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14 Questions British People Have About The French Language

France, your language is beautiful but it causes us so much pain.

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1. Let's tackle the most perplexing element straight away: Why must your verbs have so many endings?

Notice how the endings are all basically the same? We used to have a load more verb inflections, just like you, but we got rid of them hundreds of years ago because they were confusing and annoying.

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How can one simple word be so complicated? How are beginners supposed to learn all this?

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And what is the actual point of having "ent" on the end of the word if you don't pronounce it?

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4. Why do your nouns have to be gendered?

French person: "Door is feminine. Insect is masculine."

British person: "Why?"

"That's just the way it is."

"Right… So, how can I tell which nouns are which gender?"

"You can't. You just have to know."

"But how do I know?"

*shrugs*

*gives up*

5. The whole thing gets particularly confusing when it comes to job titles.

So...a film star is une vedette, even if it's a guy?

Also, what's the deal with gens? It's feminine when an adjective is in front of it, but masculine if an adjective comes in front of it with a comma? Oh, and how come après-midi can be both un and une?

*bangs head on desk*

6. Do you really need all those accent marks?

OK, I can kind of see the function of the aigu, grave, and cedilla, since they affect pronunciation (though not always). But the circumflex? What's the point? Sûr? Tôt? What is the accent doing there, exactly? Also, what are the keyboard shortcuts for these, please?

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7. What's your problem with numbers? Why do you guys lose your minds above the number 69?

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Seriously, France. This is madness. Apparently French-speaking Belgians have the words septante (70) and huitante (80). Could you not use those?

8. Deciding whether to address someone as tu or vous. Doesn't that ever get awkward?

Things must get weird, especially in the workplace. Who decides when to switch from one to the other? What if one person thinks you are close enough to say tu, but the other one would rather stick to vous? As an English person, I feel socially anxious just thinking about it.

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9. What's the deal with the position of adjectives?

So it's so les cheveux noirs, but un vieil homme. The adjective comes after the noun…apart from all the cases where it doesn't. What kind of rule is that?

How do you know if someone has said "Ils sont" or "Ils ont"? "Plutôt" or "plus tôt"? And what is the logic behind dessous (underneath) and dessus (on top) sounding indistinguishable, despite meaning the opposite of each other? It really feels like you are trolling us non-natives with that one.

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11. Why are your expressions so weird?

To have one's arse filled with noodles? To poop a clock? I mean, these are delightful phrases. Ditto Avoir les deux pieds dans le même sabot (to have two feet in the same clog), and Engueuler quelqu’un comme du poisson pourri (to yell at someone like they're a rotten fish). But do you realise how strange they sound to non-French speakers?

12. And as for your sexual euphemisms...

Chauve à col roulé = the bald one with a turtleneck, i.e. the penis.

OK, that one kind of makes sense, I'll admit.

13. Speaking of euphemisms, why do you have so many different ways of saying that someone died?

Crever.

Clamser.

Casser sa pipe.

Avaler sa chique/son extrait de naissance.

Calancher.

Passer l'arme à gauche.

Boire le bouillon de onze heures.

Elle nous a quittés.

Rendre l'âme.

S'éteindre.

Elle est décédée.

And these are just the ones I've come across so far. As a nation you appear to be death-obsessed.

14. And finally, how can such a forbidding and confusing language also manage to be so poetic, and so beautiful?

CORRECTION

Oops: An earlier version of this post contained a couple of mistakes: cheveux noires instead of cheveux noirs, and un vieux homme instead of un vieil homme. Which rather supports the notion of French being fiddly and difficult.