Learn French: Improve Your French Using French-English Cognates

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Nearly 30% of all English words come directly or indirectly from French. It means English speakers typically know at least 1500 French words without needing to study French although pronunciation can be different.

A good way to improve your accent in French

The purpose of this article is not only about giving you a list of cognates but it’s also to focus on pronunciation. Since most of you already know the English pronunciation, it’s time to realize what exactly is different and how you can use that to create a kind of pattern for French pronunciation.

Many French and English words share the same origin despite the different spelling.  You may think that it’s easier for an English speaker to learn French since they can use a bunch of words they already know, but even though the word may have the same meaning, the usage in French may vary slightly. To avoid mistakes you can download a pdf that I wrote including the Most Common Mistakes of French Learners.

Except for the cognates, you can realize that many words still look the same:
  • Almost all words ending with -ty in English come from French (beauty, liberty, prosperity, royalty, majesty…)
  • A lot of words ending with -tion come from French and its Latin root (creation, corporation, occupation, reservation…).
  • Circumflex accent gives you also a hint about what is behind some French words. Circumflex accent shows that an S used to be here in old words.
  • In most cases, it’s an S that was in a specific position, before a consonant. Old written French kept writing the S while people didn’t yet pronounce it.

Examples:

  • Forêt > forest
  • Hôpital > hospital
  • Château > castle
  • Hôtel, hôte > hostel, host
  • Fête > feast
  • Bête > beast
  • île > isle 

They are about 1700 cognates (words identical in French and English). Here is a short list. Copy any word and paste it in Forvo to get the French pronunciation

 VERBS

accepter
arriver
bloquer
changer
commencer
décider
finir
insister
inviter
passer
préparer
repéter
ADJECTIVES
certain
central
capable
excellent
final
horrible
invisible
long
normal
optimal
simple
transparent
urgent
visible
NOUNS
accent
action
ambulance
client
capital
danger
date
destination
festival
garage
machine
nature
question
satisfaction
zone
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