Reading French Words in English Sentences is the very easiest way to begin to read French.
The following paragraphs in English have 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.
1. Some of these French words you may not know,
2. But many are similar to English words,
3. And others are ones you may have seen used in English.
In English there are words and phrases that are still obviously French, but used enough in English that you may have heard them and may know what they mean.
English has borrowed words from French and many other languages over 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 words have come into the language recently enough that they still seem foreign to native speakers. Usually these words borrowed recently have retained their French pronunciation, spelling, and some accent marks.
Or some of these borrowed words still have elements in their spelling or pronunciation that do not fit into the usual pattern of the native language.
For example, 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 like a borrowed foreign word. (Unlike other French words whose pronunciation has been anglicized like Paris, which in France is pronounced "pah-REE")
For these French words you may already know, 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 word.
The following paragraphs in English that have a few French words mixed in were written by someone taking a first trip to France -- and discovering that many French words are similar to English words.
In the following paragraphs, the WORDS IN CAPITAL LETTERS are either some French words similar to English words, or some that you may have seen used in English or other French words you may not know.
1. A STORY IN ENGLISH WITH IMPORTED FRENCH WORDS
A Taste of France in America
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!
2. LETTER ABOUT DISCOVERING FRENCH WORDS SIMILAR TO ENGLISH
Dear Billy Bob,
Well, here I am in LA FRANCE, after dreaming about it for so long.
What surprises me is how many words in French are spelled exactly like English words. I wonder why? Except the French usually stick a "LE" or "LA" or "UN" or some such word in front of these look-alikes. (Or if the look-alike word starts with a vowel, they hook an L' onto the start of it.) Maybe the French do it so we tourists won't get these French look-alike words confused with the look-alike English words.
I'll give you some examples. I picked up the French newspaper LE MONDE in Paris, and was amazed to see so many English-looking words in it. One article had so many that I could almost read it -- even though, as you know, I never studied French before. It was UN SURPRISE to me.
The newspaper article, as far as I could make out from the look-alike words, was about SIX thieves who escaped from LA PRISON. The ringleader apparently was UN CHAUFFEUR with an UN ACCENT who smokes LA PIPE. They stole an UN AMBULANCE from LE GARAGE, then stole some ART RARE AND FRAGILE worth UN MILLION from some PRINCE.
Then the thieves went in DIRECTIONS DIFFÉRENT. LE CHAUFFEUR with L'ACCENT was spotted having UNE CONVERSATION in UN BAR with a CHIC BLONDE girl wearing UN BRACELET and smoking UNE CIGARETTE. They were also spotted when they stopped for gasoline at UN STATION SERVICE, and at UN CONCERT and UN FILM, and reportedly they played LE GOLF and LE TENNIS.
LA POLICE had UNE PHOTO of a POSSIBLE suspect, and asked him some QUESTIONS. Then the POLICE got UN MESSAGE URGENT to go to LE PORT in UN VILLAGE. There had been an ACCIDENT TERRIBLE, TRES HORRIBLE, involving L'AMBULANCE.
The last part of the article I couldn't quite understand. Apparently LE CHAUFFEUR hid in LE ZOO, and was chased by UN LION up onto LE MONUMENT IMMENSE with LA STATUE and LA SCULPTURE of UN PIANO MINIATURE, where he got UN SURPRISE from UN PIGEON, and then signed his SIGNATURE as LE SOUVENIR. Very BIZARRE and REGRETTABLE.
AU REVOIR, MON CHER. All my love, Candy
3. LETTER ABOUT ACCENT MARKS IN FRENCH
Dear Billy Bob,
Bonjour from LA FRANCE. I have L’EXCELLENT HÔTEL.
I've been seeing something peculiar. French has a lot of foreign-looking accent marks.
Some of the French words spelled like English words have accent marks on one or two of the letters, usually over the vowels.
It made me understand something about English that always puzzled me -- why a few words in English have an accent mark when the vast majority do not.
