The French use many English words or anglicisms. This article focuses on misused English words in French as well as English words used in a rather unexpected way for English-speakers.
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Misused English words in French
The French use many pseudo-anglicisms, which are English words with a totally different meaning in French. As an English-speaker, it’s useful to learn these erroneous anglicisms because French people will assume you understand them. Don’t you speak English? 🙂
- un drive
- to place an order for pick-up
J’ai fait un Drive à Intermarché.
I placed an order for pick-up at Intermarché.
- un flipper
- pinball machine
J’ai joué au flipper pendant toute mon adolescence.
I used to play pinball in my teenage years.
- un footing
Il fait un footing tous les matins.
He’s jogging every morning.
- un jogging
- running pants
J’enfile un jogging et j’arrive !
I’m putting on running pants and I’ll be right there!
- un lifting
- face lift
Elle s’est fait faire un lifting.
She had a face lift.
- du playback
On voit qu’il fait du playback.
You can tell he’s lip-syncing.
- un pressing
- dry cleaner
J’ai emmené ma robe au pressing.
I took my dress to the dry cleaner.
- un pull (short for pullover)
Est-ce que tu as pris un pull ?
Did you pack a sweater?
- to give a makeover
J’ai complètement relooké mon salon.
I gave my living room a complete makeover.
- en mode roots
- down-to-earth, basic, rudimentary or minimalist
Ils sont partis en mode roots l’été dernier.
They went on a minimalist camping trip last summer.
- de standing
- high quality
Il vit dans un appartement de standing.
He lives in a high quality condo.
- un string
Il y a peu de femmes en string sur la plage.
Few women are wearing g-strings on the beach.
When the adjective becomes the noun in French
In many occasions, French only keep the first word of an English nominal group, which often happens to be the adjective in English. The noun is unfortunately dropped in these misused English words in French.
- des baskets
- sneakers or basketball shoes
J’ai acheté une paire de baskets.
I bought a pair of sneakers.
- un dressing
- walk-in closet or dressing room
Il y a un dressing à côté de la chambre.
There’s a walk-in closet next to the bedroom.
- un fake
- fake news, fake account..anything that is not legit or real
Elle a utilisé un fake pour le contacter.
She used a fake account to contact him.
- du scotch
- scotch tape
J’ai réparé le trou avec du scotch.
I fixed the hole with scotch tape.
- un slow
- slow dance
Elle n’aime pas les slows.
she doesn’t like slow dances.
- un smoking
- tuxedo or smoking jacket
Les témoins du mariage étaient en smoking.
the wedding witnesses wore tuxedos.
- un sweat
J’aime bien son sweat rouge.
I like his red sweater.
Sweat in French is pronounced like sweet.
- des tennis
- tennis shoes
Mes tennis ne sont pas imperméables.
My tennis shoes are not waterproof.
Made-up English-sounding words
Some French words look and sound English but they actually don’t exist in English. Check out these fake English words.
- un baby-foot
- foosball table
On a joué au baby-foot chez Jim.
We played foosball at Jim’s.
- du shampoing or shampooing
Tu as amené du shampooing ?
Did you bring shampoo?
Les compagnies aériennes pratiquent le surbooking.
Plane companies overbook flights.
- un talkie-walkie
Le talkie-walkie a été inventé en 1935.
Walkie-talkies were invented in 1935.
Misleading American words for food
American names used incorrectly can be misleading and highly disappointing when it comes to food. Tacos is probably one of the most disappointing misused English word in French (to me, anyway).
- des potatoes
- potato wedges
French potatoes, which are actually potato wedges, have become quite common on French menus in the past years.
- un tacos (singular form has an “s”)
- A French tacos is some sort of burrito loaded with meat (kebab, chicken cordon bleu, lamb, turkey ham, chicken nuggets, moroccan sausages…you name it!), cheese, French fries and a lot of cheese sauce. Tacos are very popular amongst teenagers and young adults in France.
If you’re from California and you’re missing tacos, don’t rush to get tacos in France as they are not your beloved Mexican-style tacos.
French tacos or tacos de Lyon are the latest novelty in a trend of kebabs and American sandwiches.
- Tex-Mex restaurants
- When you feel like Tex-Mex food, check out the items on the menu before going to a Tex-Mex restaurant in France. It seems that the French label a lot of things as Tex-Mex and you can find any of these items on a Tex-Mex menu: hot dogs, chicken nuggets, chicken wings, onion rings, mozzarella sticks…
Anglicisms with a French pronunciation
If you think that you can pronounce an English word the English way when you’re in France, think again. Here is a list of words that the French have adopted from the English language but that you probably should learn to pronounce
incorrectly the French way.
- un bifteck
- steak (beefsteak)
Bifteck is pronounced beef-tech.
- un brownie
Brownie in French is pronounced broo-nee.
- du catering
Catering in French is pronounced kat-ring, almost like the French first name Catherine.
- un clown
Clown is pronounced cloon in French.
- un cow-boy
Cowboy in French is pronounced co-boy.
- un cutter
- box cutter
Cutter in French is pronounced like the succession of two French words “cul” “terre” (“ass” “earth”).
- un chewing-gum
- chewing gum
Chewing-gum in French is pronounced chwing-gom.
- un burn-out or burn out
Burnout in French is pronounced burn-a-oot.
- un magnet
Magnet in French is pronounced ma-niet.
- un smoothie
Smoothie in French is pronounced smoo-ssee.
- Nike and Reebok
- Nike and Reebok
Brand names get their own pronunciation as well in French.
- un thug
Thug in French is pronounced tug.
“Frenchified” English verbs
The following English terms are not per se misused in French but they’ve been “Frenchified” to the point that you can conjugate English verbs as if they were regular French verbs.
- to boost
Je bois du café le matin pour me booster.
Coffee in the morning gives me the energy boost I need.
- to brainstorm
Nous avons brainstormé toute la soirée.
We brainstormed the whole evening.
- to check
Tu peux checker tes emails ?
Can you check your emails?
- to customize
Il a customisé sa voiture.
He customized his car.
- (se) fighter
- to fight
Ils se sont fightés devant toute la classe.
They fought in front of the whole class.
- to like (a video or any online content)
J’ai liké sa vidéo sur YouTube.
I liked her video on YouTube.
- (se) speeder
- to speed up
Je dois me speeder pour ne pas être en retard.
I should speed up not to be late.
- to spoil (a movie)
Il m’a spoilé le dernier épisode de la série.
He spoiled the series finale.
Now that you learned a few misused English words in French, how about getting familiar with some English-French false friends?