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Learn 300 French Cognates in Just a Few Minutes


Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

With French cognates, you can learn hundreds of French words in a matter of minutes.

French cognates are words that are spelled the same in English and French. There are hundreds of these words.

To put it another way, even if you’ve never spent a single minute learning French, you already know a lot of French words.

That’s because French and English have so much in common.

Learning French cognates is a fast and simple way to build your French vocabulary. And best of all, there are simple rules you can follow when you’re looking for cognates. So you don’t even have to learn cognates word-by-word. You can learn hundreds (or even thousands) of them in just a few minutes.

To get you started, I’ve put together this list of 300 true French cognates and words that are very similar in French and English.

At first glance, languages can seem hard. While there are obstacles to overcome, there are also many language hacks that can get us communicating quickly. Cognates are one such hack.

Before I get to the list of 300 words, let me show you just how simple this can be…

I’ve Put the French Cognates in Bold:

French and English have an abondance of cognates, so English speakers have a huge head start before ever putting forth any effort.

It should come as no surprise that you already speak French. You have a lot of information already. Without preparation, you will be able to improve your communication without reservation.

During the evolution of the English language,* a lot of French found its way into English. Therefore, French shares a lot of vocabulaire with English. Some estimates say that about 10,000 words came to English via French.

You may have a sense of déjà vu as you read this article, as you have already seen these words before.

If you know cities in the United States, you might know Boise (wooded), Bel Air  (beautiful air), Detroit (a straight), Montclair (clear mountain), Des Moines (River of the Monks). If you know the states, you are familiar with Vermont (green mountain), or Oregon  (the word for hurricane from French via the Taino language), used to describe the windy river there.

If you work in journalism, you might work in a bureau. Regardless of your profession, you likely use a téléphone and a calendaire. A professeur helped you learn the skills you needed somewhere along the way. Perhaps you work for yourself and are an entrepreneur.

Regardless of your location, you have an address. Without question, you visit the pharmacie, banque, dentiste  and restaurant at times. Every city has a place where the police are located.

Do you wish people bon voyage  as they travel to new destinations? Do they collect souvenirs? What do they do when they are en route?

What gives you joie de vivre? Perhaps on le-weekend , you watch television. Do you enjoy littérature?A certain genre? A book with an immense number of pages?

Perhaps you enjoy culture and the arts  outside your home. Ballet? Travelling, and seeing all kinds of architecture? Do you enjoy a good festival – a fete that is estival , and takes place in summer? Or maybe creating with papier mâché  helps you unwind.

What about fashion? Do you think certain things are chic? Do you own an eau de toilette, such as Chanel?

Sport more your thing? Do you like rugby, golf, ski?

During our éducation, we take many classesHistoire, biologie, maths, arts, latin, religion, or geographie. Most people hated révision before exams.

In the military, we use many of the words from the French system. There are cadets in académies. We have colonels and lieutenants.

Do you like to eat? Perhaps you love a meal prepared for you by a chef? If you live in the U.K., you might eat courgette (zucchini) or aubergine (eggplant). Do you read the menu when you go to a café? Do you like to picnicSalade with vinaigrette is a great lunch option, and so is soupe.

A popular breakfast dish is an omelette.

Do you like fruitsOranges? When you receive an invitation, do you R.S.V.P.? In English, we know this means that we should Respond So Very Promptly. This came from an abréviation of Répondez s’il vous plaît (please respond). Not exactly the same, but you get the point.

When you describe people, are they intelligent? Blonde? Brunette? Calme? Timide?

300 French Cognates — Words You Already Know in French

More than 1,500 English words from French are true cognates–exactly the same in both languages. Many others are close, with minor differences in spelling and therefore easy to learn. Check out this guide to see how much French YOU already know:

Words that end in -ion are often the same in French and English

Some examples:

  • acceleration – l’accélération
  • action – action
  • addiction – addiction
  • ambition – ambition
  • attention – attention
  • celebration – celebration
  • champion – champion
  • communication – communication
  • condition – condition
  • conversation – conversation
  • donation – donation
  • diction – diction
  • edition – édition
  • election – election
  • equation – equation
  • emotion – emotion
  • erosion – érosion
  • fiction – fiction
  • function – function
  • generation – génération
  • infection – infection
  • information – l’information
  • injection – injection
  • invasion – invasion
  • legion – legion
  • motion – motion
  • notion – notion
  • nation – nation
  • omission – omission
  • option – option
  • passion – passion
  • population – population
  • presentation – présentation
  • pronunciation- prononciation
  • question – question
  • ration – ration
  • reflection – reflection
  • religion – religion
  • reservation – réservation
  • region – région
  • rotation – rotation
  • session – session
  • station – station
  • solution – solution
  • transaction – transaction

Words that end in -al are often French cognates:

  • animal – animal
  • central – central
  • national – national
  • final – final
  • international – international
  • mental – mental
  • vertical – vertical

Many words that end in -able are the same in English and French:

  • adorable – adorable
  • admirable – admirable
  • applicable – applicable
  • cable – cable
  • capable – capable
  • double – double
  • durable – durable
  • favorable – favorable
  • habitable – habitable
  • incurable – incurable
  • identifiable – identifiable
  • improbable – improbable
  • inseparable – inséparable
  • justifiable – justifiable
  • notable – notable
  • recyclable – recyclable
  • respectable – respectable
  • sociable – sociable
  • table – table
  • vulnerable – vulnérable

