-é - -ée

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Some words in English taken from French recently - notably 'fiancée' and 'fiancé' - are still written with the French accents by careful academic writers. The modern trend appears increasingly to ignore the accents. This is quite logical - English after all has no written accents - but displeasing to the traditionally minded among us.

If you want to use the careful, rather old-fashioned style of writing with the French acute accent over the 'e', there is one point to notice. A single accented 'é' is, in French, the masculine form. The equivalent feminine form has two 'e's, only the first of which is carries the written accent - 'ée'. When a man and woman become engaged, he is her fiancé. She is his fiancée.

The same, mutatis mutandis, is true of the only other pair of words I can think of where it might matter - divorcé (a man) and divorcée (a woman). In all other words, we should, in English, follow the French usage - if the sex of the person does not matter, use the masculine form, with one 'é'. But in normal modern usage, just use 'ée' for most words with the '-ee-' sound. (In French, the sound of this letter is more like the '-ay' of 'say'.) You may also want to see -er - -ee for a related point of English usage)

(See also -ee for the problem of overuse of this suffix.)