enfant child. enfance childhood. Cognate with infant, infancy. These words are easy but note that English infancy is limited to early childhood but French enfance covers a wider range of age.
arriver to arrive; to happen; to manage (to do something). English arrive is from Old French, which, like this French word, is from Latin ad ripa, literally “to the bank (of a river etc.)”. This word looks easy but note the second and third meanings, which may be easier to remember if you imagine the scene of finally reaching land after floating in water for a long time.
attendre to wait, to expect. attente waiting, expectation. Cognate with attend. In spite of the cognation, this word does not mean “to attend”, which would be assister in French. The sense development is that the Latin source means “to attend to or listen to” (which has passed into English attend) but its French derivation changed to “to wait to hear instruction” and then to “to wait” in general.
vieux old. vieil old. Cognate with veteran. Vieil is used before a masculine noun that starts with a vowel sound. See also vieillard (“old man”).
beau beautiful, handsome. English beautiful is from an Old French word, which was derived from the same Latin word which French beau came from.
depuis since; from. From de- + puis, where puis is cognate with English post (used as a prefix e.g. post-Industrial).
sortir to exit; exit (n.), end. English sortie (“an attack made by troops coming out from a position of defense”) is from this French word.
jeune young. Cognate with juvenile. From Latin iuvenis, where the middle syllable was omitted by French. If traced to Proto-Indo-European, cognate with young.
noir black. Cognate with nigger, Negro. From Latin niger (“black”). (Latin i in front of a guttural such as g often changes to French oi, and the following unstressed syllable is dropped.) It may be easier to learn this word by realizing that the famous French wine Pinot Noir is brewed from black grapes.
fille girl; daughter. Cognate with English filial (“pertaining to a son or daughter”, as in “filial piety”, “filial affection”).
soir evening. Etymology doesn’t help. Bonsoir (“Good evening”) may be understood by some English speaking people. English soirée or soiree (“evening party”) comes from French.
maintenant now. From main (“hand”)+ tenant (“holding”). Apparently the French make an analogy between holding in hand and the current time, which can be compared to English “at hand” (“close by in time or space”). Whatever the interpretation, this word doesn’t mean “maintenance” in spite of cognation; consider them to be false friends.
ouvrir to open; to start. Cognate with aperture, which is closer to their common Latin origin. The change of Latin p to French v is not uncommon.
bras arm. Cognate with brace, brachium (“upper arm”), with the root of embrace, and even with pretzel (which looks like folded arms). This word and English bra are false friends; the latter in French would be soutien-gorge.
pied foot. There are multiple English words sharing the same Latin source, e.g., pedal, pedestrian.
sourire smile (n.); to smile. rire laugh (n.); to laugh. Rire, cognate with English ridicule, means “laugh” in their Latin source. Sou- comes from sub- meaning “below”. A smile is like a low-grade laugh.
vivre to live. Cognate with the root of revive.
presque almost, nearly. près near, close (to a time or place). Presque is from près + que, where près is cognate with press. Pressing on things makes them close to each other.
appeler to call. Cognate with appellation (“name”, especially one indicating the geographic origin of wine).
loin far. If traced to Proto-Indo-European, cognate with long. Nevertheless, long serves as a good mnemonic if you think of a long way (away) as far away.
paraître to appear; to seem. Cognate with the root of appear, i.e. without the prefix. From Latin parere.
tomber to fall. If traced to Proto-Germanic, cognate with tumble, which can be used as a good mnemonic anyway.
plein full, plenty (cognate). Also cognate with plenary (“fully attended”, as in “plenary session of a conference”).
regarder to look. regard look (n.), glance. Cognate with regard. These words look easy but are listed because their meanings significantly differ from those in English. Consider them to be false friends.
suivre to follow. Cognate with the root of pursue.