And some English words that have accent marks only sometimes. I've been seeing their French relatives over here where they always come with accent marks.
And I've been reading more French, because I found a special student publication which prints stories with a lot of cognates so English-speakers can understand the stories and learn French more easily.
For example, one story was about UNE DIVORCÉE who was LA FIANCÉE of UN MAÎTRE D' with ÉLAN .
He in turn was UN ROUÉ BLASÉ (playboy), and LE PROTÉGÉ of an ATTACHÉ.
LE ATTACHÉ sent UN COMMUNIQUÉ warning LA DIVORCÉE that LE RÉSUMÉ of his PROTÉGÉ included seeing an INGÉNUE NAÏVE (innocent young girl) of the CRÈME DE LA CRÈME, who was into LE MACRAMÉ and LE PIQUÉ. Quite UN MÉLANGE (mixture). TRÈS RISQUÉ.
They met APRÈS-SKI for UN TÊTE-À-TÊTE (intimate conversation) in UN CAFÉ where he was UN HABITUÉ. They had UN APÉRITIF with LE CONSOMMÉ (clear broth), UN PATÉ, UN CRÊPE, LE RAGOÛT (stew), and UN SAUTÉ with LE SAUCE BÉARNAISE and BÉCHAMEL. With some ROSÉ wine.
Later at LA SOIRÉE at UN DISCOTHÈQUE, there was UN MELÉE, and LA DIVORCÉE wound up DÉCOLLETÉ.
It was DÈJA VU all over again for LA DIVORCÉE -- she saw through LE FAÇADE of her FIANCÉ, who was soon PASSÉ.
Billy Bob, I swear the French seem to just sprinkle accent marks all over their writing. I'm sure glad we don't have to use so many accent marks in English.
A TOUT À L'HEURE (see you later), MON CHER. Love, Candy
4. LETTER ABOUT DIFFERENT SPELLINGS IN FRENCH
MON CHER Billy Bob,
This is my fifth day in Paris, and JE T'AIME! (I love it!).
I like being UN TOURISTE over here. Note the extra -e at the end of tourist -- it's like in English we call a great artist an ARTISTE, and pronounce it “ahr-TEEST” like the French do. It seems the French not only add accent marks freely, they also add extra letters to the ends of some English-looking words -- often adding -e.
So yesterday I went for UN VISITE RAPIDE to LA CATHÉDRALE, my SECONDE one. But PAS DE PROBLÈME (no problem).
Afterwards I ate LA SOUPE ET LA SALADE ET LE CRABE. ÇA VA (I like it.)
Except seemingly everyone smokes BEAUCOUP DES CIGARETTES in LES RESTAURANTS here, and a man drove me out with the smoke and odor from his CIGARE. CE NE VA PAS (I don't like it.)
Not only does French add letters to some English-looking words -- it also leaves off letters at the ends of others.
For example, LE CLIMAT (climate) seems to have affected MON APPÉTIT -- I'm hungry all the time.
I had UN DESIR (desire) for LE CHOCOLAT. The salesgirl said BON APPÉTIT and put it in UN SAC.
Then back at L'HÔTEL on my BALCON (balcony), I found UN ROC (rock) and UN BAL (ball). I felt FATIGUÉ (fatigued). I have SUCCES (success) -- I feel I am in PARADIS (paradise).
So French adds some letters and leaves off some letters, and it also changes the spelling at the ends of other English-looking words.
Like earlier today I saw some historical sites of great L'ANTIQUITÉ and LA BEAUTÉ that arroused MA CURIOSITÉ.
This evening in LE BAR DANS L'HÔTEL, I met UN DOCTEUR, ET UN PROFESSEUR, ET UN ACTEUR.
Later I went to UN PHARMACIE, then I went to UN PARTIE. At night the streets by L'UNIVERSITÉ were full of LA GAIETÉ ET LA FRIVOLITÉ.
