Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard somebody say that they are “petite” in English?

Are there French words or phrases that you hear come up in your English conversations?

This might surprise you, but there are many of these that are a common aspect of English speaking.

Today we’re going to look at some of the most common of these terms, and how French is a common aspect of conversations that you may have in English.

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Some Background To Consider

Recently we did an episode on déjà vu, which got us thinking that we use a lot of French words and phrases in English!

We use a lot of different languages in English actually when you stop to think about it.

This lead to inspiration to dig into more French phrases that we may use, because déjà vu is a big one.

We have done an episode on borrowed English phrases before that is well worth checking out.

AEE 531: Why We’re Gung Ho About These Borrowed English Phrases AEE 531: Why We’re Gung Ho About These Borrowed English Phrases

So you can see that borrowed language is not a new concept.

Today we will focus on the French ones, and this will help you to understand and be able to use a specific aspect of English speaking.

A Common Aspect of English

So we’re going to focus on the French phrases and words that you may hear a lot in English.

Why would we do this?

Because they are common among English speakers as well, and so you may tend to hear them used often.

It may seem hard to get the pronunciation down correctly if this is not your first language—and that’s okay!

Even native English speakers may struggle with pronunciation a bit at first since this is newer to them.

You will get practice and get the hang of this, and for now we are talking about how these are used in English.

  • A la carte: This translates directly to “by the card.” This is what you would say when you are ordering a la carte or individual items in a restaurant. These are items that come on their own.
  • Prix fixe: This translates to “fixed price.” — “Can I order a la carte, or is it a prix fixe menu?”
  • Je ne sais quoi: This translates to “I don’t know what.” In English you may also say something like “I can’t quite put my finger on it.” You might hear something like “He has a certain je ne sais quoi that I really like!”
  • Petite: This translates to small. This is used to describe people and clothing sizes, and you will hear this used often.
  • Faux: We spoke about faux pas in the other episode, and you can just use faux to mean fake. This is used a lot with fashion such as to say “faux leather” or “faux fur.”
  • Du jour: This means “of the day”, and you will see it a lot on menus. The most common example is to talk about the soup du jour or the soup of the day.

These are all excellent examples of French words and phrases that appear in English.

You will be amazed at how often they come up in conversation, and it can be fun for you to start using them.

Roleplay To Help

Since this is an unusual aspect of English conversations, practice can really help.

In this roleplay, Lindsay and Michelle are at a restaurant.

Lindsay: “This place looks amazing.”

Michelle: “Yes! Oh wow, they even have a prix fixe menu if you want.”

Lindsay: “Nice. Hmmmm. I may just order a la carte.”

Michelle: “Sounds good. Is that real fur?”

Lindsay: No, just faux fur. I don’t like to wear fur. This vest is huge on me.”

Michelle: “I know! You’re so petite!” Lindsay: “Yeah, I think I need to stop wearing it.”

Michelle: “Don’t get rid of it. I like it–it has a certain je ne sais quoi.”

Lindsay: “What’s the soup du jour?” Michelle: “Umm, looks like mushroom.”

Lindsay: “Yum!”


French is very prevalent in English, and you might not realize just how much it’s used.

We gave you a bunch of examples today, from food to appearance so that you can start using them in your conversations.

Listen for them, and you might hear them more often than you think.

This is a fun aspect of speaking English, and it can really be a great addition to your conversations.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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