from pp. 67-71
baiser kiss (n.); (vulgar) to fuck (v.). Cognate with an outdated English word buss (“kiss”). Use a mnemonic such as “He gave his girlfriend Beth a kiss.” Be very careful with the meaning of baiser used as a verb especially followed by a person. It used to mean “to kiss”, which nowadays is embrasser or donner un baiser (“to give a kiss”) in French. You can use the word as a noun (in spite of the -er ending) without such concern. Not to be confused with baisser (“to lower”). Examples, un baiser sur la joue / bouche (“a kiss on the cheek / mouth”); bons baisers de Paris (“with love from Paris”, literally “good kisses from Paris”, used at the end of a letter).
sable sand. Cognate with sabulous (“sandy”, “gritty”). Alternatively, use a mnemonic such as “A saber is made from iron sand, a source of iron ore”, which has some truth in it, especially in Japanese swordsmithing. Or a wordplay “Why is taking out t from stable makes it unstable? Because sable means ‘sand’.” Example, une plage de sable fin (“a fine sandy beach”, “a beach with fine sand”).
proche close (to a time or place) (adj.), near; (in plural) close family and relatives, loved ones. Cognate with proximal, proximity. There’s no direct relationship between ch in proche and x in proximal, but if you happen to know how x in México is pronounced in Spanish, use that as a mnemonic to make a connection. Examples, un magasin proche du parc (“a store near the park”); un ami très proche (“a very close friend”).
retirer to remove, to withdraw, to take off (clothes); (reflexive) to retire. From re- (“back”) + tirer (“to pull”). Note the first meaning, which is literal and does not exist in English retire. Example, retirer le nom de la liste (“to remove the name from the list”). See also tirer.
davantage more, further (adv.), plus. From de- + avantage (“advantage”). French avantage or English advantage literally or originally means “front”, “forward” (French avant). Moving forward is making more or further progress. Example, il a aidé son fils, mais il a fait davantage / plus pour sa fille (“he helped his son, but he did more for his daughter”).
promener to walk (transitive v.), (reflexive) to walk. English promenade (“to walk”; “walkway”) is from French promenade, from promener. Not to be confused with promettre (“to promise”) or promesse (“promise”, n.). Examples, promener le chien (“to walk the dog”); il se promène dans la rue (“he walks on the street”; note se).
tromper to deceive, to mislead, to fool, to cheat; (reflexive) to go wrong, to be wrong. Cognate with trumpet. According to A. Brachet, an etymologist, this word means “properly to play the horn, alluding to quacks and mountebanks, who attracted the public by blowing a horn, and then cheated them into buying; thence to cheat”. You may also create a mnemonic if the word sounds like the name of a politician you don’t trust. To balance that joke, though, also learn the less common word berner, which has the same meaning. Examples, je me suis trompé (“I was wrong”, “I made a mistake”); désolé, vous vous êtes trompé de numéro (“sorry, you’ve got the wrong number”).
juger to judge (cognate). Example, ne jugez pas les gens à leur visage (“don’t judge people by their faces”).
merde shit (both literally and figuratively). This word has entered English vocabulary, along with Spanish mierda (“shit”). If you don’t know it and don’t know any other Romance language, you may use mud as a mnemonic and think of both as something dirty and unpleasant. English has an obsolete word merd (“dung”) and its adjective merdurinous, which are cognates.
étage floor; stage (cognate). To see the cognation, change é- to s-; see §7 of the Notes of this book for this rule. Examples, il habite à l'étage / au dernier étage (“he lives upstairs / on the top floor”; dernier literally means “last”); le premier étage (“the second floor (US)”, “the first floor (UK or Europe))”. Note the first floor (US) or the ground floor (UK or Europe) is called le rez-de-chaussée in French. See also rez-de-chaussée.
avouer to confess, to admit. Cognate with avow, which in English does not quite mean “to confess”. Example, j’avoue que j’ai fait / j’avoue avoir fait une erreur (“I admit I made a mistake”).
merci thank you (interj.); mercy (cognate), pity, grace (fem. n.); thank-you, thanks (masc. n.). The first sense is overwhelmingly more common, but the word can be used as a noun in either gender. To remember which gender has which meaning, maybe associate mercy as a more feminine characteristic. Or consider “grace” to be more abstract than “thanks” and see §3 of the Notes of this book. Example, merci beaucoup de m’avoir aidé (“thank you very much for helping me / having helped me”; note de, not pour).
diriger to direct (cognate), to act as director, to manage; (reflexive, followed by vers “toward”) to head for, to head to, to go in the direction of.
déjeuner to have lunch (in France); lunch (in France) (n.). The root in Latin, ieiunus (“fasting”), is cognate with jejune (“simplistic”, “uninteresting”; “not nutritious”). With the prefix dé-, the word literally means “ending the fast”. Unfortunately, this word means “lunch” in France, while petit déjeuner means “breakfast”. The French people are known to eat slow, a habit that may lead to a gradual, two-stage, ending of the fasting. Fact or not, use that as a memory aid. Example, je prends le petit déjeuner à 8 heures et je déjeune à 13 heures (“I have breakfast at 8 AM and I have lunch at 1 PM”).
