What are the Similarities Between the English and French Language?

French is an Indo-European language and belongs to the Romance language group, along with Spanish and Italian.


English was heavily influenced by the French dialect during the Norman invasion of Britain in the 11th century. As a result, the two languages ​​have common grammatical features and contain a lot of similarities as well as differences.


There are some differences in the sound systems of the two languages ​​that can cause French learners to have difficulties in understanding and pronouncing the French words. Spelling errors in English can occur due to the frequent discrepancy between the pronunciation of English words and their spelling.


A typical French problem in English pronunciation is the inability to correctly formulate vowel sounds in minimal pairs, such as grin/green, sin/seen, mow/more. Since the tip of the tongue is not used in a conversation in French, beginners often have problems with words containing the combination of the letters - th: thorough, thrash, method.


Another feature of English-speaking French students is the omission of the sound [h] at the beginning of a word. On the other hand, some of them try very hard and pronounce [h] in words like "honor".


French students, as a rule, are faced with an unpredictable statement of stress in English, especially in word forms and in cognate words (stress in French is fixed and always falls on the last syllable).


They also do not observe the natural reduction of vowels in unstressed syllables in the English language. Those who speak native English can swallow a vowel in the first syllable of the word “t’day”. The French, out of habit, try to speak all the vowels as distinctly as possible and immediately give themselves away with their fussy accent.


In terms of grammatical categories and systems of the times, French and English have many intersecting points. In both languages, for example, there are auxiliary verbs, participles, active/passive voice, past/present/future tense. However, some differences may cause the interference of French rules in English.


A typical mistake is using the wrong tense. Despite some similarities, there are tenses when French has other means of transmitting a temporal meaning than English.


Since there is no analog in French of the English “do”, French students have difficulties when formulating questions. For example, they can make an affirmative sentence with interrogative intonation, as they would in French: “She is dyslexic?”, or they can change the order of words: “How long were there you?”


Although English and French are built on the same syntactic principle (subject - predicate - object), there are many subtleties in the construction of more complex sentences.


The use of articles in French is similar but not identical to English rules. The choice of French pronouns depends on the kind of nouns with which they are associated, and possessive adjectives are consistent with those nouns to which they relate.


A large number of words in two languages ​​have the same Latin roots and are mutually understandable, although this relates to academic or technical specialized vocabulary than to everyday communication words. This parallelism is accompanied by a large number of “false friends of the translator”, words that are similar in sound and spelling but express different concepts in two languages. So, the French “ignorer” does not coincide in meaning with the English “ignore”: the first means "do not know, be ignorant," and the second means "to ignore."


The French language accepted English words to refer to new institutions related to the political and public life of the country:


civil service = administration (fr.)

bill = projet de loi (fr.)

politician = homme politique (fr.)


Words related to the development of technology, industry, and commerce were taken from the English language: “railway”, “boss”, “factory”.


In the field of spelling, the spelling of analog words requires increased attention:


reason - raison

garden - jardin

to receive - recevoir

mountain - montagne

hour - heure

lesson - leçon


There are, however, some French words that look similar to the ones in English (and vice versa) but their meanings are totally different.


For example:


“Journal” in English, is understood as the “review”, and not “newspaper” (le journal) in French.


“Magazine” in English, is understood as the “illustrated magazine”, and not "store" (le magasin) in French.


It isn’t a secret that the French language is not that easy to learn and contains a huge number of difficulties. One of them is spelling. In contrast to the English language, the French language is replete with superscript characters (accents fr.), depending on which the meaning can radically change.


For example,


Pêcher - fishing vs Pécher - to sin

Tâche - task vs Tache – a spot

Maïs - corn vs Mais - but (conjunction)

Marché - market vs Marche - walking, strolling

Mat - matte (color) vs Mât - a mast

Mur - wall vs Mûr - mature, matured

Ou - or (conjunction) vs Où - where (adverb)

Rot - rot vs Rôt – fried

Sur - on (preposition) vs Sûr - confident

Là - there (adverb) vs La – refers to a feminine article

Cote - rating vs Côte – a coast, a shore

Gène - gene vs Gêne - awkwardness

Jeune - young vs Jeûne - fasting, to fast

Congres - an eel vs Congrès – a congress



Knowing all the differences between French and English that were described above will help you master one or both of them. It’s not surprising that you will find lots of common points in vocabulary (for English have many French words and vice versa), pronunciation (it comes from the first point here). Though grammatical differences can make it a bit harder to get accustomed to French grammar.


Nonetheless, a language is not difficult to acquire as long you put in the time, effort, and commitment to keep speaking and using it with native speakers. You can refer to my previous multilingual video (with subtitles), 3 strategies on how you can use to acquire any language quickly and effectively.


Happy learning!

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