French Lessons


Agreeing with Everything—Tout !

Let's talk about…everything! Or, the word tout in French. Did you know that tout can change spelling and pronunciation? And are you aware that this versatile word can function as an adjective, an adverb, a pronoun, and a noun? In this lesson, we'll focus on tout (all) as an adjective in the constructions tout + noun versus tout + determiner + noun.


Tout as a quantifier is usually equivalent to “all,” expressing totality, as in tout le temps (all the time). The construction is usually as follows: tout + determiner + a noun (a determiner is a short word preceding a noun, such as “the” in English). Tout (all) then functions as an adjective since it is attached to a noun, and it will therefore agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies. So, tout has four different endings: tout, toute, toutes, tous. When tout agrees with a masculine singular noun, you're in luck: no change is required! In the example below, tout agrees with the noun votre argent (your money):


Vous donnez tout votre argent à Gérard.

You're giving all your money to Gérard.

Caption 69, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mes parents se préparent à la fin du monde - Part 7

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When tout modifies a masculine plural noun, just drop the -t ending and replace it with an -s (tous), as in tous les petits commerces (all the little shops). Note that tout and tous sound the same, as the final -t and -s are both silent:


Ce qui est intéressant aussi dans la rue, c'est que tous les petits commerces sont des artisans français.

What's also interesting on the street is that all the little shops are French craftworkers.

Captions 32-34, Adrien Rue des Martyrs

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When tout modifies a feminine noun, add an -e for agreement. Note that this time, however, you do pronounce the second t! Listen for the t sound in toute la journée (all day) in the following video. Also note that we don’t say “all the day” in English, but we do in French!


Il a plu toute la journée.

It rained all day.

Caption 22, Ahlam et Timothé Des conversations basiques

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When tout agrees with a feminine plural noun, add -es to the end: toutes. As in the previous example, you will pronounce the second t, but not the final s. In other words, toute (feminine singular) and toutes (feminine plural) sound the same. In the example below, toutes agrees with the feminine plural noun les heures (hours). In this case, though, toutes les heures translates as “every hour,” not “all hours”:


Depuis que le nouveau curé a remis ses cloches à sonner toutes les heures

Since the new priest reset his bells to ring every hour

Caption 62, Actu Vingtième Le vide-grenier

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So far, so good, but watch what happens when we decide to omit the les. Just as in English, the meaning changes. In the clause below, the bell doesn’t necessarily ring on the hour, but “at all hours":


Depuis que le nouveau curé a remis ses cloches à sonner à toute heure

Since the new priest reset his bells to ring at all hours


In other words, when tout is used in the sense of “any” or “whichever," you drop the determiner and get the construction tout + noun. The person in the video below expects to be exposed à tout moment (at any moment): 


Mais elle reste obnubilée par son larcin de la veille et s'attend à tout moment à être démasquée.

But she remains obsessed with her petty theft of the day before and expects at any moment to be unmasked.

Captions 47-49, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 3

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There is one more thing to consider. Even in the absence of determiners, agreement rules still apply! In the example below, we have three different spellings: agreements with a masculine plural noun (tous biens), a masculine singular noun (tout don), and a feminine singular noun (toute personne). Also note how the translation of tout varies according to the noun that follows it:


Tous biens... tout don est bienvenu, ainsi que toute personne.

All goods... every donation is welcome, as well as every person.

Caption 43, Actus Quartier Repair Café

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The use of tout can also imply diversity and inclusiveness, as in de toute religion (from all religions):


Y a de toute religion, y a des musulmans, y a de tout de chez nous.

There're people from all religions, there are Muslims, there's a bit of everything in our club.

Caption 14, Actu Vingtième Le vide-grenier

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Speaking of “all kinds," we have the expression toutes sortes (all kinds/all sorts):


Toutes sortes de décors... et une belle vaisselle.

All kinds of decorations... and beautiful dishes.

Caption 10, Alsace 20 Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre Dumas

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The construction tout + noun can also imply “any” possibility of something. In the video below, the pastry chef talks about being proactive by polishing the cutlery to avoid any potential marks:


Il faudra bien penser à les nettoyer, les polir correctement, pour éviter toute trace, parce que c'est plus joli, c'est plus sympa.

You really have to think about cleaning them, polishing them correctly, to avoid any marks, because it's prettier, it's nicer.

Captions 15-16, Alsace 20 Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre Dumas

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If the speaker had found des traces (some marks) on the cutlery, he would have had the staff remove toutes les traces (all the marks) and say something like this:


Nettoyez toutes les traces afin qu’il n’en reste plus.

Clean all the marks so there are none left.


In conclusion, a few reminders. Include a determiner to convey quantity, entirety, or diversity, as in tout le (all the) and tous les (every). But drop the determiner when tout is used in the sense of “any," “whichever,” or “all kinds." Whether you use the construction tout + determiner + noun or tout + noun, agreement rules apply in both cases. And don't forget: toutes les vidéos sur Yabla (all the Yabla videos) are available to help you. And since tout is such a common word, you'll find it in just about any video (toute vidéo). We will continue to explore tout in another lesson. Merci pour tout! (Thanks for everything!)


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