Dette and debt: a critical difference

October 6, 2015

In English the term "debt" is used to mean an amount owed by someone or owed to someone. A company's "debts" are the amounts it owes, but the company can refer to its uncollectibles (money owed to it) as "bad debt."

 

In French, on the other hand, dette is always a liability (an amount that you owe to someone else), and the opposite of dette is créance, meaning is an amount that someone else owes to you, i.e., a "claim," and therefore an "asset." But créance douteuse can be translated as "bad debt" (for the reason explained above).

 

Since the word dette can be translated both as "debt" and as "liability" French sometimes refers to dette financière,  which specifically means "debt" (as opposed to "liability"). Dette financière can therefore be translated simply as "debt" (not "financial debt").

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