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English Words Used in French: Do You Speak Frenglish?

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Did you know that nearly 30% of English words might be of French origin? This is still a hot topic among linguists, but it speaks volumes about how languages influence each other, especially now that globalization is going full throttle.

Conversely, the English language has long been influential in the evolution of French, but with the rise of the internet, new technologies, and the uncontested power of Hollywood, English terms and expressions have been literally pouring into the French language in recent years. 

In this article, you’ll learn everything about English words used in French and this weird two-headed language called Frenglish. We’ll cover it all, from loanwords to the excesses of business Frenglish, mysterious syntax mutations, and how the French are reacting to all this.

Menu at a Restaurant

At work, after work, Frenglish is everywhere!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Frenglish or Loanwords?
  2. Legit Loanwords
  3. Fake Loanwords
  4. Know Your Frenglish
  5. The French Resistance to Anglification
  6. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Frenglish or Loanwords?

Before going any further, what are loanwords and how are they different from Frenglish?

1 – Le Franglais

Le Franglais (“Frenglish”) is a portmanteau word. It’s the combination of the words Français (“French”) and Anglais (“English”), and it describes the excessive mixing of French and English by French speakers. 

It is a derogatory word used to denounce the overuse of English words in the French language, though it has lost some of its negative connotations over time. At best, you could use it to show self-awareness of your linguistic shortcomings any time you realize you’re using too many English words in your speech.

2 – English Loanwords

A loanword is a word taken from one language and incorporated into another without translation. These are not just look-alikes from a common etymology, but actual copy-pastes of foreign words without translation. 

For example: 

  • Un sandwich (“A sandwich”)
  • Le suspense (“Suspense”)

Let’s dive deeper into English loanwords and see why they’re going to be your best friends!

2. Legit Loanwords

As you learn French, you’re gonna love English loanwords! Because they’re borrowed from English with little to no changes, they are easy for English speakers to understand. And there are so many of them in French that they represent a wealth of free vocabulary you don’t even have to study!

While English loanwords in French are ubiquitous, they’re especially common in certain fields, such as technology and entertainment. Here are some examples:

1 – About Food

Un sandwichUn sandwich au thon, s’il vous plaît. (“A tuna sandwich, please.”)

Un burgerUn burger au bleu. (“A blue-cheese burger.”)

Un steakJ’aime mon steak saignant. (“I like my steak rare.”)
You might come across the word bifsteck, the francization of “beefsteak,” and…what can I say? It looks pretty gross to me, but to be fair, it’s outdated and barely used anymore by the younger generations.

Un cocktailQuel est ton cocktail préféré ? (“What is your favorite cocktail?”)

Un cookieUn cookie au chocolat noir. (“A dark chocolate cookie.”)

Un chewing-gumJ’ai toujours des chewing-gums dans mon sac. (“I always have chewing gum in my bag.”)
If you ever come across the expression gomme à mâcher, know that it’s the French version of “chewing gum.” But it’s so old-fashioned that even my grandmother doesn’t remember about it.

Happy hourÀ quelle heure est l’happy hour ? (“At what time is happy hour?”)

    → If this section made you hungry, why not indulge for a minute and stop by our vocabulary list on French Food? Spoiler alert: It features the amazing chestnut purée.

2 – About Technology

Un mail, Un emailJe t’ai envoyé un mail la semaine dernière. (“I sent you an email last week.”)
The word un mail can be a bit tricky because we only use it for “email.” Paper mail is un courrier.

Also, the strongest advocates for French purity eventually came up with a French word for “email,” hoping to replace un mail. And so, the questionable un courriel was created. Nowadays, except on some official documents, nobody ever uses it.

Un bugIl y a un bug dans la base de données. (“There is a bug in the database.”)

internetJ’utilise internet tous les jours. (“I’m using the internet every day.”)
In writing, you might also read l’internet, but it sounds a bit silly and outdated. If you come across les internet, just take a deep breath and pretend you didn’t hear that. (It sounds old and snobbish.)

Un smartphoneJ’ai vendu mon smartphone. (“I have sold my smartphone.”)

Un chatJe vais lui poser la question sur le chat. (“I will ask him on the chat.”)
This has the same spelling as un chat (“a cat”), but we pronounce it like the English word “chat.”

    → You’ll find a few more of these loanwords on our free list of Technology vocabulary, with recordings for you to practice their pronunciation.

3 – About Movies

Un trailerTu as vu le trailer du dernier James Bond ? (“Have you seen the latest James Bond trailer?”)

Un teaserLe teaser de ce film est incroyable ! (“The teaser for this movie is incredible!”)

Un spoilerC’est difficile d’éviter les spoilers sur internet. (“It’s difficult to avoid spoilers on the internet.”)

Un cliffhangerIl y a un cliffhanger de fou à la fin de cet épisode ! (“There is a crazy cliffhanger at the end of this episode!”)


4 – More Loanwords

Un t-shirtJ’adore ton nouveau t-shirt. (“I love your new t-shirt.”)

Le week-endPasse un bon week-end ! (“Have a good weekend!”)

CoolCe jeu est tellement cool ! (“This game is so cool!”)

Un parkingIl y a un parking à côté du magasin. (“There is a parking lot next to the shop.”)

Du shoppingJe vais faire du shopping demain. (“I’m going shopping tomorrow.”)

Un challengeC’est un vrai challenge de se garer ici. (“It’s a real challenge to park here.”)

Shopping Center

Faire du shopping (“To go shopping”)

3. Fake Loanwords

Although loanwords are an incredible source of easy vocabulary, you should be aware that we’ve laid some traps along the way. A few English words have been improperly incorporated into the French language and have a different meaning.

They’re quite treacherous but not numerous, so all you need to do is keep them in a corner of your mind so you don’t get tricked.

