French pronunciation: Word pairs you don’t want to mix up (with audio)

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France, Uncategorized

French pronunciation- Word pairs you

One of the most entertaining parts of my everyday life in France is when I mess up words. I think I’m more amused by it than the person I’m talking to, but hey if we can’t laugh at ourselves, who can we laugh at? The simple things, folks, the simple things. Anyway, I’ve paired up a bunch of French words that sound similar to a foreigner’s ear but they are indeed very different. And sometimes a quick slip of the tongue can get you into trouble. Tom’s helping today with the audio.

GO!

French word pairs you want to pronounce correctly

Unless you started learning French quite young (or you’re just a freak of nature), you probably have an accent. I have an accent. Tom has an accent in English. Accents are cool. Being understood is the most important part. But accent or not, if you’re not saying the word correctly you’re either going to make an embarrassing mistake or not be understood depending on the context.

French pronunciation flubs fall into three categories:

  • We know the correct pronunciation. It’s just that the wrong word came out by accident.
  • We have no clue how to say the word correctly so we guessed… incorrectly.
  • We do know how to say it but our mouth just can’t form the word/sound properly no matter how hard we try.

Here are my top 7 favorite French word pairs (one triplet) to watch out for. Get that pronunciation right!

Not all of these are embarrassing mistakes. But saying the wrong word will confuse the person you’re speaking with. Listen up for the subtle differences by clicking on the little audio player icon below each graphic (turn your sound up):

french pronunciation word pairs

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1

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If you learned something and you enjoyed this post, would you let me know? 😉

 

Any French word pairs that you’d add?

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Comments (19)

  • Lynn

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    I feel like I have several more of these, and of course all of mine are embarrassing. These are the few I thought of off the top of my head :

    Bonder / bander
    Sain / sein
    Trou du cru / trou du cul

    I’ll comment again if I think of more. Can Tom do a Part II? 🙂
    Lynn recently posted…My Top Paris Travel Tips : Part 2, Planning Your ItineraryMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh yes, there are so many fun ones! One note, sain/sein/saint are all pronounced the exactly the same in French so there it would be a matter of context and not the vowel sound since they’re all said the same way. No way to mess those ones up. I’ll have to see what else everyone comes up with and absolutely Tom can do a part 2!! Have a great week

      Reply

  • Janelle Gould

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    Thanks so much Diane (and Tom) for sharing this. But you’ve made me realise though that I must totally freak people out every time I open my mouth in France!! Oh dear!
    Janelle Gould recently posted…A Must Visit – Veuve ClicquotMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m sure you’re much better than you think. Which words/sounds give you the most trouble?

      Reply

  • Shelby

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    I know for me when I was younger I mixed up chevaux and cheveux, and for some reason six and seize. I was forever telling people I was 6 years old and my cousins would just roll their eyes.
    They don’t even really sound the same! I was just confused I guess.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yah it’s so easy to mix up words. Just a mental block I guess. And yes chevaux and cheveux are tricky. Bradley Cooper told an interviewer about his horses when he meant his hair! With context she got it though 😉

      Reply

  • Terry

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    Interesting post. My tough triple is: mur, mure, mieux.
    (wall, blackberry, better)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Well the first two are exactly the same, mur and mure so no trouble there. And mieux doesn’t have an r. Are you not sure how to pronounce it or you just have trouble when you use mure and mieux in the same sentence?

      Reply

      • Terry

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        I think the issue is with the “ieux” ending. I have the same problem correctly saying a town near us “Bagneux”. So, more practice is in order.

        Reply

  • MaryZ

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    Lache moi / leche moi (let me go / lick me)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hahah yes those two could get you in trouble! My niece and nephew usually are scolded if they say lache-moi so maybe it’s better to say lick me !

      Reply

  • scar

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    Great post, it made me smile! I remember listening to someone talk about love once, and the whole way through the speech they spoke about “la mort” instead of “l’amour”, which was pretty confusing (and quite funny) until I realised what was happening.
    scar recently posted…A Day Out at London’s North End Road Summer MarketMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh yea, that’s another good one. The sounds “or” and “our” in French are different but can cause some misunderstandings. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Reply

  • Mary

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    I love this post! It gives me a great idea for something to do with my french boyfriend this summer. He is coming for 2 months and we are both determined to improve our mastery of the other’s language. I need the most help. 🙁

    Reply

    • Diane

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      So glad you enjoyed it! There are so many word pairs you can practice. Have fun!

      Reply

  • cal-expat

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    you wouldn’t believe how much trouble we have with angry/hungry 😉
    or bowl/bottle
    or (surprisingly) someone understood shawl when I was trying to say shark. in their defense, the sentence was “let me show you the shark I made during the kids party”. Out of a watermelon!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh yea I can definitely see why you’d have trouble w/those pairs. Sometimes I ask Tom to repeat if I’m not sure. The ‘L’ is surprisingly difficult for French speakers so bowl and bottle aren’t always clear.

      Reply

  • Frederic

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    Funny jeux de mots!
    Interesting triplet, quite a tough one! In such case accurate pronounciation is very important, especially when you have the accent!

    Reply

  • Pauline

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    I’m French and I pronounce “poignet” and “poignet” exactly the same
    Maybe it is because I’m from the South 🙂

    Reply

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