- Posted by Amelie
- On November 20, 2017
- 0 Comments
French Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but spelt differently.
They also have a different meaning.
Affirming that French is the language with the most homophones would be risky and I could be totally wrong as I do not know every single language spoken in our Earth’s vast lands.
However, I can definitely confirmed, as a French native speaker, that yes French intrinsically has quite a lot of homophones !
They are all French children worse nightmare during spelling tests !
Let’s take a closer look at the most common ones.
First, we can mention verbs endings.
Indeed, with the second person singular, “tu” (“you” in English), one has to add an “s” at the end of the verb. However, you do not pronounce this added “s”. Same difficulty appears when it comes to the third person plural, “ils” ou “elles” (“they” in English).
You must add -nt at the end of the verb but again, you do not pronounce it.
Why make things easy eh? Thus, if we wanted to conjugate “manger” (“to eat”) in the present tense, we would say:
Je mange / I eat
Tu manges / You eat (informal you) Il, elle, on mange / He, she, it eats
Nous mangeons / We eat
Vous mangez / You eat (formal you)
Ils, elles mangent / They eat
“mange”, “manges” and “mangent” are spelt differently, refer to different persons but are pronounced exactly the same.
Most of the time, the last consonnant isn’t pronounced in French which can make things rather complicated! Indeed, we can think about the following words : Sans / s’en / c’en / sens / sent / sang / cent or quand / quant / qu’en / camp / khan.
These are just examples among so many others!!
Not always easy to understand what someone is speaking about without seeing the words written down. This possible meaning confusion led to the lovely story of Cinderella. The beautiful princess wore, in the Honore de Balzac version, the once fashionable pantoufles de vair (slippers made with squirrel’s fur).
However, Charles Perrault mentioned some pantoufles de verre (glass slippers).
This difference between both stories versions has, ever since, created a big debate: what type of slippers did Cinderella wear?!
In 2016, the French government wanted to institute a new reform about word spelling. They wanted to get rid of the circumflex accent. You know the little hat “^” on top of either the letter “i”, “o” or “u” in some French words?
The government wanted to make French spelling easier. Well… that did not go down very well with the French population. And quite rightly so. You will understand why with the following couple of examples!
Please excuse the very familiar expressions!
“Salut, je suis sûr, ta femme, elle est heureuse !” (Hey, I’m sure, your wife, she’s happy!)
« Salut, je suis sur ta femme, elle est heureuse ! » (Hey, I’m on top of your wife, she’s happy!)
« Salut ma belle ! Je vais me faire un jeûne demain ! » (Hey beautiful, I’m going to abstain myself from eating tomorrow!)
« Salut ma belle ! Je vais me faire un jeune demain ! » (Hey beautiful, I’m going to sleep with a young lad tomorrow ! »)
Not quite the same meanings…
Sometimes, it can even get more tricky than this !!
Some expressions can be only made with homophones such as « un vieil armagnac » (« an old Armagnac/Brandy ») and « un vieillard manique » (« a fussy old man »). They are called « holorimes ».
Let’s look on the bright side though : yes, the French language has some asperities but it does allow us to play with words and have some fun !!
Please do share your story in the comment section on your experience to study French
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