Le pluriel des noms composés (2)

French Grammar (see all)

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Le pluriel des noms composés (2)

Reminder: in compound nouns, constituent words that are adjectives and nouns are written in their plural form.
mon grand-père my grandfather → mes grands-pères my grandfathers (adjective + noun: both are in the plural)
un chirurgien-dentiste a dental surgeon → des chirurgiens-dentistes dental surgeons (noun + noun)

However, if the compound noun is made up of two nouns separated by a preposition (et, en, à, etc.), only the first of the two is written in the plural.
un chef-d’œuvre a masterpiece → des chefs-d’œuvre masterpieces
un arc-en-ciel a rainbow → des arcs-en-ciel rainbows
une pomme de terre a potato → des pommes de terre potatoes

Certain words which make up compound nouns are written with a plural ending if they function as a noun, but without one if they function as a verb.
des porte-clés key rings (porte is written without an -s because it comes from the verb porter, ‘to carry’ or ‘to bear’)
des portes-fenêtres French windows, French doors (portes is the plural form of the noun meaning ‘a door’)
des garde-manger pantries, larders (garde is written without an -s because it comes from the verb garder, ‘to keep’ or ‘to store’)
des gardes-malades live-in nurses, carers (gardes is the plural form of the noun meaning ‘a guard’)

Exceptions:
•  The nouns pot-au-feu (a dish of boiled beef), tête-à-tête (a one-on-one conversation) and coq-à-l’âne (the act of suddenly changing the subject) never take an -s.
•  Latin words are also invariable, for example: des nota bene (notes, NBs), des mea-culpa (admissions of guilt), des post-scriptum (postscripts).




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