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March 4, 2015

The French adjective social has three basic meanings, two of which are fairly obvious to English speakers and one of which is not.


First of all, social can of course mean "social", in the sense of "relating to society" (la société). So mobilité sociale is "social...

March 2, 2015

There are so many countries whose names can be translated from English to French by changing the IA ending to IE that it would be reasonable to assume that they all work this way:


Albania = l'Albanie

Algeria = l'Algérie

Armenia = l'Arménie

Australia = l'Australie


February 28, 2015


Two of the very first things that you learn in French class are the indefinite article (un, une) and the numbers (un, deux, trois).


In un and une the indefinite article and the number one overlap. This pair of words can mean either "a" or "one." Une personne  can be e...

February 28, 2015

Infinitives, which consist of "to" plus a verb in English but are a single word in French, are one of the first things that French students learn. To take examples of the three regular conjugations that are part of every beginning French class, aimer is "to like" or "t...

February 25, 2015

Although English apparently borrowed the word "brouhaha" from the French, which in turn took it from the Hebrew "baruch habba" (the beginning of the phrase "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" in Psalm 118:26), the two words are used differently in English...

February 24, 2015

Because word order in French is generally similar to word order in English, learners of French are only told about the one main case where it clearly differs, namely that adjectives generally follow the noun they modify in French, while in English the rule is just the...

February 17, 2015

Students of French spend a long time learning when to use the passé composé and the imparfait because the distinction between these two aspects is not made in English (at least not in the same way).


What they don't learn is a way of expressing the past, particularl...

February 14, 2015

In French class, students learn that the present tense in French can be translated in three ways in English. For example, je vais means I go, I do go, and I am going.  That is complicated in and of itself. But the present tense in French can actually be used in at leas...

February 13, 2015

Two legal terms that are often mistranslated into the Romance languages are "comparative law" and "derivative work."


Comparative law is obviously the study and comparison of the legal systems in different countries. In the Romance languages, its name would translate li...

February 11, 2015

One of the first irregular verbs that French students learn is pouvoir, which means "to be able." Thus, je peux means "I can" or "I am able", nous pouvons means "we can" or "we are able," and so on. Nous pourrions means "we could."


What they don't learn is that a commo...

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