The French They Never Taught You 3: No Plural After Zéro

February 4, 2015

Students of French have to learn the irregular plural forms of scores of French nouns:

  • le jeu, les jeux

  • le journal, les journaux

  • l’œil, les yeux


What they don't learn is that unlike "zero" in English, the French word zéro is followed by a singular noun, not a plural one. Thus, the title of the book above is Zéro faute en anglais (even though in English we say "Zero Mistakes in English").


Apparently zéro faute is seen as just another way of saying aucune faute (no mistake) and thus the noun is singular. Another example--one that you might see at the grocery store--is zéro calorie. Obviously, in English we say "zero calories" or "no calories."


Also note that nouns after a one + a fraction are singular in French but plural in English: 1.7 tons in English is 1,7 tonne (not tonnes) in French.


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