Learn French: Improve Your French Using French-English Cognates

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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