Since langue (tongue, language) is feminine why do the French say "vous parlez français"?


3 Answers 3


In French what humans use to communicate with their voice is called "une langue" (feminine word) but it is also called "un langage" (masculine synonymous word) and there is no reason why the gender of the name for the language should be aligned on one of the terms rather than on the other. It happens that historical circumstances resulted in the choice of the masculine. This is generalized to all languages.

All names of languages in French are masculine, without exception: (ref.).

  • La Pologne, le polonais
  • La Russie, le russe
  • La Chine, le chinois
  • Le Danemark, le danois
  • Le Portugal, le protugais
  • La Suède, le suédois
  • La Finlande, le finnois
  • Les Pays-Bas, la Hollande, le hollandais, le néerlandais
  • etc.
  • I think language names are always masculine in French...
    – Laurent S.
    Nov 17, 2020 at 19:09
  • @LaurentS. I thought I was sure of that; now you are making me a little skeptical. I wonder whether I should not think about possible exceptions.
    – LPH
    Nov 17, 2020 at 19:18
  • 1
    "le hollandais" -> "le néerlandais"
    – Tsundoku
    Nov 17, 2020 at 20:12
  • Meilleure référence : LBU14 469 a 4. Nov 18, 2020 at 20:38

The original sentence is vous parlez le français, but with parler the definite article le isn't mandatory and it is frequently omitted. If you would like to use française, you'd have to say vous parlez la langue française.


Yes @LPH.

Other examples:

  • "la lettre a" --- "le a"
  • "Antoine est français" --- "Antoine a la nationalité française"
  • "le russe" --- "la langue russe"

Alphabet letters are masculine, but the noun "lettre" is feminine.
Nationality as an adjective or subject complement follows the gender of Antoine, but the noun "nationalité" is feminine.
The language name is a masculine noun, but "langue" is feminine.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.