Thursday 3 May 2018

Which French words can get you into trouble? When words become sexual.

This week, French President Macron called the Australian Prime Minister's wife delicious, thinking of the French adjective délicieuse, which is perfectly flattering and polite. Except that we don't call people delicious in English; well, not in formal situations. It is very easy to end up in a very embarrassing situation, here are a few French words and expressions to be wary of.

Avoir envie de versus envier:
avoir envie de : to want/to feel like
envier: to envy
If you say J'ai envie de toi instead of Je t'envie, you're saying you want someone sexually instead of saying I envy you. Oups.

J'ai envie d'une glace: I feel like having an ice-cream. This is ok.

Qu'est-ce que tu fais cette nuit? What's wrong with that one, you might think. La nuit in France is from 11pm/12am. In English, we always use tonight for the evening. Asking somebody what s/he is doing cette nuit might get you into an awkward conversation.

Say: Qu'est-ce que tu fais ce soir? Unless you really mean cette nuit...

Baiser versus baisser
Just make sure you pronounce these verbs properly. You don't want to say the wrong one.
's' is like a 'z'
'ss' is a strong 's' like the one in 'Sail', not a 'z' sound.

Je t'aime versus Je t'aime bien:
Je t'aime: I love you

Je t'aime bien: I like you
Je l'aime bien: I like him/her
Je les aime bien: I like them

Have you got embarrassing stories because you used the wrong word? Is there a word you always misuse? Which is it? Is there a word you never use because you can't pronounce it right? Please write in the comments.

'London at night' photo credit: Sophie Marette