Easy French Lesson 4 French Words in English

Easy French Lesson 4 French in English:


In English there are words and phrases that are obviously French.

They’re not as common as the usual English words, but used enough in English that you may have heard them and may know what they mean.

English has borrowed words from French over the centuries. Most of these borrowings have been in our language so long that we no longer think of them as foreign.

Others of these borrowed French words have come into the language recently enough that they still seem somewhat foreign or French to an English-speaking person.

Usually these words borrowed more recently have retained their French pronunciation, spelling, and some accent marks. Or they still have elements in their spelling or pronunciation that do not fit into the usual pattern of English.

For example, the word chic, which in English speakers would naturally tend to pronounce like "chick", has been borrowed recently enough that it still retains its French pronunciation "sheek". So it still seems more like a borrowed foreign word than a native English word.

Unlike other French words whose pronunciation has been anglicized fit into the usual pattern of English -- like Paris, which in France is pronounced "pah-REE"

So French words in English that still seem French is the logical second category to consider in this survey of what you know about French from your knowledge of English.

You know some of these words, but not as naturally well as you know the English words borrowed by French (discussed in the previous lesson).

However, for these are French words you may already know in English, your knowledge may have several levels:

1) You may have seen a French word in English writing, and know how it is spelled, perhaps with French accent marks.

2) You may know the retained French pronunciation of a borrowed word.

3) You may know the meaning of a borrowed French word.



Reading French Words in English Sentences is the very easiest way to begin to read some French.

The following story in English has a few French words mixed in. This starts you reading a few French words in the easiest way – in a context of familiar English words in English sentences.

In these Easy French Lessons are stories in English that have a few French words mixed in. These stories were written by someone taking a first trip to France -- and discovering that many French words are similar to English words.

In the following story, the WORDS IN CAPITAL LETTERS are either

1. French words you may or may not know, or

2. French words that are similar to English words, or

3. French words that you may have seen used in English.



A Taste of France in America

Dear diary,

My sometimes boyfriend Billy Bob and I love great food, like everyone.

Last night we tried a new authentic “RESTAURANT FRANCAIS” with HAUTE CUISINE, here in Springfield.

This was exciting because going to France has always been a dream of mine. Too bad Billy Bob doesn't feel the same way I do.

The MAÎTRE D' and our waiter Pierre both sounded authentic with their heavy French accents. They called me MADMOISELLE.

Pierre asked if we wanted any HORS D'OEUVRES (appetizers), like ESCARGOT (snails).

The menu was in French, and each dish was À LA CARTE (meaning priced separately).

Some of the items I recognized right away, like SOUPE DU JOUR (soup of the day) and BISQUE (shellfish soup). And there were the French cheeses ROQUEFORT, BRIE, and CAMEMBERT. And LES SAUCES -- MORNAY, PIQUANTE, and BOURGUIGNONNE.

I ordered a SALADE VINAIGRETTE (with oil and vinegar). For my ENTRÉE I selected the RATATOUILLE (vegetable stew). Billy Bob had to decide between CHATEAUBRIAND or TOURNEDOS (steak FILET).

When Pierre the waiter served our dinners he said, "VOILÀ!" and “BON APPÉTIT!” It may have been my imagination, but the food seemed to taste better with foreign names.

We both drank a few too many glasses of LE CHAMPAGNE.

My boyfriend Billy Bob started to put on a fake French accent – you know the kind where you just pronounce any English word with an "i" to sound like "ee", as a French immigrant would – “GARÇON (waiter), zees ees TRÈS BON!” Our waiter Pierre took it all in good fun.

For LE DESSERT (identical word in French), I had to decide between a SORBET or COMPOTE (stewed fruit) or FLAN (egg custard) or a BONBON (candy), and Billy Bob had some pie À LA MODE.

As we left, I tried out the little French I do know from movies and TV – filling the air with “MERCIE” (thanks) and “AU REVOIR” (goodbye).

On to the cinema, and after that – L'AMOUR.

I'm so excited about my trip to France next month.

I wish I had taken a French course in school. I just would like to know more French words before I go.

Too bad Billy Bob doesn’t want to come with me, but C'EST LA VIE (that's life).

Well, diary, time to go to sleep!



You may already know some obviously French words used in English, like 'chic' and 'chef'.

As used in English, they retain their French pronunciation, more or less.

Words like these can serve as a good introduction to speaking French, because they are somewhat familiar words you already may know how to pronounce in the French way.

Many of these words may sound less familiar to you than most other English words.

The more recently adopted French words usually retain their French pronunciations in English.

As a result, these words seem to violate the usual rules of English pronunciation, and can be difficult to pronounce.

This can lead to confusion, with some English speakers using the adopted French pronunciation for these words, and some modifying the pronunciation as it would be in English.

Or some adopted words are given a mistaken "French" pronunciation. The concluding part of a musical piece, finale, is usually pronounced “fee-nah-lay” in English, but in French is pronounced “fee-nal”.

You may have thought some of these words were English rather than French imports.

Some have been in English long enough to lose their foreign flair.

Some foreign words adopted into English have kept their foreign pronunciations.

Other times, the pronunciation of the foreign word has been anglicized to be pronounced the way it would if it were an English word.

You may already know the French pronunciation of some of these French words that have been adopted into English.

Or you may be unsure of the authentic pronunciation of some. You can use the pronunciation guide with each word to check yours.

The pronunciations listed here are the French ones you would hear in France rather than the Americanized pronunciations.

And these words and phrases may also be stressed somewhat differently in English, because in French all syllables tend to be given equal stress.



