Tous vs Tout confusing you? We’re here to help! Our essential guide will provide you with a clear and simple understanding of these two tricky words.
Ready to put an end to the Tout vs Tous grammatical battle?
Tout vs Tous: The Basics
The first step towards understanding tout is knowing what it means. In a nutshell, tout usually corresponds to either “very”, “all” or “every”. You’ll also have most likely noticed just how commonly it’s used in French, and for good reason too – it has many diverse uses and can be utilised in many different situations. However, tout and its counterpart tous are often and easily confused. The best way to approach this issue is to discover exactly when tout is used, and in turn you’ll then know when not to use it and when to use tous instead. Let’s get to it before it gets any more confusing!
When is ” Tout “ used?
As an adjective
In most cases, tout is used as an adjective. But before we go any further, you should know that tout can take four different adjective forms. Now, it takes on some of these forms when tout is being used as an adverb or a pronoun, but this is not the case all the time.
Moving on, tout is indeed a masculine and singular word, meaning it can be used when modifying masculine and singular words. Straightforward, right?
Now, this changes when tout is used alongside masculine plural words, then it becomes tous. On the other hand, when it’s being used to modify a feminine singular word, tout becomes toute , and while in plural form it becomes toutes. In other words, tout likes to change how it looks a lot.
One good thing to keep in mind when using tout as an adjective, if it’s modifying a noun it’s usually placed before it.
Let’s have a good look at a couple of examples.
Tout citoyen a le droit de voter. (Every citizen has the right to vote)
Vous pouvez apprendre à conduire à tout moment. (You can learn how to drive at any time)
Ils sont tout triste de sa mort. (they are all sad about his death.)
J’ai decidé de nettoyer tout l’appartement. (I decided to clean the whole apartment).
Il aime tous mes livres. (He loves all my books.)
Here, tout is alongside the possessive adjective mes (my). It has been changed from tout to tous since livres (books) is a masculine word in its plural form.
Ils ont rassemblé toutes ces fleurs. (They have gathered all these flowers)
Here, the tout has appeared before the demonstrative adjective ces (these), and has taken on the toutes form since fleurs (flowers) is a feminine word in plural form.
To finish this section off, have a look at some of these every day expressions in which an invariable tout is used as an adjective.
En tout cas (In any case)
Par dessus tout (Above all)
Here’s a great recap on the different tout forms:
As an Adverb
Tout can be used to modify adjectives and verbs. In such cases, tout is considered an adverb.
Il mange tout doucement . (He eats very slowly).
Here, tout means “very” and is acting as an adverb modifying doucement. In this case tout is invariable, meaning that it will not change to either toutes, toute or tous.
Things change when you use the adverbial tout to modify an adjective. Have a look at the examples below, and we’ll go from there.
Elle a assisté à toutes les réunions seule. (She attended all the meetings alone.)
Ils ont suivi toutes les instructions. (They followed all the instructions.)
Now, this is where it can get a little complicated.
When tout is used to modify a feminine adjective that begins with a consonant or a silent ” h “, it needs to agree with the gender (feminine) as well as the adjective’s number (singular or plural). For example:
Elles sont toutes gentilles. (They are very sweet)
Elle est toute timide (She is very shy)
Elle est toute petite.(She is very small)
Adverbial tout is also used in fixed every day expressions. In these cases, it’s invariable.
Tout en ordre. (All in order).
Dans tous les dimensions. (In all dimensions)
Tout en accord. (All in agreement.)
As a noun or pronoun
When tout is a noun it remains masculine and singular.
Depuis que j’ai acheté ma voiture, c’est devenu tout pour moi. (Since I bought my car, it became my everything.)
C’est tout. (That’s all)
When tout needs to be plural, just add an -s to it.
Il vend des touts de blé(He’s selling wheat wholes.)
When tout is used as a pronoun, things differ a bit. When tout is a pronoun and doesn’t exactly refer to anything in a sentence (known as a neutral pronoun), tout becomes invariable and therefore doesn’t change its form.
For example: Tout ce qui précède. (Everything that came before.)
Tout can also be found as an indefinite pronouns in proverbs such as: Ne mettez pas tous vos oeufs dans le même panier. (Don’t put all your eggs in one basket).
Finally, here are some fixed every day expressions in which tout is either a noun or a pronoun.
En tout. (All in all)
Nous tous. (All of us)
And that brings our chapter on Tout vs Tous to an end!
See you next lesson – and in the meantime, don’t forget to practice! If you need any help don’t hesitate to get into contact with one of our online French Tutors.