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If you look at the following chart:

chaude amour

You'll find that between 'chauds amours' and 'chaudes amours' the former does not even exist. In the singular there is some debate between 'chaude amour' and 'chaud amour', but in the long course of history usually 'chaud amour' predominates though 'chaude amour', for example, in the early 2000s was more common. In the dictionary it says here:

,,Amour, après avoir longtemps hésité entre les deux genres, est considéré par les grammaires classiques comme masculin au singulier et féminin au pluriel. Le genre masculin semble aujourd'hui se généraliser pour les deux nombres`` (cf. aussi Littré, rem. et Grev. 1964, § 253)

I mentioned this to my language exchange partner and she was not aware of it though she admitted that she never says 'chauds amours'. She was dismissive of the rule as a useless detail. My question is are French speakers aware of this? Are they aware that some nouns (I think there are a few more) switch genders as they switch number? If I were to say 'chauds amour' would that leap out at them in the same way that "I require that he remains in the park" leaps out to English speakers? So far I've never met an monolingual English speaker that understands why the sentence "I require that he remains in the park" is ungrammatical?

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    Related french.stackexchange.com/q/8281/358. Words that are masculin in the singular and feminine the plural.
    – None
    Jun 5, 2023 at 9:34
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    The related answer doesn't answer this part of your question : "Are they aware that some nouns (I think there are a few more) switch genders as they switch number?" so I'll add that it is a point that is mentioned in secondary education in France, some people forget, some people remember, and since there's no rule attached, it's just a matter of tradition, it's not really important.
    – None
    Jun 5, 2023 at 11:09
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    @bobsmith76 can you edit the Q title so that it reflects what you're really asking? The part about leaping out doesn't really make sense in the first place. "Chaud(e)s amours" is eminently written French, not something that comes up in conversations. Jun 5, 2023 at 12:14
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    Does this answer your question? Délice et délices
    – Toto
    Jun 5, 2023 at 17:16
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    Just FYI: “I require that he remains in the park” is not ungrammatical to many speakers of British English. North Americans in general will expect the subjunctive, and many Brits would say ‘should remain’, but there are also quite a few native speakers who would find ‘that he remains’ quite natural. Jun 5, 2023 at 17:34

2 Answers 2

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Most French speakers don't know

There are, as far as I know, three nouns in total that switch from masculine in the singular to feminine in the plural: amour (love), délice (delight) and orgue (organ, the musical instrument).

In French noun genders tend to be more visible in singular than in plural as for a plural form it can only be seen through the agreement of an adjective:

Des voitures (some cars) : feminine

Des camions (some trucks) : masculine

Des voitures garées (some parked cars)

Des camions garés (some parked trucks)

Even in this example, you can see that the agreement of the adjective only matters in the written form. It is silent otherwise.

Now, you can combine this with the relative rarity of the plural form of these three nouns to see why most people never ran into a situation where this factoid mattered the slightest.

Now on this very website you are going to see a bias as people here are way more interested in grammatical peculiarities that the average Joe but we need to admit that is still a niche center of interest.

I think you could make a nice trivia question about this!

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    Probably everyone has stumbled upon these words at one point or another in their education though... How many remember is another question, but "most don't know" is a bold statement. Jun 5, 2023 at 12:11
  • Many don't known, and even more don't care.
    – XouDo
    Jun 5, 2023 at 12:18
  • Also it's not everyday we speak of orgues or use the word délices. I would argue that the case of amour is more familiar.
    – Frank
    Jun 5, 2023 at 14:29
  • @Anne, as for trivia question, is this a coincidence or are you referring to the last question I posed on this site? In any case, thanks for the input.
    – bobsmith76
    Jun 5, 2023 at 20:23
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    @Xoudo, reminds of the response I got to one of my DM's to a friend: DNDK (don't know, don't care)
    – bobsmith76
    Jun 5, 2023 at 20:23
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It's mostly unknown, except in literature, poetry and songwriting.

The reason is, it's pretty rare to use "amours" in plural form in speech, even more with an adjective that sounds different when it's feminine. Even if everyone used it correctly, it would be hard to pick up the rule by listening alone. In my opinion that's why that rule is not very known and rarely applied.

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  • And ... speaking is not a game of mentally juggling grammatical rules to be perfectly correct either ...
    – Frank
    Jun 5, 2023 at 14:31
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    Don't you sometime speak of "mes amours de jeunesse" ? What is really rare is to combine the plural with an adjective whose pronunciation depends on gender, i.e. "de grandes amours.
    – Graffito
    Jun 5, 2023 at 17:15
  • @Graffito I feel that for amours, we know. We've seen it be feminine before, maybe we are unsure, but it's not a big surprise if we hear it and we would go along with it.
    – Frank
    Jun 6, 2023 at 0:22
  • @Graffito Yes that's what I meant, "mes amours de jeunesse" doesn't have anything that makes it sound feminine in speech :) The only phrase I could find that comes up naturally is "premiers/premières amours", and it seems to be more frequent in the masculine. Jun 6, 2023 at 13:14

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