In informal speech, one might specify something in more than one way.

If multiple terms have different gender, what is the rule for determining the gender of the subject?

For instance which of these have the wrong (il/elle), and why:

  • Ce véhicule, la voiture de mon oncle, elle est bleue.
  • Ce véhicule, la voiture de mon oncle, il est bleu.
  • Cette voiture, le véhicule de mon oncle, elle est bleue.
  • Cette voiture, le véhicule de mon oncle, il est bleu.

Does the first or last instance in a list win, or is it always masculine, or what?

  • 1
    These sentences, especially the second set, do not sound very natural. A better example showing how the agreement is done is: La victime, un homme de 33 ans, est morte sur le coup.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 21:31
  • @jlliagre, they aren't natural. My French is weak, and most of my vocabulary is what I learned decades ago in high school. I'd update the question with your answer, but the original has already been quoted in an answer. Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 0:22
  • 1
    There's no "list" of subjects in your sentences as @Lambie says. The parts between commas are not subjects, they are appositions, they are not attached to any verb therefore they can't be part of a verb agreement. i.e. in your 1st sentence la voiture de mon oncle only relates to véhicule, you are only giving the colour of the véhicule: ce véhicule est bleu. Ce véhicule, la voiture de mon oncle garée de ce côté de la route, est bleu: bleu agrees with véhicule, garée agrees with voiture.
    – None
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 18:53

2 Answers 2


Ce véhicule, la voiture de mon oncle, (il) est bleu.

"la voiture de mon oncle" is an apposition and does not affect the adjective ending in the clause. For example.

Appositions don't count for purposes of agreement. There is only one subject and an apposition which does not affect the masculine, feminine ending.

Only the subject does. What counts are two or more nouns. Like this: Les camions et les voitures de mon oncle sont bleues (la règle de la proximité). Some people prefer : sont bleus (le masculin l'emporte sur le féminin).

Those terms explain how people decide what to make the adjectives agree with. You can either have the adjective be feminine if there are two nouns, and the feminine noun is closest to the adjective (in the case above, those noun voiture is feminine) OR you can use the masculine if you think the masculine ending carries the day over the feminine, as a general principle. There are explanations that say that the masculine is actually a Latin neuter but I am not getting into that here.

It gets complicated by political correctness and recent social movements.

  • 2
    That should be (il) est bleu because the sentence reduces to Ce véhicule, il est bleu.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 0:45

In these examples, it's the first word that wins, but not because the first word always wins. When you are saying "Cette voiture, le véhicule de mon oncle, elle est bleue.", what you're saying is "This car, which is my oncle's vehicle, it is blue". It then becomes clear that the subject of the sentence is not the fact that it's your uncle's car, but rather the car.

The formatting of the sentence makes it a bit ambiguous, but that's basically the gist of it.

Following this logic, the right sentence in your other example is "Ce véhicule, la voiture de mon oncle, il est bleu"

  • 2
    It's because there is only one subject, the other phrases are appositions.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 23:32
  • "It then becomes clear": no your answer is not clear, the "result" is correct but not the way you get to it. What are saying is only clear to anyone who already knows where the subject is. As @Lambie says (cf her comment) it is an apposition, therefore the sentences read cette voiture est bleue / ce véhicule est bleu.
    – None
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 7:29
  • 1
    The concept of subject and object is identical in English and in French, so I figured it was clear enough.
    – MaxDude132
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 3:02

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