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French language: Are these the most annoying words?
Photo: John.Hallam/Flickr

French language: Are these the most annoying words?

Oliver Gee · 19 Feb 2016, 17:23

Published: 19 Feb 2016 16:25 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Feb 2016 17:23 GMT+01:00

Some are hard to say, some are hard to spell, and some are hard to understand... while some have multiple meanings.
 
Here are some of the most annoying words in French.
 
Plus
 
What a tricky little word. Depending on how you pronounce it, it can mean two opposite things - either "more" or "none".
 
Eg: Il y en a plus (pronouncing the 's') means there is more. Il n'y en a plus ('s' silent) means there isn't any left.
 
Photo:CollegeDegrees360/Flickr
 
Personne
 
This also has two opposite meanings: no one and someone.
 
French language expert Camille Chevalier Karfis spells it out:
 
Il y a une personne dans le café means "There is one person in the coffee shop".
Il n'y a personne dans le café means "There is no one in the coffee shop".

Easy, right?
 

Photo: LaVladina/Flickr
 
Cuillère
 
The humble spoon, when written in French, is close to impossible to remember how to spell. Take a look at it... cuillère. Vowels, double 'l' in the middle, the grave accent on the 'e'... If you're looking at it and saying "that was easy" then we salute you.
 

Photo: Alessandro Valli/Flickr
 
Bien/bon
 
The words for "good" and "well" can be tricky to master, but in short, bon is usually an adjective to go with a noun while bien is usually an adverb to go with a verb. 
 
"This can be challenging for Americans who tend to say "I am doing good," when they should say "I am doing well," says Veronique Savoye, better known as French Girl in Seattle.
 
Eg: Comment allez-vous? Je vais bien, merci. (I am doing well thank you.) 
 
Comment sont les frites? (How are the fries?) Elles sont très bonnes. (They are really good.) 
 
Photo: KidItamae/Flickr
 
The one never to use, especially when referring to a girl, in response to "How is she?" "Comment va-t-elle?"
 
Avoid "Elle est bonne" at all costs. You would be referring to her skills in a specific area that involves lying down. Do not say "Elle est bien" either. What you want is "Elle va bien."
 
Plutôt or plus tôt?
 
Don't worry, the French even seem to struggle with this one (according to the number of Google results that come up in French when searching for this - over 200,000 for the record).
 
Essentially, the two are homonyms - they sound the same, but are spelled differently and mean different things. Plutôt = rather and plus tôt = earlier
 
Serrurerie
 
You've probably seen this word before around French cities - it means locksmith's (the place where a locksmith works). But how on earth do you pronounce it? This word topped out list of most unpronounceable French words last year, and hence deserves a mention among the most annoying French words. 
 
 
Asseoir
 
The verb "to sit" or "to be seated" is probably the most annoying verb in the French language. For starters, not only is it irregular, but it has two entirely different conjugation forms (one for assoir and the other for asseoir) - and it only gets more complicated from there. 
 
Photo: Umberto Salvagnin/Flickr
 
We recommend you only learn how to say "Sit down" and "Can I sit here" and then fake the rest. If you're a stickler for the right way to say it, here is a taste of ONE of the conjugations (and this is only for the main tenses). The rest are here. 
 

 
 
Story continues below…
C'est/s'est/ses/ces/sais/sait
 
Believe it or not, all the words above are pronounced more or less the same - similarly to "say" in English. The definitions of the words are many, and range from "it is" to "to know". 
 
Beginners to the French language will learn quickly that nothing will really help here except context. 
 
 
Un Hôte, une hôtesse
 
This word means both guest and host (in masculine and feminine forms respectively). And when you're learning French, it's bound to come up and catch you out when you're least aware. 
 
Fingers crossed a little slip up doesn't see you agreeing to host a dinner party when you thought you were only going to be a guest. 
 
Apprendre
 
And lastly, here's one that catches out both the French and the English. Apprendre means both "to teach" and "to learn". Exact opposites!
 
While it might sound plain wrong for some of us foreigners to use this word initially in some contexts, spare a thought for the poor French people who have been known to say things like "I will learn you French". 
 

Photo: Tulane Public Relations/Flickr
 
What words have YOU found the most annoying in French? 

Your comments about this article

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