faute fault (cognate), error. Examples, tout est / c’est de ma faute (“it’s (all) my fault”; note de); faire une erreur / faute (“to make a mistake”); faute d’un meilleur mot (“for lack of a better word”).
engager to hire, to employ; (reflexive) to promise (to do); to commit, to pledge; to advise, to encourage; to enter into. engagement commitment. French engager has more meanings than English engage; in fact, none of them is exactly the same as the latter. For example, a pre-marital engagement is fiançailles (plural only) ; je me suis engagé ... means “I’m committed ... (as in je me suis engagé à le faire, “I’m committed to doing that / I promise to do that”). Examples, engager un nouvel ouvrier (“to hire a new worker”; note it’s nouvel not nouveau); il s’engage dans l’armée (“he joined the army”); la liberté n’est pas l’absence d’engagement, mais la capacité de choisir (“freedom is not the absence of commitment, but the ability to choose”, said Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian novelist).
balle ball (cognate if traced to Proto-Germanic); bullet. Note the second meaning; historically, bullets were round balls. In the first sense used in sports, balle refers to a small and non-inflatable ball, as distinct from the bigger and inflatable ballon. Example, une balle de tennis / golf (“a tennis / golf ball”).
casser to break. Cognate with quash. From Latin quassare. One major development of Latin qu- is to French c-. Use crash as a mnemonic. Or “I broke a casserole pan”. xamples, le vent a cassé la vitre (“the wind broke the glass window”); la vitre s’est cassée (“the glass window broke”; note reflexive pronoun se); je me suis cassé le bras (“I broke my arm”; note reflexive pronoun me).
vendre to sell. vente sale. English vend (hence vendor, vending) is from French vendre. Not to be confused with vent (“wind”). Examples, à vendre (“for sale”); vendu (“sold”). But note English on sale uses different words in French, e.g. en solde, au rabais, or avec remise.
hier yesterday. If traced to Proto-Indo-European, cognate with yester-. This word is almost a false friend of English here (which would be ici in French). Examples, hier matin / soir (“yesterday morning / last night”); avant-hier (“the day before yesterday”; note the hyphen unless you say le jour avant hier, which is less common).
juif Jewish (cognate); Jew (cognate). From Latin iudaeus, which lost part of its second syllable when inherited by Old French, from which English Jew is derived. The Latin word sounds closer to Judah, the founder of the Israelite and the Kingdom of Judah, the land of Judea and the Jews. Sometimes Latin final d changed to f in French; think of d and f in the second syllables of English feudal and fief. By convention, the initial letter J should be in capital when the word refers to the people instead of, say, religion. The feminine form of juif is juive.
écarter to separate, to push aside, to exclude, to spread, to discard (cognate). écart gap. écarté remote; apart (adj.); discarded. From ex- (“away”, “removing”) + carte (“card”). It originally meant “putting the cards aside” in card-playing. Cognate with discard (literally “to reject a card”). Examples, écarter les bras (“to spread the arms”); un village écarté (“a remote village”); écart de génération / écart générationnel (“generation gap”); tenir à l’écart de la lumière, de la chaleur (“to keep away from light and heat”).
appartenir to belong (to). Cognate with appertain (“to belong to”). The root is cognate with pertinent. Unrelated to partenaire (“partner”, from English partner), which nevertheless serves as a good mnemonic; partners belong to a group bonded by partnership. Example, à qui appartient ce stylo? (“whose pen is this?”, literally “to whom does this pen belong?”, the same as à qui est ce stylo?).
œuvre, oeuvre work (n.), especially work of art. Cognate with opera. From Latin opera (“work”). English opera as a music term is from Italian opera, which can be either “music work” or “opera”, or “work” in general. Latin p sometimes changed to French v (by way of b). On a restaurant menu, hors d’œuvre means “appetizer”, but literally “outside the work (i.e. main course of meal)”. This word should not be confused with ouvrir (“to open”).
confiance trust (n.), confidence (cognate). From Latin con- + fidere (“trust”). Medial d often gets lost when the word is inherited by French. Another way to remember the -fiance part is English cognate fiance or fiancé, “man who is engaged” but literally “trusted”. Examples, je fais confiance à M. Bernard (“I trust Mr. Bernard”; note faire and à); fais-moi confiance, ça va marcher (“trust me, this is going to work”). See also fier (“to trust”).
douleur pain; grief. douloureux painful. Cognate with dolor (“great sorrow or distress”), a word maybe too literary for people to know. Alternatively, use a mnemonic such as “Life is hard. Even making one dollar is a pain.”
toit roof. Etymology hardly helps unless you know an anatomical word tectum (“top part of the brain”) as well as a phonological rule (Latin long e changed to French oi). Use top as a mnemonic, or think of “to go to it” as “to go to the roof”, or see also étoile (“star”).
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