I was reading an article on lemonde.fr and saw "du ou" used in a sentence. However, I can't figure out how this translates to English.

Comment fonctionne le mode de désignation du ou de la future première ministre britannique?

Google: How does the method of appointing the future British Prime Minister work?

How should "du ou" be translated in this sentence?

I checked Collins French-English dictionary and the Academie-Francaise with no success. I did find another French website using "du ou” in the same way, but couldn't find any site that explains this usage.

Quelles sont les missions du ou de la maitresse d'apprentissage ?

Google: What are the missions of the teacher?

Everything else seems to make sense, but what purpose does "du ou" serve? Is this a fixed expression?

  • Quoting the exact sentence and/or giving the link to the article could be helpful, since the meaning may depend on the context. As a general advice - sentences in a foreign language should not be translated word-by-word, but as a whole; often one expresses the same meaning by different means in English and French.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 9:05

1 Answer 1


Du technically means de le so

Désignation du ou de la future première ministre.

is a shortcut for:

Désignation du futur premier ministre ou de la future première ministre.

That's exactly the same with the teacher example.

A literal translation to English is not easy because there are no gendered articles.

I would venture: The missions of the he or she teacher (??)

  • Thank you. I have not come across this type of wording in articles before today. Is this more of a modern phrasing being used to support the femininisation of job titles? Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 9:02
  • It is not necessarily related to job titles feminization. Older occurrences can be found, e.g. Cette vente, dont le nom du ou de la propriétaire fut tenu secret, produisit 2.882.000 francs. A. Frappart, Les Arts; revue mensuelle des musées, collections, expositions, avril 1913. [...] sans faire mention aucune du ou des privilèges qu'iceux juges laïques prétendent avoir J. Severt, La Somme générale de toutes les excommunications et des cas réservés, janvier 1621
    – jlliagre
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 12:04

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