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From Homographs to Homophones as we learn French

So what shall we do with all the new homophones? A few more brain teasers to conquer!  What is a homophone compared to a homograph?

Well, we know that a homograph is a word with the same spelling as another word yet has a different meaning. A homophone is a word with the same sound or pronunciation as another word, though has a different spelling and a different meaning. These can provide some serious brain twisting even for mother tongue speakers.

Some homophones in English to clarify  

As an English speaker, mother tongue or global learner, these words will demonstrate the huge significance of understanding the specific meaning of each word in a pair of homophones :

hole / whole          see / sea           mail / male          know / no           weak / week          right / write         way / weigh

Imagine if someone wrote the following: His answer is write and I hope he will right it down. I no that this makes know sense! Younger learners often pose the question, “does spelling count?”  What do you think?

Some Homophones to assist you on your French course

a et à

These two monosyllabic words may seem insignificant yet both are of huge importance in French and are used constantly.

The ‘a’ with no accent is part of the verb to have and is used to say, il a ou elle a (he has or she has) ex. Elle a une belle maison (she has a beautiful house).

The ‘a’ with accent grave ‘à’ has multiple possible meanings and if these two words are used incorrectly, the meaning would be lost.

The three most simple uses of ‘à’ relate to location or destination:

1. Nous allons à Nice  (We go/are going to Nice).  The ‘a’ without the accent would change the meaning to the following: we go/are going have Nice.

2. Vous habitez à Rome (You live in Rome).

3. Je suis à la poste (I am at the post office).

sont et son

Again only one syllable, homophonic, yet a significant difference in meaning. Grammatically, ‘sont’ is part of the verb être (to be) while ‘son’ is a possessive adjective meaning his or her. 

Ils sont en France (They are in France).  

Il a son sac (He has her bag). This sentence with the incorrect use of ‘sont’ would read: He has are bag, establishing again, the importance of distinguishing spelling related to meaning.

Mais et mes

Another set of homophones which would already carry significance in the initial stages of a French course.

The word ‘mais’ means but in English and serves as a conjunction.‘Mes‘  on the other hand is a possessive adjective meaning ‘my’ and is used for plural words in French.

Il est acteur mais son fils est écrivain (He is an actor but his son is a writer).

Je vais mettre mes choses dans le salon (I’m going to put my things in the lounge).

This gives you a mere taste of the nourishment your brain could thrive on when involved with the ongoing though hugely worthwhile challenges presented by such a refined and enviable language as le français. Allez-y !!!

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