Easy French Lesson 8: Suggests Meaning

Easy French Lesson 8: Suggests Meaning:

FRENCH COGNATES WITH DIFFERENT BUT SUGGESTIVE MEANINGS

Previous lessons list words in English and French with similar spellings and similar meanings.

This lesson examines a related topic – a French word that looks similar to an English word that has a different spelling or meaning -- although it is somehow related enough to suggest the correct English cognate.

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TWO TYPES

There are two types of these French words that look similar enough to English words to suggest the correct French cognates:

1. French Cognates with Different But Suggestive Spellings.

2. French Cognates with Different But Suggestive Meanings

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1. FRENCH COGNATES WITH DIFFERENT BUT SUGGESTIVE SPELLINGS

Some French Cognates Look Similar to Two Different English Words

For example, ‘ton’ in French looks somewhat similar to at least two English words -- ‘ton’ and ‘tone’.

Your first impression might be to think the French‘ton’ means ‘ton’ in English. But the spelling ‘ton’ is also close enough to ‘tone’ to suggest the actual meaning and help you remember it: ‘tone’.

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2. FRENCH COGNATES WITH DIFFERENT BUT SUGGESTIVE MEANINGS

For example, "librairie" in French means bookstore.

So LIBRAIRIE in French is different from the English word it resembles (library) because it means bookstore, but similar in that both have to do with books.

This makes the French meaning easier to remember than if the French word meant something totally unrelated.

So this will make it easy for you to remember that UN LIBRAIRIE is not a library -- but it is a bookstore.

This lesson presents examples of a French word that looks similar to an English word but has a different meaning -- although it is somehow related enough to suggest the correct meaning of the French word.

This lesson will take you to another level of similarities-with-differences between English and French.

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In these Easy French Lessons are letters written by someone taking a first trip to France -- and discovering that many French words are similar to English words.

Read French Words in English Sentences

The following letter 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.

Reading French words in English sentences is the very easiest way to begin to read some French.

In the following story, the FRENCH WORDS are IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

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Letter About French Cognates With Different But Suggestive Meanings

Dear Billy Bob,

Yesterday I thought I'd see what a French library was like.

But when I went into LA LIBRAIRIE, it turned out to be a bookstore!

So LIBRAIRIE in French is different from the English word it resembles (library) because it means bookstore, but somewhat similar in that both have to do with books.

This makes the French meaning easier to remember than if the French word meant something totally unrelated.

So this has made it easy for me to remember that UN LIBRAIRIE is not a library -- but it is a bookstore.

That’s close enough for me.

At LA LIBRAIRIE, I bought a book on FAUX AMIS, which is French for False Friends, meaning false cognates -- words which don't mean what you might think.

But some of them are close enough that it helps me remember what the French word means.

For example, LA CRAYON is a pencil!

You see what I mean -- it suggests what the French word means.

Here's a pair I like:

LA PRUNE is a plum!

And LA RAISIN is a grape!

Isn't that peculiar.

Here's another pair I like: LA FIGURE is your face, and LE FRONT is your forehead.

Do you think the French might be doing this just to play with our English-speaking minds?

Some other Helpful French Friends like this make a little more sense.

LE PLAN DE PARIS is a map rather than some sort of plan for rebuilding the city.

And LA CAVE is the word they use for a cellar, and a cellar sort of reminds me of a cave anyway.

You see what I mean.

L'ASSURANCE is insurance, which was reassuring when I rented UNE VOITURE (car) yesterday. The French say LE CAR, but it means intercity bus instead of car. LA DIRECTION (the steering) was loose and seemed DANGEREUSE when I got in LA CIRCULATION (traffic). So I returned my VOITURE and got another one.

There are some more French words that are easy to remember this way.

UN JOURNAL is a newspaper (À LA the Wall Street Journal).

LA SPECTACLE is a show, where they show you to your PLACE (seat).

The CAFÉ bill is called L'ADDITION -- which makes sense, in a French sort of way, when I watch the waiter add up the total.

