English Words used by The French but in a very different way

When MLP arrived in France, French was a language that was tricky to grasp. It’s still very difficult to learn but it’s made even more challenging when certain words used in English are also used in French BUT with a totally different meaning!  The confusion has led to some hilarious situations for MLP – revealing the frustrating french lessons of a Brit Mum! So to help you English speakers coming to or living in France – here are the top 27 English words that mean something different in French. They are either spelt the same or pronounced similarly. The French meaning is in red and the English definition is in italics underneath. To help you, MLP has produced a sound clip so you can hear the difference in the pronunciation, just click the white arrow in the red circle on the image below and enjoy!

1. Sensible – Sensitive

Done or chosen in accordance with wisdom or prudence; likely to be of benefit.

Telling someone they are very sensible in French does not mean what you think it does!

2. Magasin – Shop

Magazine: a periodical publication containing articles and illustrations, often on a particular subject or aimed at a particular readership.

Magazine EN, Revue FR

MLP went to a Kiosk, next to a shop, to ask if they had a particular magazine. The guy in the kiosk just kept pointing to the shop every time the word magazine was mentioned! Having no clue what he meant MLP picked up a magazine to show him and he just said “Ahhhhhh la revue!” Apparently if I had pronounced magazine in the English way I might’ve had more luck! Who knew!

3. Les baskets – Trainers

Basket:a container used to hold or carry things, typically made from interwoven strips of cane or wire.

Just keep visualising baskets on the feet! LOL. It’s gotta stem from Basketball right?

4. Coucou – Hi!

Cuckoo: a long-tailed, medium-sized bird, typically with a grey or brown back and barred or pale underparts. Many cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of small songbirds.

A very cute French way to say a friendly hello – but on mass, it sounds like a dawn chorus!

5.Pressing – Dry Cleaners

Requiring quick or immediate action or attention.

Pressing is also dry ironing/steaming  your clothes,  so there is actually a link.

6. Jogging – Tracksuit

The activity of running at a steady, gentle pace as a form of physical exercise.

Wearing jogging? Just sounds so wrong!

7. Front – Forehead, brow

The side or part of an object that presents itself to view or that is normally seen or used first; the most forward part of something.

If you want to say you want seats at the front or you were standing in front, you need to use words like avant or premier.

8. Tissue – Material

French Words

Tissue EN, Mouchoir FR

What Brits use to blow their nose!

MLP went looking for some material in a ‘magasin‘! Unfortunately nobody could understand a word, but eventually an English speaking French person was found who explained that to get what was needed MLP had to ask for ’tissue’. Totally grateful for the info but it just felt odd saying it.

9. Court – Short

A body of people presided over by a judge, judges, or magistrate, and acting as a tribunal in civil and criminal cases or to be involved with (someone) romantically, with the intention of marrying.

MLP was seriously caught short with this one!

10. Blouse – Overall

A woman’s upper garment resembling a shirt, typically with a collar, buttons, and sleeves. 

Just to note, an overall in Brit english, is something you would wear if you were decorating, fixing a car or cleaning out the garden. It’s essentially a garment you don’t mind getting dirty.

11. Tape – Slap

A narrow strip of material, typically used to hold or fasten something.

and incidentally, not usually used to inflict pain on someone!

12. Blesse – Hurt

Pronounce words in a religious rite in order to confer or invoke divine favour upon.

Two words could not be more opposite! Non?

13. Attention – Be careful

Notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important. e.g..“he drew attention to three spelling mistakes”

14. Spectacles – Theatre production

French Words

Glasses EN, Lunette FR

A pair of glasses

MLP just cannot get to grips with this one. Every single time we see the theatre promotions of huge spectacles the image of glasses just comes into the mind. Can’t help it!

15. Liquid – Cash

A substance that flows freely but is of constant volume, having a consistency like that of water or oil.

Water into wine? Liquid into cash? If only!!

16. Soldes – Sales

Past tense of sale. 

The first year in #Paris. MLP was flummoxed by this word plastered everywhere. Technically if it’s sold, it can’t be bought so it just plays a little linguistic gymnastics with an English speakers mind!

17. Libraries – Bookshop

A building where books can be borrowed…not bought! Libraries in France are called biblioteques..just to make it a little easier!

Pain des Amis

18. Pain – Bread

Highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury.

Yes it is pronounced differently BUT, just cannot help thinking of the English word when seeing these letters displayed! PAIN 🙂

19. Portable – Phone

Able to be easily carried or moved

Probably the easiest one to remember!

20. Main – Hand

Chief in size or importance

21. Pates –Pasta

A persons head

This one took a while! Especially when Pasta isn’t so clearly understood.

22. Chat – Cat

French Words

Cats EN Chats FR

A conversation

The difference in pronunciation helps!

23. Pile – Battery

When things are stacked on top of each other 

Asking for pills when you actually need a power source for your radio is super weird!

24. Natter – To plait

British slang term for a conversation

Nope! Still not getting it!

25. Four – Oven

The number between three and five

When we needed a new oven, that was the moment this word was discovered. Excusé moi? Say what? It’s a four!

26. Legs – Legacy

The limbs we use for walking

…and so much more, apparently!

27. Animateur – A young person who works with children

A job that involves bringing images to life, like cartoons! 

People that work with kids in the UK are called youth workers so this phrase  took a lot of getting used to!

So there you have it folks!

Learning a new language is a great opportunity and French is beautiful, if you can master it – but these words really make MLP chuckle as we try to make sense of them all. If you know the stories behind these translations please please share your thoughts in the comments. Lets get our head around this together. Plus let us know if you have more to add to the list.

Here endeth your first French Lesson from MLP! Hope this little bit of insight helps you out. It is certainly good to know! Forgive MLP’s translations  – still learning remember! But hoping to have got them spot on. Stayed tuned to MLP. Lots more to come.

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Love MLP