BON NUIT (good night), MON CHER. Love, Candy
5. ABOUT FRENCH WORDS 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 LIBRARIE, it turned out to be a bookstore!
So LIBRARIE 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 LIBRARIE is a bookstore.
That was close enough for me.
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 PRUNE is a plum!
And LA RAISIN is a grape!
Isn't that peculiar.
And LA CRAYON is a pencil!
You see what I mean -- it suggests what the French word means.
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
6. LETTER ABOUT FALSE COGNATES IN FRENCH
Dear Billy Bob,
After I was here in France I began to realize that some of the words that look related to English do not have the same meaning in French as English.
First of all, I was mistaken about some of the signs. I saw the sign TRAITEUR on several buildings and thought -- gee --they label the houses of traitors even though WW II ended fifty years ago --until I found out that LE TRAITEUR means delicatessen in French. I kept seeing signs GRAND MAGASIN -- which I thought was an important magazine, until I asked for it at the newsstand -- and was told it means department store.
Another sign I saw on stores is SOLDES, which I assumed was like a SOLD label on a FOR SALE sign in real estate -- until I found out it means the business was merely having a sale with reduced prices and with the occasional L'OCCASION, which means bargain in French. Actually, the French word SALE means dirty.
Another mistaken assumption I made was about the signs DÉFENSE DE FUMER. Well, I had found out that the French word FUMER means to smoke cigarettes. So I assumed the sign was for some pro-smoking rally to fight back against the few non-smoking sections in French restaurants, which should really be labeled second-hand smoking sections since almost everyone seems to smoke here. But actually DÉFENSE DE FUMER means just the opposite -- NO SMOKING.
The first hotel I checked into had a sign AVEC DOUCHE, and I thought -- well, I've always heard about the French bidet's in bathrooms that are used for a douche, so I might as well try one. Then when I got to my room, I found out the sign DOUCHE really means SHOWER. How embarrassing.
Another somewhat embarrassing thing -- at first I kept passing by signs that said LES CABINETS, until I realized they are the men's and women's toilets -- just what I was looking for.
I still keep trying to read some newspaper stories, with the help of all the words that look like English. One story seemed to be about Mars, until I figured that MARS also means the month of March. I thought PERSONNE simply meant person, until I found out it also means nobody.
I've also stumbled over other words that have different meanings than they appear to, until I asked someone. For example, LE PAIN is bread. LE COIN means corner. LE SON is sound. LE DENT means tooth. LE VENT is wind. LES HABITS are clothes. L'HAÏR is hatred. L'ETIQUETTE means label. L'INTOXICATION is food poisoning. LE CHAMP means field. LA PAROLE is talk.
And at first I thought the French people were very demanding, until I found out the French verb DEMANDER simply means to ask, not to demand.
And some of the French names for places can be confusing. A cellar in French is called UN CAVE. And a pantry they call L'OFFICE. NICE is a city in France.
I’ve found at least one French word that means what it appears to but also means something else too. Yesterday I was on UN TOUR of UN CHATEAU when I saw a sign that said LE TOUR, because it means tour but also means tower.
I am taking some French lessons to learn how to talk French. MON PROFESSEUR is Pierre, and he is giving me lessons in UN CAFÉ. He is teaching me some tricks to learn French faster.
I’m also beginning to realize that some of the words that sound related to English do not have the same meaning in French as English.
For example, the word meaning yes in French (OUI) is pronounced like the English word: “we”.
And the word meaning ‘no’ in French is spelled like the English word ‘non’, but it is pronounced more like a different English word: “known”.
Some of their French numbers sound like other words in English. If you say "sank - cease - set - wheat" in English, it is almost the same as saying the French numbers for 5,6,7,8.
Or if you say some names in English to a Frenchman, he hears a French word.
For example, "Barb" sounds like beard in French (LA BARBE).
"Len" sounds like wool in French (LE LAINE).
"Kay" sounds like the French word for pier (LE QUAI).
And in French, "Sol" is dirty (SALE), and
"Mort" is dead (MORTE)!