Some have become so frequently used in English they need little explanation.


shellfish soup -- bisque -- [beesk]

pastry -- brioche -- [bree-ohsh]

candy -- bonbon -- [bon-bon]

seafood stew -- bouillabaisse -- [boo-yah-behz]

broth -- bouillon -- [boo-yohn]

pancake -- crêpe -- [krehp]

roll -- croissant -- [krwa-sahn]

cooking style -- cuisine -- [kwee-zeen]

snails -- escargots -- [ehs-kahr-goh]

filet -- filet -- [fee-leh]

flaming -- flambé -- [flahm-bay]

egg custard -- flan -- [flahn]

fine cooking -- haute cuisine -- [oht kwee-zeen]

appetizer -- hors d'œuvre -- [or derv]

layered ice cream -- parfait -- [par-fay]

quiche -- quiche -- [keesh]

vegetable stew -- ratatouille -- [rah-tah-too-wee]

sherbert -- sorbet -- [sohr-bay]

soup of the day -- soup du jour -- [soop duh zhoor]

bar with food -- bistro -- [bees-troh]

chef -- chef -- [shef]

waiter -- garçon -- [gahr-sohn]

connoisseur of food -- gourmet -- [goor-may]

restaurant owner -- restaurateur -- [rehs-trah-toor]

assistant chef -- sous-chef -- [soo-‘chef’]

These are just a few of the obviously French expressions which are part of everyday American language. Each has been adopted recently enough to retain its basic French spelling and meaning. In many cases the English pronunciations approximate French, more or less.

Glance through the following lists to find which adopted words and phrases you already know. That way you will be reminded of what you already know about French just because you know English.

Do not consider this as a long list of terms that are new to you and must be memorized. Check off the ones you already know. Some of the most common ones are listed here, and there are many more.


More Words in English That Still Sound French


love affair -- amour -- [ah-moor]

shop -- boutique -- [boo-teek]

good fellowship -- camaraderie -- [kah-mah-rah-deh-ree]

mountain house -- chalet -- [shah-lay]

exclusive group -- clique -- [kleek]

concierge -- concierge -- [kohn-see-ehrzh]

intimate friend -- confidant(e) -- [kohn-fee-dahn(t)]

room decoration -- décor -- [day-kor]

suit (woman's) -- ensemble -- [on-sahm-bl]

kilogram -- kilo -- [kee-loh]

underwear (women's) -- lingerie -- [lahn-geh-ray]

massage therapist (f) -- masseuse -- [mahs-soos]

flamboyance -- panache -- [pah-nahsh]

first showing premiere [prem-yer]

here (it is) -- voilà -- [vwah-lah]

socially awkward -- gauche -- [gohsh]


French Phrases You May Know


in the forefront -- avant garde -- [ah-von gahrd]

have a good journey -- bon voyage -- [bon voy-ahzh]

bric-a-brac -- bric-à-brac -- [breek-ah-brahk]

oh well, that's life -- c'est la vie -- [seh lah vee]

complete freedom -- carte blanche -- [kart blahnsh]

dead-end street -- cul de sac -- [kool de sahk]

seen already -- déjà vu -- [day-zhah-vew]

as a large group -- en masse -- [on mahs]

on the way -- en route -- [on root]

blunder -- faux pas -- [foh pah]

high fashion -- haute couture -- [oht coo-toor]

festival on Shrove Tuesday -- mardi gras -- [mar-dee grah]

newly rich -- nouveau riche -- [noo-voh reesh]

herbs to scent a room -- pot pourri -- [poh poo-ree]

know-how -- savoir faire -- [sah-vwahr fehr]

immediately -- toute suite -- [toot sweet]


French Word Order Reverse of Some English Phrases

In English adjectives come before nouns, but in French adjectives often follow nouns. You are already familiar with this from certain French phrases in English:


aide-mémoire -- "memory aid"

art déco -- "decorative art" (art déco short for art décoratif)

chaise longue -- "long chair" (in English often "chaise lounge")

crème caramel -- "caramel cream"

crime passionnel -- "passionate crime"

enfant terrible -- "terrible infant"

femme fatale -- "fatal female"

force majeure -- "major force"

idée fixe -- "fixed idea"

noblesse oblige -- "obligated nobility"

objet d'art -- "art object"

papier mâché -- "mashed paper"



You Can Read this Easy French Story:

You will be able to read and understand the following story in French because of the many words that look like English.

It will be clear to you even though written in a foreign language.

You will understand the meanings of the main words, so you will be able to figure out the meanings of the other French words.

(The only tip you need is that Je or J' means "I".)

In this Dual Language story, with parallel texts in each language, each line of French is printed above the English version, to make your beginning French reading as painless as possible.

The foreign version is placed first to encourage you to look for and recognize foreign words similar to ones in English -- and deduce what the foreign words mean by yourself without being given the translation first.

However, try to read the French all the way through without looking at the English version. It's simple.




J'arrive au pique-nique dans le cul de sac.

I arrive at the picnic in the cul de sac.


"Bon Appétit!"

"Bon Appétit."


Je dîne d'un hamburger avec de la mayonnaise, et des fruits.

I dine on a hamburger with mayonnaise, and fruit.


Robert prefere un hot dog et une orange.

Robert prefers a hot dog and an orange.


Barbara prefere un sandwich avec olive et du melon.

Barbara prefers a sandwich with olive, and some melon.


Marie prefere les hors d'oeuvre d'escargot et la haute cuisine du chateau.

Marie prefers hors d'ouvres of escargot and haute cuisine at the country estate.


Pour le jogging, je prefere un T-shirt et mon Walkman.

For jogging, I prefer a T-shirt and my Walkman.


Pour la soirée au club, je prefere les jeans.

For the soirée at the club, I prefer jeans.


Après le ski, les nouveau riche preferent le bar ou une chaise longue.

After skiing, the nouveau riche prefer the bar or a chaise lounge.




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