If You Speak English, You Already Know Some French

Are you afraid that learning French will be hard?

Au contraire, mon frère!

You know more French then you think simply because you speak English.

I would wager you knew what au contraire! meant.

You thought on the contrary, right?

According to many sources, approximately 40 – 50% of all English words have a French origin.

The hardest part isn’t so much the words, but the pronunciation. (I’ll teach you a few tricks in a later post).

This site has a list of the mostly commonly used words that are of French origin that we use in English. Check it out!

Following are a handful of my favorites:

  • À la (…)                       In the manner of/in the style of (…)
  • Blasé                            Unimpressed with something because of overfamiliarity, jaded
  • Carte blanche            Unlimited authority; literally “white card” (i.e. blank cheque)
  • Crème de la crème    Best of the best, “cream of the cream,” used to describe highly skilled people or objets. A synonymous expression in French is “fin du fin”
  • Debacle                       An event or enterprise that ends suddenly and disastrous or humiliating consequences.
  • Déjà vu                        “Already seen”: an impression or illusion of having seen or                                                     experienced something before.
  • En route                      On the way
  • Façade                         The front view of an edifice (from the Italian facciata, or face); a fake persona, as in “putting on a façade” (the ç is pronounced like an s)
  • Fait accompli               Literally – accomplished fact; something that has already happened and is thus unlikely to be reversed, a done deal
  • Faux pas                      “False step”: violation of accepted, although unwritten, social rules
  • Gaffe                             Blunder
  • Gauche                         Tactless, does not mean “left-handed” (which translates in French as  “gaucher”), but does mean “left”
  • Haute cuisine              Upmarket gastronomy; literally “high cooking.”
  • Joie de vivre                “Joy of life/living”
  • Laissez-faire               “Let do”; often used within the context of economic policy or political                                          philosophy, meaning leaving alone, or non-interference
  • Panache                         Verve; flamboyance
  • Raison d’être                “Reason for being”: justification or purpose of existence
  • Reconnaissance            Scouting
  • Savoir-faire                  Literally “know how to do”; to respond appropriately to any situation
  • Tête-à-tête                 “Head to head”; an intimate get-together or private conversation  between two people
  • Touché                         Acknowledgment of an effective counterpoint; literally “touched” or “hit!”
  • Voilà!                           Literally “see there”; in French it can mean simply “there it is”; in English it is generally restricted to a triumphant revelation

What’s your favorite one to use?


Miss Madame




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