Those tricky french homonyms!

After some time on Duolingo practicing your French you finally decide to put yourself to the test: Going to a French speaking country and practice the language with native speakers! Everything is going well but, from time to time, you hear words pronounced exactly the same. Of course most of the time the context (and the gender) will give you an answer, but not always..

There are many different kinds of homonyms: some are written the same way, some differently but sounds the same, and some are written and pronounced the same way. Of course, most of the time, they have a different meaning otherwise learning a language (and especially French) wouldn’t be funny enough!

Talking with one of my friends that recently began learning French he realized there were many of those and asked me for some more. A “classic” would be Vers, vert, ver, verre and vair :

Vers can be used for directions/around, or for the verse of a poem (Je pars vers 5 heures/ I’m leaving around 5; J’aime les vers de ce poème/I love the verses of this poem).

Vert(s) is for the color (Les arbres verts/The green trees)

Ver is for the animal (Le ver de terre/The warm) but be careful, it takes an extra s for plural (Les vers de terre)

Verre is for the glass (Je bois dans le verre/ I drink from the glass; Cette sculpture est faite de verre/This sculpture is made of glass)

Vair is the fur of a squirrel which I have no idea how to translate (did you know there was a debate over Cinderella on this matter? Is her shoe made of Verre or Vair? ^^)

Other homonyms are Court, cours, courent, cour, courre. But lets make it more tricky ;) :

Court, cours and courent are conjugations of the verb courir (Run).

Cours is also a class (Je cours à mon cours d’anglais/I’m running to my English class), and a price (Le cours de l’or/the price of gold)

Court is the adjective short (Ce cours est court/ This class is short).

Cour would be a court, a yard or a playground (Le cours court sera donné dans la cour de récréation/ The short class will be given in the playground; Le cour de tennis/the tennis court)

I could go completely crazy by mixing all those above in the same sentence, but I’m not that bad ^^.

Of course there are many others:

Sang (blood), sans (without), sent (smell), s’en (il s’en fiche/ he doesn’t care) Champ (field), Chant (chant, song) Sont (verbe are 3rd pl), son (a noise, his) , sons Leur, leurs, l’heure, leurre Ni, n'y, nie, nies, nid, nids Etc…

I’m sure many of Duo people can be very creative and come with crazy combinations of homonyms. If one day you feel tricked by those little scallywags here is a shortlist with the most common ones and few explanations for each:

A last one for the fun

Un hère, vêtu d'une haire, erre sur une aire, chantonnant d'un air triste en roulant les R un air d'une autre ère.

3 years ago


I gotta admit that's the part in French that makes me kinda sad about learning it. I won't give up on it, though.

3 years ago

I actually like these because they make me seriously pay attention to the context, all of it. I think that is when one begins really learning the language.

3 years ago

That's the spirit !

3 years ago
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About that dispute on the material of Cinderella's shoes, here's an enlightening article (in French) about it.

3 years ago

Haha damn you Balzac! Thanks BastouXII

3 years ago
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Lovely list. Until I studied Chinese (which has over 30 meaning for 'shi') I had never even noticed that red and read were confusable. Context separated them as well as their grammatical placement. When confusion is imminent, native speakers generally change a sentence to clarify meaning, often by using set phrases.

3 years ago

My God. I thought homophones in English were bad. This is actually evil.

3 years ago

english speaking always whine about french homonyms despite english has many of them you learnt english and you certaily can learn french ones .you forgot aux.,au,os.haut, ou and où, eu, eau,eaux,

3 years ago
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