There are different ways to use tout in French - as a pronoun, an adjective or an adverb - to express slightly different things:
Tout = everything
Tout m'ennuie.Everything bores me.
Je comprends tout.I understand everything.
J'ai tout entendu !I heard everything!
Used on its own, the pronoun tout means everything. Note that it never changes.
Tout/tous/toute/toutes + [article] + [chose(s)]= All + [article] + [things] / [article] whole [thing(s)]
J'ai mangé tout le gâteau.I ate all the cake. / I ate the whole cake.
Toute la journée, mon chat dort.All day long, my cat sleeps.
Toutes mes soeurs sont très énervantes!All my sisters are really annoying!
Nous avons rencontré tous ses cousins.We met all his cousins.
To say all (the) [things] or (the) whole [thing], you will use the adjective tout, as follows :
tout/tous/toute/toutes + article + noun
Note that as an adjective, tout agrees in gender and number with the thing it refers to, as such:
In this case, tous is always pronounced [too]: the -s is silent.
Tous / toutes = all [of them]
Used on their own, the pronouns tous and toutes replace already mentioned nouns. As such, tous/toutes agree in gender with the things they're replacing (they always express a plural quantity!)
Tous/toutes can be used either as:
- the subject of the verb = All [of them] did that.
Les garçons ont passé leur examen et tous l'ont eu.The boys took their exam and they all passed.
On regardait les lucioles, et soudain toutes ont disparu.We were watching the fireflies, and suddenly they all disappeared.
Mes amis sont venus et tous étaient contents.My friends came and they were all happy.
- a complement to the existing plural subject = They all did that.
Mes amis sont venus et ils étaient tous contents.My friends came and they were all happy.
Les garçons ont passé leur examen et ils l'ont tous eu.The boys took their exam and they all passed.
On regardait les lucioles, et soudain elles ont toutes disparu.We were watching the fireflies, and suddenly they all disappeared.
In this last case, tous/toutes is placed after the verb in simple tenses, or between the auxiliary and the past participle in compound tenses.
In this case, tous is always pronounced [toos], to differenciate it from tout (everything).
Tout + [adverbe] = Very + [adverb]
Nous nous sommes approchés tout doucement.We got closer very slowly.
Il est parti à tout jamais.He left forever.
The adverb of intensity tout can be used in front of another adverb to mean very. In this case, tout never changes.
Tout/toute + [adjectif] = Very/Completely + [adjective]
As an adverb, tout can also be used to modify the intensity of an adjective = very/completely.
But here, exceptionally, tout will agree in gender only, and in a very specific manner.
Look at these cases:
Martin a acheté un vélo tout neuf.Martin bought a brand-new bike.
Ma mère est toute contente de nous voir.My mother is very happy to see us.
La fourrure de ma chatte Minette est toute hérissée !My cat Minette's fur is completely bristly!
Sa sœur est tout heureuse de sa nouvelle maison.His sister is very happy with her new house.
La Tour Eiffel est tout illuminée.The Eiffel Tower is completely lit up.
As you can see, in such cases, tout becomes toute in front of feminine adjectives, but only when they start with a consonant or an aspirated h.
This rule aims at making sure the pronunciation is always [toot] in the feminine. Indeed, in front of a vowel and a mute h, the last "t" of tout would be pronounced because of the liaison, hence no need for the extra "e".
The same rule applies to plural adjectives, as once again we focus on pronouncing the last "t" sound in the feminine:
Ses rétroviseurs sont tout tordus.His rear-view mirrors are completely twisted.
Mes chaussures sont toute neuves.My shoes are brand new.
Mes filles sont toute honteuses de leur comportement.My daughters are very ashamed of their behaviour.
Lucie et Juliette sont tout heureuses de se retrouver.Lucie and Juliette are very happy to see each other again.
Les filles étaient tout excitées de voir le feu d'artifice.The girls were very excited to see the fireworks.
Nous sommes tout impatients de venir !We're very impatient to come!
Nous sommes tous impatients de venir !We're all impatient to come!
Elles sont toutes joyeuses.They're all merry.
Elles sont toute joyeuses.They're very merry.
Tout (masc. sg.) => [too]
Tous (masc. pl.) => [too] or [toos] depending on usage: see above.
Toute (fem. sg.) => [toot]
Toutes (fem. pl.) => [toot] (the -s is always silent, even when followed by a vowel: NO liaison!)
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