Some things here in LA FRANCE seem like they were named out of an English thesaurus in order to find a bigger more impressive word than we use in English.

I took UN EXCURSION (trip) and we stopped to go on LA PROMENADE (a walk) over rough TERRAIN (ground) to see UN CASCADE (waterfall). Good thing I didn't have to carry MA VALISE (suitcase).

That night I had to stand in LA QUEUE (line) at LE CINÉMA to see UN FILM EN ANGLAIS (English).

Some of these loosely related words are suggestive in a humorous way. An English-speaking man who needs to buy a few clothes in France would need to look for UN COSTUME (man's suit) and LE SLIP (man's underpants). Fortunately for him the latter is pronounced "sleep".

The ATM bank machine asked for my CODE SECRET, which I assumed correctly is my PIN number.

If the French want to borrow English words, why can’t they get them right?

Wish me BON CHANCE (good luck). AU REVOIR, MON AMI. --- Candy

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FRENCH COGNATES WITH DIFFERENT BUT SUGGESTIVE MEANINGS

Here is a list of French words different in meaning from the English words they resemble, but similar enough to remember:

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

pencil -- le crayon -- [kray-YOHNG]

plum -- la prune -- [‘prune’]

grape -- le raisin -- [ray-SANG]

coffee -- le café -- [‘café’]

cookie -- le biscuit -- [bees-KWEE]

bacon -- le lard -- [lahr]

map -- le plan -- [plahng]

bus (intercity) -- le car -- [‘car’]

home -- le foyer -- [foy-YAY]

cellar -- la cave -- [kahv]

church (protestant) -- le temple -- [TAWNG-pluh]

forehead -- le front -- [frong]

face -- la figure -- [fee-GEWR]

seat -- la place -- [plahs]

railway coach -- le wagon -- [vah-GOHNG]

office -- le bureau -- [bew-ROH]

steering -- la direction -- [dee-rehk-see-OHNG]

traffic -- la circulation -- [seer-kew-lah-see-OHNG]

caution -- l'attention -- [aht-tehn-see-OHNG]

insurance -- l'assurance -- [ahs-sewr-RAHNS]

fall -- la chute -- [shoot]

show -- le spectacle -- [spehk-TAH-kl]

bill -- l’addition -- [ad-dee-see-OHNG]

picture -- l’image -- [ee-MAHZH]

sentence -- la phrase -- [frahz]

food poisoning -- l'intoxication -- [an-tok-see-kah-see-OHNG]

customer service -- le service clientèle -- [sehr-VEES klee-ahng-TEHL]

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laptop (comprter) -- portable -- [pohr-TAH-bl]

help (computer) -- aide -- [ehd]

go online -- connecter à Internet -- [koh-nehk-TAY ah ‘internet’]

hairband -- élastique -- [ay-lahs-TEEK]

crime film -- les policier -- [poh-lee-SYAY]

TV listings -- le programme télé -- [proh-GRAHM tay-LAY]

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Sometimes an adopted French word has become a synonym in English for the more common English word it means:

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

bruise -- la contusion -- [kohn-tew-see-OHNG]

ground -- le terrain -- [tehr-RAYNG]

journey -- le voyage -- [vwa-AHZH]

line (of people) -- la queue -- [kew]

meaning -- la signification -- [seeg-nee-fee-kah-see-OHNG]

movies -- le cinéma -- [see-nay-MAH]

newspaper -- le journal -- [zhoor-NAHL]

suitcase -- la valise -- [va-LEEZ]

walk -- la promenade -- [proh-meh-NAHD]

waterfall -- la cascade -- [kahs-KAHD]

trip -- l'excursion -- [eks-kewr-see-OHNG]

drinkable -- potable -- [poh-TAH-bl]

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SIGNS:

English -- French -- [Say]

CAUTION -- ATTENTION -- [aht-tehn-see-OHNG]

CARTS -- CHARIOTS -- [shahr-ee-OH]

LADIES TOILET -- DAMES -- [dahm]

SHOWER -- DOUCHE -- [doosh]

DIESEL FUEL -- GAS-OIL -- [gaz-OYL]

VEGETABLES -- LÉGUMES -- [leh-GOOM]

FOOD STORE -- SUPERETTE -- [soo-pehr-EHT]

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Sometimes a French word is of a different degree, perhaps more or less intense, than a similar word in English.