That's the name for the sound of each "Moe", that is to say, word (LE MOT).
LE FIN -- the end. Regards, Candice
7. LETTER ABOUT THE SOUNDS OF FRENCH
Dear Billy Bob,
When I got to Paris, I heard some words that sounded somewhat familiar, and I could understand some of them. Listening to anyone babble away in French, every now and the an English-sounding word jumps out at me.
The easiest to understand when I heard them were all the English words they obviously borrowed from us that they still pronounce like we do in English, more or less.
For example, LE HAMBURGER, LE HOT DOG, LE SANDWICH, LE FAST FOOD, LE T-SHIRT, LE HIGH TECH, and O.K. Also LE CAMPING, LE PARKING, and LE JOGGING.
The French pronounce some borrowed words a little differently than we do.
Instead of saying "hello" on the phone, they say ALLO ("ah-loh"), because the letter H is silent in French.
Another group of words I heard and could understand are the French words we use in English,
Especially French restaurant words, like HORS-D'OEUVRES and ESCARGOT and CUISINE and CHEF and CROISSANT.
And some of those words that end in -que that sounds like -k, like BOUTIQUE, TECHNIQUE, MYSTIQUE, and OBLIQUE.
And some of those words that end with an -ay sound, like LINGERIE, BALLET, FILET, CAFÉ, ROSÉ, and FIANCÉ.
Then I was surprised to hear a group of words I always thought were English and never suspected were French also, like LE TOAST, LA POLICE, and LE MACHINE.
I don't know why the French bother with writing consonants on the ends of words, because in speaking they just drop them off. They don't pronounce the ends of many words.
In English the pronunciation of Paris is "PAR-is" – but here in France it’s pronounced "pah-REE" -- where the final -s is NOT pronounced.
Now I must admit that I have heard ‘Paris’ pronounced in the French way in several American movies about France, but it never fully registered that this is the correct French way to pronounce Paris, and just how different it is from the American way of saying Paris: in French the letter –a- is pronounced differently, the letter –i- is pronounced differently, and the letter –s- is not pronounced at all!
Some of the final consonants the French seem to have an aversion for are -s, -t, and -x., among others.
For example, the French don't pronounce the final -s in LE TOUS (every / both), the final -t in LE TOUT (all / everything), or the final -x in LE TOUX (cough) --with the result that all three words are pronounced the same -- "too". (Of course, we do something a little similar with the words too, two, and to, all of which we pronounce "too", also.)
As a result, some of those French words with dropped endings sound like totally different English words, that end in a vowel.
So in French NOS (our) sounds like the English word "no".
The French word TOT (early) sounds like "toe" in English, as does TAUX (rate).
If you say the English word "foe", the French hear FAUX (which means false).
If you say "day" in English, the French hear DES (which means some).
In French both MES (my) and MAIS (but) sound like "may" in English, as does the French MAI (meaning the month of May).
The French sometimes drop only the last of two end consonants.
For example, LE NORD (north) is pronounced like "nor" in English.
LE PORC (pork) is pronounced like "pour" in English.
And TARD (late) is pronounced like "tar" in English.
So that’s how some things sound over here in France.
Your friend, Candy
8. LETTER ABOUT EASY NEW FOREIGN WORDS -- ON SIGNS ETC.
Dear Billy Bob,
After being here in France for nine days, I realize that some totally foreign French words are easier to learn than others. Besides all the French words similar to English that I have written to you about, I have been seeing and hearing some foreign words so often in familiar situations that my mind has begun to remember them automatically, without even trying.
For example, restaurants and boutiques hang a sign FERMÉ that is like the CLOSED signs back home. The OPEN for business sign is OUVERTE.
Also many doors are labelled POUSSEZ (PUSH) or TIREZ (PULL).
If a hôtel has NO VACANCY, it hangs out the sign COMPLET. The VACANCY sign is CHAMBRE À LOUER.
Water faucets are either CHAUD (HOT) or FROID (COLD).