Many words that end in -ible are the same in English and French:

  • horrible – horrible
  • flexible – flexible
  • impossible – impossible
  • inaccessible – inaccessible
  • incredible – incrédible
  • perceptible – perceptible
  • visible – visible

Many words that end in -ance are the same in English and French:

  • ambiance – ambiance
  • ambulance – ambulance
  • appearance – appearance
  • alliance – alliance
  • arrogance – arrogance
  • assistance – assistance
  • assurance – assurance
  • brilliance – brilliance
  • circumstance – circumstance
  • deliverance – deliverance
  • distance – distance
  • dominance – dominance
  • endurance – endurance
  • elegance – elegance
  • fiance – fiancé
  • finance – finance
  • fragrance – fragrance
  • intolerance – intolerance
  • importance – importance
  • nuance – nuance
  • nuisance – nuisance
  • perseverance – perseverance
  • renaissance – renaissance
  • resemblance – resemblance
  • resonance – resonance
  • substance – substance
  • tolerance – tolerance
  • vibrance – vibrance

In French, the gerund ends in -ant. You might know a bon vivant (person who loves living well). Something might be dormant (sleeping). Here are some more French-English cognates that end in -ant:

  • brilliant – brilliant(e)
  • elephant – éléphant
  • extravagant- extravagant
  • ignorant – ignorant(e)
  • immigrant – immigrant
  • important – important(e
  • nonchalant nonchalant
  • restaurant – restaurant
  • triumphant – triumphant(e)
  • vacant – vacant
  • vibrant – vibrant

Many words that end in -ct are the same in French and English:

  • contract – contracter
  • correct – correct
  • direct – direct
  • distinct – distinct
  • exact – exact
  • impact – impact
  • insect – insecte
  • instinct – instinct
  • object – objet
  • perfect – parfait
  • respect – respect
  • suspect – suspect

Often words that end in -ence are the same:

  • absence – absence
  • conscience – conscience
  • convergence – convergence
  • indulgence – indulgence
  • impatience – impatience
  • Independence – indépendance
  • innocence – innocence
  • intelligence – intelligence
  • obedience – obédience
  • patience – patience
  • science – science
  • silence – silence
  • violence – violence

Many words that end in -ent are the same in English and French:

  • absent – absent
  • accent – accent
  • accident – accident
  • adjacent – adjacent
  • adolescent – adolescent
  • affluent – affluent
  • amendment – amendement
  • apartment – appartement
  • agent – agent
  • ardent – ardent
  • client – client
  • compliment – compliment
  • continent – continent
  • decent – décent
  • deficient – déficient
  • different – différent(e)
  • diligent – diligent
  • document – document
  • encouragement – encouragement
  • element – élément
  • evident – évident
  • excellent – excellent
  • increment – incrément
  • incident – incident
  • innocent – innocent
  • intelligent – intelligent
  • latent – latent
  • monument – monument
  • negligent – négligent
  • payment – paiement
  • parent – parent
  • permanent – permanent(e)
  • pertinent – pertinent
  • president – président
  • prudent – prudent(e)
  • recent – récent
  • segment – segment
  • talent – talent
  • transparent – transparent
  • urgent – urgent

The words listed thus far are almost identical to English. You can easily increase your vocabulary by learning a few patterns and suffixes.

Many words that end in -ary in English have their equivalent as -aire in French:

  • actuary – actuaire
  • arbitrary – arbitraire
  • dictionary – dictionnaire
  • extraordinary – extraordinaire
  • imaginary – imaginaire
  • ordinary – ordinaire
  • anniversary – anniversaire
  • dictionary – dictionnaire
  • salary – salaire
  • vocabulary – vocabulaire
  • military – militaire
  • necessary – néccessaire
  • contrary – contraire

Many words that end in -ical have -ique equivalents in French:

  • alphabetical – alphabetique
  • analytical – analytique
  • Catholic – Catholique
  • chemical – chemique
  • critical – critique
  • cubical – cubique
  • dramatic – dramatique
  • electrical – electrique
  • ethical – èthique
  • historical – historique
  • identical – identique
  • logical – logique
  • lyrical – lyrique
  • music – musique
  • practical – pratique
  • romantic – romantique
  • statistical – statistique
  • symmetrical – symetrique
  • typical – typique

Many words that end in -ist have the equivalent -iste in French:

  • cyclist – cycliste
  • artist – artiste
  • dentist – dentiste

Many adverbs that end in -ly in English have an equivalent in French ending in -ment:

  • absolutely – absolument
  • correctly –  correctement
  • directly – directement
  • especially – spécialement
  • evidently – évidemment
  • exactly – exactement
  • finally – finalement
  • immediately – immédiatement
  • naturally – naturellement
  • normally – normalement
  • totally – totalement

Many English words have a close French equivalent with circumflex:

  • coast – côte
  • forest – forêt
  • hotel – hôtel
  • hospital – hôpital
  • theatre – théâtre

Looking for more French resources? Check out Benny’s favorites here.

author headshot

Janina Klimas

Teacher, Author and Blogger

Janina has a degree in Theater Arts and Languages, and an MA in the Teaching of Languages. She's a speech and drama teacher and has taught languages for 20+ years. She blogs at Real Life Language.

Speaks: English, Spanish, French, Italian

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