What the French?! French words you thought you knew but actually don’t

So, you’ve booked that dream trip to Paris? Ready to soak in the good wine, fashion, museums? What about your French? “It’ll be fine,” I hear you say. After all, you might not remember everything you learned in French class but the English language is full of French words, isn’t it? But, wait! What if those words mean something else in France? Ooh la la*. Whether you’re going for business or for a little romance, here are seven words to remember.


You ordered an entrée at a restaurant just last night back home, so you’re obviously not going to starve in the city of love. Right? Well, don’t be surprised if a tiny plate of food appears in front of you at a table in Montmartre – entrée in France is a starter! To avoid your date thinking you’re stingy, order a plat instead. I promise it’s the right word for the main dish, and not an empty plate.

A la mode

For a dessert, order your pie a la mode, as it means fashionably. As obsessed you might be with fashion, eating some vanilla ice cream (glace à la vanille) with your pie does not make it any more on style. Nevertheless, if you read something like “tripes à la mode de Caen”, it refers to the origin of the food. But you don’t want to eat beaf tripes anyway, do you?


Unless you’re playing battleship with your new French lover – in which case I’d say your date night just sank, pardon my bad humor – don’t use the word touché. The French only use it when two battleships literally crash, or when they are emotionally touched by something (as in, Je suis touché par votre attention, meaning I am touched by your attention). And knowing the French, you won’t see that happening too often.


Once in the hotel, you’ll probably wonder what this gel douche is for. Don’t panic, you’re not going to be subjected to medical intervention and there’s no creepy guy hiding in the bathroom. The word douche just means shower in French, so gel douche is just shower gel. And it’s perfectly normal for us to chanter sous la douche. Nothing to laugh about.

Double entendre

As many mistakes as you might make in French, you will never be in danger of making a double entendre in France. Not that we don’t do it. But the word just doesn’t exist. It literally means “double hearing”. And that’s something we don’t do.


If somebody tells you they are the chef of a company, don’t order a coq au vin straightaway – they’re not the cook, they’re the boss! You need to speak to the chef cuisinier about the food.


If you’re asked for a resume after a meeting/play/movie, don’t come up with all the details about the participants or actors. A resume is just a summary, nothing more. You’ll want to present your career on a CV you’ll pronounce ceve.

So, that was my own little summary about typical French words that might be confusing. If after reading that, you think you need someone to help with your French, Supertext will help you communicate like the French.

* By the way, we never say that either.

Cover image via Pexels CC0

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