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Tout sur Tout: Everything You Need to Know about Tout Posted by on Feb 20, 2015 in Grammar

Tout is a very versatile word in French — you’ll generally find it means “all,” but you’ll notice different meanings when you see all its forms. This little word can be used as an adjective, an adverb, a noun, and a pronoun, and all with varying forms. We’ll go over all of those separately. I noticed my students often had trouble with this word, but once explained, the confusion was easily cleared up.

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Un adjectif is used to describe a noun — words like grand, heureux, et génial (big, happy, great) are all adjectives. Just like with other adjectives in French, tout (translation here: all, whole) has different forms. Tout is used before the noun.

Masculine singular form tout Camille a mangé tout le gateau!
(Camille ate the whole cake.)
Feminine singular form toute Je vais nettoyer toute la maison.
(I’m going to clean the whole house.)
Masculine plural form tous Tous les chiens vont au paradis.
(All dogs go to heaven.)
Feminine plural form toutes J’ai enregistré toutes les émissions.
(I recorded all the programs.)

The masculine forms are both pronounced the same way. The final -t in the masculine form is sometimes pronounced because of elision (à tout âge, for example), but the -s in the plural form will not be pronounced unless it is before a consonant. For the feminine forms, they are both pronounced the same way with the -s not being pronounced.

There are some fixed expressions and constructions I think should be discussed. Tout as an adjective means “all” or “whole,” but can also mean “every.” The French word for every is chaque, but here are some examples of how to use tout for “every.”

   tous les jours – every day
   tout le monde – everybody
   tout le temps – all the time (but chaque fois – each time – not toutes les fois)
   tous les dimanches soirs  – every Sunday night (I used to always say chaque dimanche soir before learning this construction)

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Un adverbe is used to modify or qualify another adverb, an adjective, or a verb. Words such as bien, déjà, and parfois (well, already, sometimes) are all adverbs. As an adverb, tout means very or quite.  Tout as an adverb is pretty easy in terms of agreement, but we’ll discuss the exception.

When describing a masculine adjective that’s either singular or plural, tout is invariable (it doesn’t change).

 

   Il est tout content d’être avec moi. (He’s very happy to be with me.)

   Ils sont tout triste. (They are all sad). Notice the subject is plural, but tout doesn’t change to tous.

 

Tout gets a little tricky with feminine adjectives. For both singular and plural adjectives that begin with a vowel or a mute H, tout stays invariable.

   Diane a mangé la pizza tout entière. (Diane ate the whole pizza.) Despite the fact that entière is feminine (because of la pizza), tout stays in its invariable state.

 

 

On the other hand, when the feminine adjective begins with either a consonant or an aspirated H, tout will become feminine and either singular or plural.

C’est une fille toute petite, mais elle peut tout faire! (She’s a small girl, but she can do it all!)

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Un nom is a person, place, thing, or idea, and it’s probably the easiest form of tout. Le tout can mean whole, all, or everything. Its plural form is les touts.

   L’univers fait partie d’un tout. (The universe is part of a whole)

   Je ne peux pas vendre que des parties de la voiture – il faut acheter le tout.  (I can’t just sell parts of the car – you’ll have to buy the whole thing.)

 

You’ll also see tout used as a noun in the expressions pas du tout (not at all) and rien de tout (nothing at all).

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Un pronom replaces a noun. Think of il and elle, for example, because they replace a person’s name. As a pronoun, tout means all, everything, or everyone. It only has 3 different forms: tout, tous, and toutes.

   Oui, tout va bien, merci. (Everything’s going well, thank you.)

   Mes enfants sont tous adorables. (All my kids are adorable.)

   Les filles sont allées aux toilettes toutes ensemble. (The girls all went to the bathroom together.)

 

The pronunciation of tous as a pronoun is special: you pronounce the -s at the end, even if the first letter of the next word is a consonant. Sure it goes against everything you’ve been taught, but French is full of fun little exceptions 😉

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C’est tout! Merci à tous d’avoir lu la leçon. J’espère que tout est clair maintenant, mais sinon, vous pouvez passer toute la journée en faisant des exercices pour tout comprendre!

(That’s all! Thank you all for reading the lesson. I hope it’s all clear now, but if not, you can spend your whole day doing exercises to understand everything!)

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About the Author:Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!


Comments:

  1. Kathleen:

    Bonjour!
    Merci de vos leçons français!

    Dans cette leçon:

    I don’t understand why:

    ‘Ils sont tout triste.’ means
    They are ALL sad.
    and not,
    They are VERY sad.

    But with:
    ‘Il est tout content…’
    you say it means:
    He is VERY happy…

    Plus…later when you are talking about ‘tout’ as a pronoun, your example:
    Mes enfants sont tous adorable.
    You say it means:
    ALL my children are adorable.
    (or..My children are ALL adorable.)

    I’m confused. Why isn’t ‘tous’ modifying ‘adorable’ …
    just as ‘tout’ is modifying ‘content’
    ..as an Adjective?

    Couldn’t:
    Mes enfants sont tous adorable.’
    also mean
    My children are VERY adorable.?

    J’espère que toutes mes questions sont (?soient) claires!
    ….And the above French sentence is correct!
    🙂

    Merci,

    Kathleen

    p.s. I would like to follow with a further example, if I may.

    In English, that particular sentence, ‘My children are VERY adorable.’ is pretty much synonymous with ‘My children are ALL adorable.’

    But, in other cases, such as:

    “The flowers are ALL pink.”
    (All the flowers are pink.)..
    It’s a very different meaning from:

    “The flowers are VERY pink!”
    That is to say, ‘Wow, they’re SO (vividly/extremely) pink!

    Merci beaucoup !!

    • Josh Dougherty:

      @Kathleen Hi Kathleen,

      Thanks for reading and interacting with your questions!

      For your first question:
      ‘Ils sont tout triste’ can indeed mean they are very sad. Now that I’m rereading what I wrote a few months ago, I realize that I used “all” in the sense of, “Don’t be all sad about the glass. We can buy a new one.” It’s a pretty coloquial form of ‘all’ that can mean very or completely. For example, “Doesn’t she look all cute in her little raincoat?”

      For your second question:
      In the sentence “Mes enfants sont tous adorable,” the tous is referring to each of the children as a whole. It’s an easy way of saying, ‘Each and every one of my kids (=all) is adorable.’

      If I’d written ‘tout adorable,’ it would be more along the lines of “All my children are completely adorable.”

  2. Joshua:

    Bonjour! J’ai un petit question…

    Why, in French, is it proper to say, “Je t’aime de tout mon cœur,” instead of, “Je t’aime avec tout mon cœur?”

    Merci!

  3. Scott Cameron:

    Thank you for the very informative write-up! One small question, though. In the section on tout as adjective you say”the -s in the plural form will not be pronounced unless it is before a consonant”.

    Did you mean vowel, not consonant?