More English words sneak into French

France's two main dictionaries have revealed some of the new words that are set to grace their 2016 editions - and plenty of them come from English.

More English words sneak into French
A copy of the 2015 Larousse dictionary. Photo: AFP
Good news for French-language learners – you'll soon be officially permitted to use a bunch of familiar words while speaking French.
France’s two main rival dictionaries, Le Petit Robert and La Petit Larousse, are set to release their 2016 editions and have leaked a few of the new words that made the cut. 
The new entries had to meet two criteria – be in popular use and be used frequently by the media and will not fall out of use in the short term.
The 160th edition of the Larousse dictionary will contain 150 new additions, the most prominently English of which was “le selfie“. It will be defined as “an auto-portrait photo, usually taken with a smart phone and put on social media”, reported French channel Europe 1 on Monday.

(Photo: Tim Green/Flickr)
Le Petit Robert brought in English words too, or as French newspaper Le Parisien trumpeted – “Welcomed les anglicismes!
English terms to make the cut revealed the growth in importance of technology and social media. They included the digital currency Bitcoin, Big Data, and Captcha – the word for the online challenge-respond test for logging into private accounts. Captcha, incidentally, is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.
Community Manager also made it into the Petit Robert, while Larousse added “vegan” to its pages, to refer to those who believe animals are not the property of humans.
“The fight against anglicisms isn't happening here like it is in Quebec,” renowned linguist Alain Rey, the chief editorial adviser at Le Petit Robert, told the paper.
Rey isn't far off. In Quebec, the word selfie still hasn't been recognized, with the locals preferring the term “egoportrait“. This word also made its entry into the Larousse dictionary.
Indeed, France is coming around to the idea of English words filling gaps in the French language.
Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin told The Local in March that she saw no point in protecting French from English 

“We need a dynamic approach towards the language. Of course I want to defend the French language but not to the point of preventing any influence from outside,” she said.

English words were just a small proportion of the new words that were accepted into the French dictionaries. 

The Larousse dictionary added the term VTC (Vehicle de Tourisme avec Chauffeur), which basically means a private hire cab – a move that will probably not go down well with traditional French cabbies.

The French term “Zadiste” found an official home in Le Petit Robert dictionary a sign of how frequently it has been used in recent months.

A “zadiste” refers to a protester who occupies a “zone to defend” such as those camped out at the location of a proposed new dam at Sivens, south west France last year.

The recent controversy around pollution levels in French cities has resulted in circulation alternée (alternated traffic) and particule fine (fine particle) enter the Larousse.

Glamouriser (to glamorize), rétropédaler ( to back pedal), électrosensibilité (electrosensitivity), capitaliser (to capitalize) and surréagir (to overreact) also made it into Larrouse.

And Le Petit Robert also added a couple of new French expressions into the dictionary – Tendue comme un string – (as tight/tense as a thong/g-string) and maquillée comme un camion volé (disguised/made up/given a makeover like a stolen lorry).

SEE ALSO: Ten French expressions you won't learn at school

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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.