French

Sangfroid

Sangfroid means to keep your cool, or to stay calm under great strain. One can be sangfroid or show great sangfroid. Sometimes dictionaries list a spelling variation as sang-froid with a hyphen. This comes from the original French spelling. However, most of English usage drops the hyphen. In French sang-froid means cold blood. To be cold-blooded in English is a bad thing, meaning to have no emotion in a situation that should elicit great emotion. However, if one’s blood is cold instead of hot, one could be …

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Cause celebre

A cause celebre is something that garners a lot of public attention, usually a famous incident or legal case. It literally means famous case in French. Also, In French it is spelled , but the accent marks are usually omitted in English, as shown by the ngram below. It is grammatically correct either way. The plural is causes celebres or causes célèbres. Examples The cases of Rojo and Slimani became Sporting’s cause célèbre of the summer, the hierarchy outraged at perceived “breaches of contractual duties” given their clear …

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Comme ci, comme ça

Comme ci, comme ça is a French phrase that literally means like this, like that. In conversation it means so-so, or neither good, nor bad. It is pronounced /kôm ˈsē kômˈsä/ (come see come saw). It should be used with the comma separating the two phrases. Sometimes the phrase is spelled comme ci, comme ca, where the cedilla mark is omitted; however, this is incorrect. Perhaps it will become commonplace as facade did, but for now, keep the cedilla in place. Normally the …

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Gist vs. jist

A gist is the main part of something, usually used with a direct object. It can also be the ground for legal action. Gist comes from the French word gist. Often misspelled as jist.  Jist is the common phonetic spelling of a United States Southerner’s way of saying ‘just’.  Interestingly, the origin of gist is the Latin word jacēre.   Examples  He is uneasy quoting Macbeth and has slightly garbled the line, but you get the gist. [Guardian] Think of it as the “Twitter of sports” with 2-minute …

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French noun gender

One of the most important differences between French and English is how gender is used. Every French noun is either masculine or feminine, and this affects how the noun is treated. This phenomenon comes from the language’s Latin origins. Archaic English had a few gender-related rules, but they’ve mostly disappeared over time. When learning the gender of French nouns, keep in mind that the meaning of the noun usually has nothing to do with whether it is masculine or feminine. …

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French partitive article

When referring to a noun whose quantity or amount is not specified, French speakers use the partitive article de, which conveys essentially the same meaning as some or any in English. For example, rather than saying the equivalent of I bought cheese, French speakers always say, I bought some cheese. Rather than saying, Do you have pets? they always say, Do you have some pets? This rule cannot be ignored. If you ask for the cheese or just cheese without the partitive …

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French indefinite articles

An indefinite article is used when referring to a general noun rather than a particular noun. While definite articles are used with specific nouns that are understood by both speaker and listener (the being the only English definite article), indefinite articles are used to call upon unspecified people or things. In English, the main indefinite articles are a and an, while a few other words such as some and any can also fill the role. In French, the indefinite articles are …

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French numbers

French uses the same numbers as English, but the spellings and pronunciations are quite different. There are no simple memory tricks for remembering French numbers, so they just have to be memorized. Zero through 19 French Pronunciation Number zéro zay-ro 0 un(e) uhn/oon 1 deux duh 2 trois twah 3 quatre kah-tr 4 cinq sank 5 six sees 6 sept set 7 huit wheet 8 neuf nuf 9 dix dees 10 onze ohnz 11 douze dooze 12 treize trayze 13 quatorze …

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French Days,  Months and Seasons

Are you visiting France for the first time? Knowing the French seasons, days, and months is an excellent first step to learning their holidays, culture, and language.  This guide will help you remember the French seasons, days of the week, and months of the year. Once you’ve mastered the terms, you’ll finally understand the French calendar while discussing dates in the Romance language! How to Learn the French Months of the Year The French months are simple to remember; they …

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47 Greetings and Salutations in French

If you want to be polite in a French-speaking country, memorize these common French words and phrases and use them liberally in your routine interactions.  Formal vs. Informal Use Some greetings in the French language can be used formally, while others are informal. Knowing which to use and when to use them is respectful and helps you avoid miscommunication in French. Consider the following context to help you choose which greeting is best when the occasion arises.  Formality Occasion Formal …

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