Un peu d'assistance, svp.
March 13, 2009 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Frenchfilter: Question on pluralization of compound nouns.

In English: One washroom; two washrooms.

En francais: une salle de bain; deux... er... deux salles de bains ou deux salles de bain? French speakers I know seem divided on whether "bain" is unmodifiable or if it must agree with "salles."
posted by ricochet biscuit to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
Deux salles de bain. But let me look up my grammary book to cite the rule. BRB.
posted by jchgf at 1:25 PM on March 13, 2009

Best answer: You're modifying the amount of rooms not the amount of baths... so its deux salles de bain, not bains.

Unless you're adding bathtubs.
posted by pixlboi at 1:26 PM on March 13, 2009

It's "salles de bain." Kinda like "passersby" in English. This article should be helpful.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:27 PM on March 13, 2009

Salles de bain. Coups d'état. Bureaux de change. Chefs de cuisine. Etc. I can't recall a rule for prepositional phrases (which is what I think that is) but I can't think of any examples contrary to those.
posted by sldownard at 1:31 PM on March 13, 2009

You may find it interesting to know that certain English compound nouns that behave in the same way (e.g., "attorneys general") behave that way because they're derived from French—or at least from the structure of French—in the first place.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:46 PM on March 13, 2009

ocherdraco is correct.

Also, the right plural for the meal sold at Burger King is 'whoppers junior'
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 1:55 PM on March 13, 2009

I may be wrong, but the French equivalent of "attorneys general" would have plural morphology on both words, would it not?

Avocats généraux

or something along those lines? (I'm not a native speaker.)

The important thing, I think, is when the second word is embedded into a prepositional phrase, such as the one in the question, with "de". It is because of this that the number agreement doesn't carry over.
posted by kosmonaut at 2:57 PM on March 13, 2009

It's actually just like in English. Would you say "washesrooms?" My English translation for "salle de bain" would be "bathroom." You would say "bathrooms" and not "bathsrooms." You would say "ten bottles of water" and not "ten bottles of waters."

Think about exactly what part of the phrase/word you're making plural. You don't need to over-pluralize.
posted by thebazilist at 3:00 PM on March 13, 2009

Response by poster: Merci à tout le monde.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:25 PM on March 13, 2009

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