French Homophones

French Homophones

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france

by: Smart Coos

French Homophones

Learning languages is fun and exciting, but sometimes it can be a little tricky. We all remember struggling with words that were just so gosh darn similar they tripped us up all the time. “You’re” and “your” always confused me as a kid and my teachers would constantly have to remind me to add that comma when I meant to contract “you are.” Unsurprisingly, people run into these frustratingly similar words called homophones in every language. Homophones can be tricky even for native speakers, so you can imagine how much more difficult it can be for someone just starting out. When it comes to French, some homophones are even spelled the same as well as pronounced the same. Talk about confusing! So, how do you learn to tell them apart? Well, sometimes, even if they’re spelled the same they have different accents to indicate that the pronunciation or meaning is slightly different. But, for the most part, learning the differences between homophones is all about practice, context, and, for heavily phonetic languages, pronunciation is key.<script async src=”https://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js”></script>
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Although homophones can be frustrating to deal with at times, you can still have fun with them. I’ve always found it humorous that, in French, lawyer and avocado are spelled and pronounced exactly the same – “avocat”. For “avocat”, the distinction is found in the context you’re using the word in, rather than the spelling or pronunciation. It’s safe to assume that if you’re shopping for groceries, the sales associate won’t send you looking for a lawyer in the produce section.

In addition to comically paired homophones, there are grammatically technical ones too, such as “a” (a conjugation of the verb avoir, which means “to have”) and “à” (the preposition “to, at, or in”). In writing, the accent helps you distinguish the two words, but as far as pronunciation goes, they’re the same. This homophone combines the functions of French grammar with context awareness. You have to be conscious of how you’re using it and when you’re using it, especially in writing.

The same rules apply to “mère” (mother) and “maire” (mayor). They’re pronounced the same, but they are easily distinguished in context. With these two, spelling is very important because there’s a pretty big difference between writing “J’aime ma mère” (I love my mom) and “J’aime ma maire” (I love my mayor). No matter how much you appreciate your local government, I’m sure you would never want these two words to get mixed up. So, be careful with that French spelling and grammar, it can really get you into some interesting situations.

I hope this brief exploration into French homophones has informed you about the complicated and comical nature of these tricky words. If you’re currently learning French, or plan to start soon, I hope I’ve at least given you a few helpful hints to get you going. Here’s to hoping that the next time you’re in France and get a ticket for breaking a traffic law, (if you’ve traveled abroad, you know the struggles of trying to understand traffic laws when all the signs and streets are inverted) the officer will make a mistake and write amande (almond) instead of amende (fine) on your ticket. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather “payer une amande” (pay for an almond), than “payer une amende” (pay for a fine). Safe travels and happy learning!

About the Author:

Gelsey Brizo. A senior at the University of Florida pursuing a degree in English. Born and raised in Miami, Florida she speaks both English and Spanish fluently and loves to watch and play soccer. A book fanatic who enjoys to read and write, she can’t go a day without a cup of coffee, a good read or her favorite music.


Work Cited:

Makoto. “Common French Homonyms: Making Sense of It All.” Bright Hub Education. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Lawless, Lauren K. “French Homophones.” About.com Education. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Philipson, Joseph. “The Complexity Of French Homophones.” The Lingua File:. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

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