One difference between French and English that I'm a bit fuzzy about is when to pluralize attributes/possessions of individuals in a group. For example:

Les cochons fouillent avec leur groin.
Pigs dig around with their snouts.

English pluralizes "snouts" but French keeps "groin" singular. Français Facile suggests that in French you generally use the singular when each individual in the group possesses one of the things, but it sounds like there's some wiggle room; I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but I've definitely come across situations in French where I expected a singular but found a plural.

Are there any other rules/heuristics to know about?

  • @vc74 Your example doesn't really fit because the singular is "L'enfant fait ses devoirs", and devoirs is already plural. Jul 24, 2018 at 13:14
  • 2
    As far as I can make out, it's a question of how many each individual has. Since each pig has one snout, you use the singular. Similarly, I just read in La peste by Camus a sentence like: « Les citoyens essuyaient leur front. » If this is correct and no one else posts it I'll come back and draft a proper answer later.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 24, 2018 at 13:43
  • @LukeSawczak +1 You are right (and I like Camus), you should post your answer.
    – guillau4
    Jul 24, 2018 at 15:31
  • @TeleportingGoat True, thanks
    – vc 74
    Jul 25, 2018 at 7:38
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    Does this answer your question? Règles d'utilisation de « leur » et « leurs »
    – Maroon
    Apr 7, 2020 at 0:10

2 Answers 2


Singular is mandatory when there is a single object related to all subjects, e.g.:

Les français soutiennent leur équipe.

Plural is mandatory when multiple objects are related to each subject:

Les enfants rejoignent leurs parents.

When there is a one to one relationship, like in your example, you are free to select either the singular if you want to insist on the singularity of the object, or the plural if you want to insist on the large number of objects.

Les cochons fouillent avec leurs groins.

Les cochons fouillent avec leur groin.

The trend seems to be using the plural in that case:

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I think (sorry didn't have any source ... even if I am french ^^) that the rule have "wiggle room" for situations where the individual in the group use other things than their thing.

Something like :

Les cochons grattent leur groin. (mean that each pig scratches his own snout)

Les cochons grattent leurs groins. (mean that the pigs scratch the snout of the other pigs)

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