The English of French People


Being located in an English speaking city that is also a popular tourist destination, you just have to walk through the streets of Dublin city centre to hear all sorts of “pidgin” English – that is various tourists and international students speaking to each other in a blend of English words with syntactic constructions based on other languages – given our proximity to mainland Europe, these are often based on Latin constructions.  It’s not hard to see why this happens, as many translators consider English the most Latin of the Germanic languages, and according to the famous French linguist Henriette Walter, 60% of the English words come from French or Latin. However, even if the languages have common roots, they are definitely not the same and when a native English speaker has to translate something into French – and vice-versa – he cannot keep the meaning of the text with a word-by-word translation.

English syntax differs from Latin languages in many ways; and in this article we take a look at the differences between French and English to give some translation tips based on common mistakes between speakers of these two languages.

Differences between French and English:

French   English Samples
Present Participle VS When / As

As he went off, he turned round to… En s'éloignant, il se retourna pour…

When he heard the news, he left. En attendant la nouvelle, il partit.

Past participle  VS Auxiliary + past participle


Having arrived in Paris, he… Arrivé à Paris


Negative form of the verb VS Noun

I have no water : je n’ai pas d’eau

Negative VS Positive

An excessive use of : un emploi immodéré de

Qui/Que VS Nothing

The man (that) I saw : L'homme que j'ai vu

Common mistakes made by French people in English :

  • From the French “prendre une decision”, many French people say “to take a decision” instead of “to make a decision” when speaking English.
  • From the French “prendre une douche”, many French people say “to take a shower” instead of “to have a shower”.
  • Coming from the French “hier soir”, many French people say “yesterday night” instead of “last night”. 
  • French speakers of English often put an "s" on words like "information" or "software". In English these nouns are never plural, they never have an "s" and they never take a plural verb. For instance, “all the information is relevant”, “this software is really efficient” or “these pieces of software are really efficient”. This is confusing for a French person as French has a plural form for these words: “des logiciels”, “des informations”.
  • French speakers of English often use the word "plan" for "map" in English as “plan” in French means “map”.  French people tend to say the “plan of the city” instead of “the map of the city”.
  • Also, French people who start learning English usually say “I’m agree” instead of “I agree” as French uses the auxiliary “être”: “Je suis d’accord”.

French people’s pronunciation of English can also sometimes lead to funny misunderstandings when, for instance they pronounce a short vowel instead of a long one such as “sheep” and “ship”, and “leave” and “live”. “Now” does not have the same pronunciation as “no” and “put” does not sound like “but”, still this is the case for most of the French people.

These are just a few common pronunciation mistakes that make French people easy to recognise!

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