Here are the most common ‘fake’ English loanwords in French:

Le zapping“Channel hopping” or “Channel surfing.” This refers to when you quickly browse TV channels.

Le footing“Jogging”

Un camping“Campsite”

Des baskets“Sneakers,” “Trainers,” or more generally, “Sport shoes”

Un smoking“Dinner jacket” or “Tuxedo”

Un break“Estate car” or “Station wagon”

Le catch“Wrestling”

Un planning“Schedule” or “Work plan”

Un flipper“Pinball machine”

4. Know Your Frenglish

By definition, Frenglish is an overly Anglicized French language. We’ve seen that there are plenty of common English words used in French which have become an official part of the language. But when French speakers start overusing these English terms, expressions, and structures, Frenglish happens.

1 – Frenglish in Business

This tendency to overuse English words is especially obvious in the business world. If you’ve worked in any big French companies—especially in anything related to technology or entertainment—you might have heard this uncanny mixture of French and English words. It can get confusing even for the French themselves.

Here are a few examples with the English words highlighted in red:

  • “I’m super-busy.”
    • French: Je suis très occupé.
    • Frenglish: Je suis super busy.
  • “Can you forward me the report ASAP?”
    • French: Tu peux me transférer le compte-rendu le plus vite possible ?
    • Frenglish: Tu peux me forwarder le reporting ASAP ?
  • “We’re going to debrief on the meeting’s bullet points.”
    • French: On va faire un bilan sur les points importants de la réunion.
    • Frenglish: On va debriefer sur les bullet points du meeting.
  • “Do you want to change the date of the call to attend the workshop?”
    • French: Tu veux changer la date de la conférence pour assister au séminaire ?
    • Frenglish: Tu veux switcher la date du call pour assister au workshop ?

I’m not even exaggerating! And there are still several more English words used by the French in business settings:

  • Burnout
  • Corporate
  • Brainstorming
  • Mainstream
  • Process
  • Management / Manager
  • Marketing
  • Business
A Corporate Meeting

Un meeting corporate (“A corporate meeting”)

2 – Semantic Frenglish

More insidious, semantic Frenglish is when we mimic English expressions using English words that look like French words.

For example, the French word agressive (the feminine form of agressif) really looks like the English word “aggressive.”

However, in French, it means “who is prone to attack” or “to look for conflict.” And in English, it can mean “behaving in a determined and forceful way.”

What do we end up with?

  • Cette société utilise une stratégie agressive sur les prix. 
    (“This company is using an aggressive pricing strategy.”)

This is an improper use of agressive that has become so common that nobody even raises an eyebrow anymore. It’s all over the newspaper and TV, and people have just gotten used to it. And there are many similar words out there.

There are also some increasingly popular Frenglish expressions:

  • “I’ll get back to you.”
    • French: Je vous recontacte.
    • Frenglish: Je reviens vers vous.
  • “I’m in charge of this project.”
    • French: Je suis responsable de ce projet.
    • Frenglish: Je suis en charge de ce projet.
  • “No chance!”
    • French: Aucun risque !
    • Frenglish: Aucune chance !

3 – Syntactic Frenglish

Another subtle effect of English’s influence on French is how it changes the syntax rules. It happens in various ways and it’s often sneaky enough that most people don’t realize it (myself included, for the most part).

Here are a few examples:

  • French adjectives can come either before or after the noun, but under English influence, we now tend to misplace them.

    For example: Actuel (“Current”) should be placed after the noun. However, it’s common to read l’actuel président instead of le président actuel (“the current president”).
  • We juxtapose substantives that should not be placed side by side.

    Les relations clients should be les relations avec les clients (“customer relations”).
  • We overuse the passive form instead of using the typical French active form. This is especially obvious in the French administrative style.

    Des mesures seront prises (“measures will be taken”) should be nous prendrons des mesures (“we will take measures”).

Customer Relations

Les relations clients (“Customer relations”)

5. The French Resistance to Anglification

How would you react if your language was rapidly mutating over the years, affected by globalization and the cultural influence of the biggest cultural superpowers?

In France, some people see it as a blessing. The language is evolving and getting richer with these new words and expressions. Others believe we should fight back, create new words, and reconquer the ones we’ve lost.

Since the 70s, official French committees have worked on creating new words, especially for modern technologies, in order to avoid using the English terms. In rare cases, it works well and the words become an actual part of the language for decades to come:

  • Logiciel (“Software”)
  • Informatique (“Computer science”)
  • Baladeur (“Walkman”)

But more often than not, it fails horribly. In 1994, Jacques Toubon, who was the Minister of Culture at the time, tried to establish a list of replacements for many borrowed English words. The Toubon Law made him infamous for its widely controversial content.

Among many others, it included vacancelles to replace weekend. This abomination of a word was never used but never forgotten.

Some other words have been mildly successful, but most of them sound old-fashioned and ridiculous:

  • Tchatche (“Chat”)
  • Courriel (“Email”)
  • Messagerie instantanée (“Messenger”)
  • Hameçonnage (“Phishing”)
  • Pourriel (“Spam”)
  • Webmestre (“Webmaster”)

A Woman Sending an Email

Envoyer un mail (“To send an email”)

6. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about Frenglish, from loanwords to the crazy blend of business Frenglish, mysterious semantic mutations, and how the French are handling it. Did I forget any important Frenglish expressions that you know?

We’re just scratching the surface here, but as you start interacting with native French speakers, you’ll notice how many of these strange Frenglish verbs they’re using: poker (“to poke”), uploader (“to upload”), checker (“to check”), and many more.

If you enjoyed this lesson, keep in mind that FrenchPod101.com also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings as well as free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and practice Frenglish terms and more with your personal teacher. In addition to providing you with assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples, your teacher will review your work and help you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101.com!

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