For example, the French word DEMANDER has a meaning less intense (ask), than the English synonym it sounds like.

In English a foyer is a lobby or entrance hall, but in French LE FOYER (“foy-YAY”) means home.

These differences could lead to misunderstanding.

For example, it would be a mistake to interpret the French LE SPECTACLE as a "spectacular" spectacle, rather than what it usually means in French, merely a show.

You might be surprised to find that some of the French words used in English may not have exactly the same meaning in France.

For example, entrée in English means main dish, but in French UN ENTRÉE is an appetizer, a first course that supplies an entrée (entrance) into the later courses.

Also, whereas menu in English means list of all dishes available at a restaurant, in French LE MENU (DU JOUR) “meh-NOO” is the meal of the day, a set combination of courses for one meal at a fixed overall price. For a list of all the dishes in a French restaurant, ask for LA CARTE (meaning menu), and order À LA CARTE.

The lists in this lesson contain only some of the identical cognates with different but suggestive meanings. There are many more such pairs, and some have the French word spelled only somewhat similar to a word in English.

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FRENCH COGNATES WITH DIFFERENT BUT SUGGESTIVE SPELLINGS

As mentioned above, some French cognates look similar to two different English words.

For example, ‘ton’ in French looks somewhat similar to at least two English words -- ‘ton’ and ‘tone’.

Your first impression might be to think the French‘ton’ means ‘ton’ in English. But the spelling ‘ton’ is also close enough to ‘tone’ to suggest the actual meaning and help you remember it: ‘tone’.

Sometimes a French cognate looks as if it has a different meaning from the English word it resembles because it has less letters (or more) and as a result looks like a different word:

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

cat -- le chat -- [shah]

tone -- le ton -- [tohng]

pine (tree) -- le pin -- [pang]

parts -- les parties -- [pahr-TEE]

one (i.e. person) -- on -- [ohng]

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Variation of Related Word

Sometimes a French cognate looks as if it has a somewhat different meaning from the English word it resembles because it has less letters (or more) and as a result looks like a related word:

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

exchange (money) -- le change -- [shahnzh]

quarter -- le quart -- [kahr]

dinner -- le dîner -- [dee-NAY]

departure -- le départ -- [day-PAHR]

caution -- le précaution -- [pray-koh-see-OHNG]

dine -- dîner -- [dee-NAY]

export (v) -- exporter -- [eks-pohr-TAY]

import (v) -- importer -- [ang-pohr-TAY]

facing -- face -- [fahs]

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FRENCH COGNATES MAY BE ONLY PARTIALLY HELPFUL

Some French cognates look similar to English words, but may seem to be used in a way that seems ungrammatical compared to English. This may be helpful to you, but only partially helpful.

For example, ‘amusez vous’ in French is similar to ‘amuse yourself’ in English, helping to suggest the actual English meaning ‘have a good time’. So this is yet another case where cognates can be helpful to you.

But also in this case, these cognates are less helpful because their direct translation into English is ungrammatical English, and therefore much harder to remember because it is an unfamiliar phrase in English, and therefore much harder to remember than grammatical combinations of words that you have heard repeatedly for many years in English.

But because ‘amusez vous’ in French is similar to ‘amuse yourself’ in English, it is close enough to help suggest the actual English meaning ‘have a good time’.

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Lesson Nine explains False Cognates that look alike but have different meanings (but do not suggest the correct meanings).




NEXT EASY FRENCH -- LESSON 9 -- FALSE COGNATES Have Different Meanings



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