said... French is a sexist language, masculine always wins.
    – Karlyr
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 19:45
  • @Karlyr Don't shoot the messenger though ;-) I believe this characteristic is shared by most if not all Romance languages. I also find somewhat funny that fighting some sexist aspects of the language can be done in English by avoiding the usage of gendered job names like stewardess, actress, poetess to neutral flight attendant or male names actor, poet while, to achieve the same goal, the trend in French is on the opposite to create or revive female job titles like auteure, docteure, écrivaine...
    – jlliagre
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 20:43
  • @jiliagre It was just a way to make us remember that ;) Which works, 18 years later xD
    – Karlyr
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 18:33

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