I was wondering if someone could please explain to me when we need to be mindful about changing words from masculine to their feminine form when writing in French?

For example, if I am writing about a myself (a female) tutor would I be writing tutrice(feminine) or tuteur(masculine)? Does this change depending what tense we use?

What rules do I need to know to ensure I am doing this properly?

  • There is no "proper way" of doing this. This is an opinion-based question. Some people will say je suis tuteur considering that the masculine formalizes the function. Others will want to identify themselves with their biological gender and therefore use masculine or feminine accordingly. Others just do not want the biological gender to have anything to do with this and write je suis tuteur⋅trice.... This has been - and still is - a great debate. And this has absolutely nothing to do with what tense you use. You are asking "in writing", of course orally you will react differently. – None Apr 7 '20 at 6:36

It Always depends of the subject. Si on your case, the subject of the sentence is "I" (and you are a woman), you need to use "féminin".

Exemple boy I am a user. Je suis un utilisateur.

Exemple girl I am a user. Je suis une utilisatrice.

It really depends of what is refering to..

  • This answer only presents one point of view. Some people consider that the absolute function of profession or function is formalized by the masculine gender. Others nowadays will want to use inclusive wirting such je suis utilsateur⋅trice de... – None Apr 7 '20 at 6:27

It's widely accepted to use feminine forms nowadays, especially when writing/speaking about an identified subject. Keep the masculine form for mixed plural groups as it applies.

Des policiers travaillent dans ce commissariat.
Cette policière m'a donné une amende.

Some title might be considered neutral, and therefore use a masculine form but it's slowly changing and not evenly. Even military ranks are changing - I saw an article where a female colonel insisted on being called "Colonelle" in writing and an answer by another saying that she didn't need it.

I still call my female doctor (and she calls herself) :

Docteur Trucmuch

So don't worry about it.

Whatever form you choose, the most important thing is to stick to it. You might make some people cringe, but it's better that they cringe because of ideology, than because your text is less readable because of form swapping.

A small particularity : if you are writing something that happen in the past (like a fiction) it might be better to stick to the masculine form most of the time. If you are describing something that happen in the past, just keep coherent.

Don't use inclusive writing, unless you want to appeal to some people specifically. It makes the speaking/reading different that the writing and create confusion - especially if you address people with reading deficiency. Prefer to write a complete description than this shortcut.

Les tuteurs et les tutrices

is clearer than

les tuteur.trice.s

  • Be careful about using "doctoresse"... It's considered as old-fashioned (see this page ) and I know some people get vexed over it. "Docteure" (or even "Docteur") are now more common. "Cette docteure m'a prescrit un médicament" or "Cette docteur ... – ARG Apr 7 '20 at 10:57
  • Changed to something less ambiguous. – MakorDal Apr 7 '20 at 11:03
  • A small correction to my comment: "docteure" is mostly in use in [French] Canada, whereas "docteur" is rather favored in France (and supposedly the rest of the French-speaking world)... – ARG Apr 7 '20 at 11:10

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