When I go to pay in a restaurant I look for the sign CAISSE (CASHIER).
We’re already familiar with the ideas represented by these French signs, and the situations in which they occur. So when I see these words on signs in France, it’s easy for me to figure out what they mean. Also, I see them repeatedly, so these new French words are rapidly becoming familiar to me.
Along with all these foreign signs I see everywhere over here, I’ve been hearing certain French words so often that they no longer seem so alien. Also, I can usually understand what they mean because they occur in situations analogous to familiar ones I’ve been used to all my life.
For example, everyone says BONJOUR all the time whenever I go into a restaurant or store. And they address me as MADMOISELLE (Miss), and each other as MADAME or MONSIEUR (Mister).
I’ve learned to say JE M’APPELLE Candy (my name is Candy). Or for a little joke I say JE M’APPELLE BONBON (candy), which they don’t get sometimes.
After I meet someone they say ENCHANTÉ (pleased to meet you), and when I leave its AU REVOIR (goodbye) and À BIENTOT (see you later).
And they are always asking their friends CA VA? (how are you?), to which they answer CA VA BIEN (I’m fine).
I’m always saying please (S’IL VOUS PLAIT) and MERCIE (thanks), and NON, MERCIE (no thank you).
Since I’m always trying to find my way around as a tourist, one of the first phrases I picked up was OU EST…? (where is this or that?)
OU EST LA BANQUE? OU EST LA CHANGE? (money exchange counter).
OU EST L’OFFICE DU TOURISME? OU EST LA GARE? (train station).
And of course, OU SONT LES TOILETTES? (which they also call LAVABOS or W.C.)
I’ve also had to quickly learn which way is which, so I can understand the directions they give me. There is LÀ. To the right is À DROIT, and to the left is À GAUCHE, and straight ahead is TOUTE DROIT. Near is PRÈS, and far is LOIN. And ET VOILÀ (here it is).
After I found my way to LA BANQUE, I started paying for things and quickly learned to ask How much is it? (COMBIEN?) and check please (L’ADDITION, S’IL VOUS PLÂIT.).
And how to count to ten in French: UN, DEUX, TROIS, QUATRE, CINQ, and my friend SIX, then SEPT, HUIT NEUF, DIX.
MAINTENANT (now) I must say BON NUIT (good-night) because BIENTÔT (soon) it will be LE MATIN (morning) and PLUS TARD (later) tomorrow (DEMAIN) I need to be à L’HEURE (on time) for LE TOUR DE CATHÈDRALE NOTRE DAME.
Best wishes, Candice
9. DEAR JOHN LETTER FROM FRANCE -- NEXT STEPS
Dear Billy Bob,
Sadly my ten day vacation is drawing to a close – I’ll be home in a few days.
I’ve fallen in love with LA FRANCE, with the beautiful French language, and a Frenchman, Pierre MON PROFESSEUR of French. You probably think I’m kidding about that last one, but you did say you felt you could never marry me. Right now Mrs. Pierre sounds better than Mrs. Billy Bob.
My plan is to quit my job at the candy factory, because I’ve been offered a job here in Paris at a PATISSERIE (pastry shop) owned by my PROFESSEUR Pierre’s family. They think it’s funny that a girl named Candy makes candy.
Now I know I can read some French because of all the words that look like English. I’ve also worn my phrase book to shreds.
I’m ready and motivated to take a course in French to learn the language. I’ve read that a full-time intensive language course like the kind for diplomats takes 25 weeks or about six months, which is only half as long as other languages that don’t have many look-alike words. My plan is to take a French course at the Community College before I move to France.
They say living in a foreign country is the best way to really learn a language – by being immersed in it every day with a real need to communicate in that language. I can’t wait to get back here to Paris! I told you that you should have come with me, but C'EST LA VIE.
After Easiest Languages, a good next step is the French in Ten Minutes a Day foreign language instruction books, containing some paragraphs in English that have a few French words mixed in.