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French Expression of the Day: Amateur

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
French Expression of the Day: Amateur
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Don't be fooled - a person described as this is probably an expert.

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Why do I need to know amateur?

Because you might be surprised to see the French press use this word to describe a person you’d consider to be an expert

What does it mean?

Amateur - roughly pronounced ah-mah-tur - is a classic ‘false friend’, meaning the English version is very different from the French even though the words look alike.

It is defined in French as “a person who has a marked or exclusive preference for a certain kind of thing”. It therefore has a totally different, and sometimes even opposite, meaning than the English version, which means that someone is unpaid or inexpert. 

The French version would more accurately translate as “fan”, “enthusiast” or even “connoisseur”.

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This is why you might see articles in French newspapers referencing people who are noted experts in certain areas as ‘amateurs’. For instance, a football player who exclusively wears the brand Nike might be described as an ‘amateur de Nike’.

You can be an amateur in just about anything, perhaps you would describe yourself as an amateur de littérature (a fan of literature).

However, there is some similarity between the English and French terms - both can be used to describe someone who takes up an activity on a voluntary, unpaid basis.

The female version is ‘amatrice.’ There are also plenty of synonyms, from the simple word fan to the more conventional option: passioné.

Use it like this

Elle est amatrice de rugby. Elle regarde tous les matchs. - She is a rugby fan. She watches every match.

C'est un vrai amateur de pêche. Vous devriez voir son album photo ! - He is a real fan of fishing. You should see his photo album!

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