Top 5 des mots mal traduits en anglais

Welcome back to another episode of “The typical mistakes the French make”.
On today’s episode, we are going to talk about some of the misused words I’ve heard the French use. Don’t worry, it goes both ways– English speakers also make mistakes when it comes to French.




Fill in the blanks :

  • When you don’t know someone: a _________ 
  • A legal representative: ________
  • Something that makes you laugh is _________ 
  • A place where most students go to study:  _________ 
  • Polite synonym for a prostitute:  _________ 
  • Where you can buy books:  _________
  • A green fruit sometimes used to spread on toast:  _________ 
  • The word used to express when you have a good time :  _________ 
  • When you are at a location and you message your friend, you say I’m_______ 
  • When you refer to someone that is far from you: he/she is _______ 


#1 : “étranger”

→ MISTAKE : He’s a stranger (Correction → He is a foreigner)

  • Reason : This word translates into two words in English : “Stranger” and “foreigner”. 
  • Explanation
    • “stranger” can be defined as someone you don’t know in general. (in French you could say “inconnu” too). 
    • “foreigner” is usually used for someone who comes from a different country that is not of your own. 
  • Examples
    • Who’s that stranger over there? He’s handsome.
    • She’s a foreigner here, so she has to go to the prefecture to get her visa.

#2 : Here vs. there

→ MISTAKE : I’m there! (instead of here)

  • Explanation : 
    • “Here” is commonly used when you are “sur place” or in French you would say “ici”. 
    • “There” is used when it is far from you in terms of distance and usually used with “over”. 
  • Examples : 
    • “I’m here in Paris and my brother is over there in NY.” → Je suis ici à Paris et mon frère est là-bas à New-York
    • “I will call you when I get there” → Je t’appellerai quand je serai là-bas


#3 : Funny vs Fun

→ MISTAKE : It was funny this weekend.

  • Explanation : 
    • “Fun” is usually used for when we talk about some occasion or something that is happening right now that is entertaining for us or amusing for us.
    • “Funny” is used for when we either find something someone says or does to be laughable, meaning to make us laugh. A joke for example. “Funny” can also be used in a different context as well. When we find something that is strange or bizarre, we use this term to describe that feeling or sensation.
  • Examples : 
    • He’s a really funny guy, you can’t stop laughing that you’ll start crying
    • Last night was a lot of fun. We had a nice time at the restaurant.


#4 :“library” (bibliothèque) and “bookshop” (librairie)

→ MISTAKE : “Je suis allé à la libraire pour acheter un livre” →  I went to the library to buy a book.

  • Explanation : “Library” is where you borrow books whereas “bookshop” is where you can buy books. 


#5 :“Avocat”

→ FUNNY MISTAKE : “J’ai parlé à mon avocat” → “I spoke to my avocado” 

In French, the word “avocat” is used not only for the profession, but also for the vegetable. In English, the fruit is an avocado and the profession is called “lawyer” So, let’s not miss up the two.


BONUS : “Working Girl”

→ EMBARRASSING MISTAKE : “Ma compagne est une femme active” → “My girlfriend is a working girl” 

In French, we can “Elle travaille beaucoup, c’est une véritable “working girl””, which means that we are talking about a women who works a lot.
Though this isn’t necessarily false in terms of definition, if you speak in English and you say “She works a lot, she’s a “working girl””, it actually indicates, in a polite manner, that she’s a prostitute.  

Et voilà pour cette séance ! On attend vos textes à trous et on est impatients de vous envoyer les corrections ! A bientôt !

François Fourmentin