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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French word of the Day: iel

This gender-inclusive pronoun has been in the news - and is part of an important evolution in French language.

French word of the day: iel
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know the word iel

Because gender is a construct. 

What does it mean? 

Pronounced ‘eee-elle’, it is the combination of the French words il and elle, (he and she) and is a gender-inclusive pronoun, the equivalent of calling someone they or them in English.

It can be either used to describe someone whose gender is not known, or to describe people who identify themselves as non-binary (neither male nor female, or both at the same time). 

The recent inclusion of iel in Le Petit Robert, a famous French dictionary, has been criticised by the country’s education minister – a longtime critic of so-called ‘inclusive writing’. 

READ ALSO French dictionary includes gender-inclusive pronoun in new edition

In response, the dictionary publishers said that usage of the word iel was becoming increasingly common. 

“Defining words used in the world allows people to better understand them,” wrote Charles Bimbenet, the director of Éditions Le Robert.  

Use it like this

As a pronoun, iel replaces il or elle:

Iel a réussi à me convaincre – They (singular) have convinced me

Iel est là – They (singular) are here. 

It can also be used in a different context to replace lui or elle

On verra ça avec iel – We will see that with them (singular). 

What about adjectives? 

Because iel is neither a masculine of feminine pronoun, you may wonder how to ensure whether to follow with gendered adjectives. The rules are flexible, but you essentially have two options: 

  1. Use adjectives that don’t change depending on the gender of the noun e.g. aimable (likeable) is a better choice of adjective than gentil (nice), which is written gentille in the feminine. 
  2. Use inclusive language e.g. iel est gentil·le 

READ ALSO What is ‘inclusive writing’ and why is it banned in French schools?

Synonyms 

While iel is probably the most common inclusive pronoun in France, there are plenty of others to choose from. 

To replace il and elle, there is: ul, ulle, ol, olle, aelle, ille and im

To replace lui and elle, there is: ellui (singular) 

To replaces eux and elles, there is: elleux and euxes

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?

Synonyms

Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener

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