French vocabulary - tricks for English speakers
part 3

by Geoffrey Barto

Word families. Sometimes knowing one word will give you the ability to learn a number of other words. Here we're going to connect to an English hook, then show how that hook gives you a lot of French words.

Royal. Remember the "U"s and "L"s. Royal, royale, royaux and royales are the four forms of the adjective meaning "royal". Royal means pertaining to the king, "roi." The king and queen ("reine" from L. regina) rule ("régner sur" like "rein over" from L. regere) the kingdom ("royaume" - we're back to roi and royal). Their government (or any government) is the "régime" and it enforces its will with "régiments". Incidentally, a meal fit for a king is "régal" (though "royal" is preferred in speaking of the king himself).

Légal. We just saw "roi" and "régal". Likewise, law and legal are "loi" and "légal" in French. If something isn't legal, it's "illégal." "Lois" are made by the "législature" - selected in "élections législatives" ("législatif" is the masculine form) - as the result of "législation" (all three are obvious cognates). Meanwhile, if you uphold the law of relationships, you are "loyal." Remembering the "U"s and "L"s, you'll note the other forms are "loyale," "loyaux" and "loyales."

Fin. We know from page one that "finir" is finish (-IR = -ISH). That's because it's when you come to the end, "fin." Of course the end is "final" (other forms: "finale" - which gives the English finale, like at a fireworks show - "finaux/finals" and "finales"). "Finalement" is finally, but so is "enfin" (sort of like "in the end"). And when something reaches its end, it is "fini" (finished).

Chaleur. This one is a bit tricky, so follow closely. First let's decode "chaleur": CH = C and -EUR = OR so "chaleur" = "calor." Many will see the Spanish word for "hot"; it's French for "heat." It's also the source for the English "calorie." Since "chaleur" means "heat," "chaleureux/se" is "warm" and "chaleureusement" is "warmly." Meanwhile, French also has the word, "chaud," which means "hot." Remembering the "U"s and "L"s, we might notice that this word is related to "chaleur" (there's a common root in the Latin "calor" and "calidus"). When it's hot, the French say "il fait chaud." When they are hot, they say "j'ai chaud" (don't say "je suis chaud"; it's not correct and can be taken the wrong way!). If they aren't hot, they might turn on the "chauffage" (heating) or "réchauffeur" (heater). This will enable them to (re)heat the house (réchauffer). Incidentally, the "chauffeur" who drives limousines today got his name from the guys who shoveled coal into the boilers on trains and the first steam-powered vehicles - who kept the engines heated.

Here's the first vocabulary page.

Here's the second vocabulary page.

Return to The Language pages at gbarto.com.