Tag Archives: faux-amis

Expressing a long action with « pendant »

31 Jan
Amber pendants made of modified amber. The ova...
Image via Wikipedia

How confusing is it, that « pendant » can mean a lot of different things in our 2 languages… Another faux-ami, which testifies to the constant intermingling and « love affair » between French and English:

// pendant // French adverb: during, over, throughout (expressing a duration of time)
// pendant // French present participle of « pendre »: hanging
// pendant // French masculine noun: counterpart, equivalent, matching.
// pendant // English noun: A piece of jewelery which hangs down as an ornament, especially worn on a chain around the neck. French: « le pendentif », however, we do say « un pendant d’oreille » for a long, hanging earring.

Now that we have resolved this pending matter, let’s learn to express a long duration, interrupted or supplemented by a short action…


Pendant que je mange mon dîner, j’aime bien discuter de choses et d’autres avec ma famille. // While I eat my dinner, I like to talk about things with my family.

J’ai appris l’allemand à l’école pendant 9 ans, et pourtant, j’ai toujours encore du mal à le parler. // I learned/ learnt German in school for 9 years, however, I still have a hard time speaking it.

Les enfants n’arrêtent pas de crier pendant que j’essaie de rédiger un rapport. // The children keep shouting while I am trying to write up a report.

Je fais de mon mieux pour m’occuper des corvées quotidiennes pendant mes pauses de travail. // I do my best to take care of my daily chores during my breaks from work.

Pendant que nous dormions, tout à coup, nous entendîmes un chien aboyer juste devant notre porte. // While we were sleeping, all of a sudden, we heard a dog barking right in front of our door.

I hope I was able to clarify this word for you, at least a little bit…

Maybe you can use « pendant » in a French sentence, and tell us what you enjoy doing « pendant les vacances d’hiver »: any skiing, ice-skating, trip to the mountains planned with the family?

Bon mardi!

Un faux-ami : « Préservatif/ Preservatives »

27 Jan

When you first immerse yourself in language B, you do your best to think, dream, sound and look native. Why? Because you know it is the only way to improve your language skills, and to stop the strange looks when you do any type of business transactions with the locals.

When I first arrived in South Carolina, I got: “What kind of accent is that??” and “A young lady left a message on my voicemail, but I could not understand a word she said.”… “Yes, that was me, ma’aaaaaaam.” There is also job discrimination against those who are “different”, but we won’t even go there, because I will not make this blog political…

So after my first year back to the USA, this time to live in Columbia, where my husband studied for his I.M.B.A. at the University of South Carolina, I had a phone conversation with a good friend of mine from high-school, Perrine. I really had not spoken any French in a while (at that time, our home language was English).

Source: organicprairie.com

Perrine was asking me about American food and if I was gaining my weight back, eating hamburgers (my first year in S.C. as an au pair, I had gained 32 lbs. and lost them back upon my return to France… no diet!). I explained that, even when I made hamburgers, I made sure to buy meats without hormones, antibiotics and preservatives. But in French, I said: “J’achète de la viande sans hormones, antibiotiques et préservatifs.” Perrine exclaimed : « Quoi ?? Quoi ?? Naaaadia, tu sais ce que tu as dit là ?? ».

I had to think about it for a minute, and then we broke out into laughter!! Yes, the unthinkable had happened. A complete reverse culture, well language, shock…

// préservatif(s) // nom masculin : condom(s), US Only: rubber (careful, in the UK, a “rubber” is an “eraser”…),  aka capote

// conservateur(s) // nom masculin : (food, chemical) preservatives, but also (political) conservatives

I do prefer my steak without any rubber in it… or around it… I prefer my steak to be « unprotected »… And you probably do too. Happy Friday!

Le mot rigolo : « Cabinet »

20 Jan

Image by Silk Road Collection via Flickr

One peculiarity of using and learning both English and French, is the prevalence of « faux-amis« ; those « fake friends » that sound or look the same in both languages, but have complete different meanings. Usually they have been borrowed from French into the English language, but their usage has assigned them a new meaning.

I will try for our « mots rigolos » on Fridays to come up with some of those, and save us all a few incidents of embarrassment!

// cabinet // nom masculin: office, firm, practise, also an antique cabinet
// cabinets // nom masculin pluriel: toilet, GB loo, US bathroom, restroom

Quite confusing when « cabinet » is usually used in English for a cupboard or kitchen pantry; this is what the term originally meant in French as well, as a small separate room (un cabinet de toilette; un cabinet de débarras).
However, nowadays, we usually use « une armoire, un petit placard » for the pantry…


Cabinet d’avocats Simon Associés // Simon & Associates Law Firm

Le cabinet de mon médecin généraliste, le Dr. Kassler, se trouve seulement à 2 km de chez moi. // My GP’s office, Dr. Kassler, is only 2 km away from my house.

Où se trouvent les cabinets chez toi? // Where is the bathroom located in your house?

Turns out to be a pretty useful word for your next trip to a French-speaking country, right? Happy Friday!

Le mot rigolo: « le slip »

6 Août

[tweetmeme source= »FrenchNad » only_single=false] There are some basic words you never know when you are going to need (such as getting all your clothes washed while traveling overseas and your underwear is missing?)…

// le slip // nom masculin: underpants (Br. pants), panties, knickers. Warning: do not mix with the English word « a slip »…

Funny anecdote:  A few days before our French-American wedding in my little village in Alsace, France, my mom, future mom-in-law and I were discussing what they would be wearing. It was a very HOT summer and there was no air-conditioning of course anywhere.

My mom-in-law kindly asked: « It is so hot out… Do you think I should still wear a slip, » (as we looked at her in bewilderment) « you know under my dress? »

My mom and I discussing in French: « What does she mean by no panties under her dress? » … « Do you think it is an American tradition for the mother of the groom not to wear any? » Yes, we eventually understood that my mom-in-law was merely discussing the gown you wear under a dress, the slip (le sous-robe/ le jupon in French).


Porter un slip. // To wear underpants/ panties.
Le slip de bain. // A « Speedo »/ swimming trunks.

You never know when that word might come handy!

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