Languages › French Major Differences Between the French and English Languages Share Flipboard Email Print Nazar Abbas Photography / Getty Images French Grammar Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Resources For Teachers By ThoughtCo Updated February 21, 2020 The French and English languages are related in a sense, because French is a Romance language descended from Latin with German and English influences, while English is a Germanic language with Latin and French influences. Thus, they share some similarities, most notably the same alphabet and a number of true cognates. Perhaps more important, though, are the many differences, both major and minor, between the two languages, such as a long list of false cognates—words that look similar but have vastly different meanings. French and English have hundreds of cognates (words that look and/or are pronounced alike in the two languages), including true cognates with similar meanings, false cognates with different meanings, and semi-false cognates—some similar and some with different meanings. But it seems that false cognates confound us most. For instance, assister in French nearly always means "to attend" something, while "assist" in English means "to help." And formidable in French means "great" or "terrific," nearly the polar opposite of the English meaning, which is "dreadful" or "fearsome." Here are some brief explanations of the major differences between French and English, with links to further information. A Comparison of Characteristics French English accents in many words only in foreign words agreement yes no articles more common less common capitalization less common more common conjugations different for each grammatical person different only for third-person singular contractions required optional and informal gender for all nouns and most pronouns only for personal pronouns liaisons yes no negation two words one word prepositions certain verbs require prepositions many phrasal verbs rhythm stress at the end of each rhythmic group stressed syllable in each word, plus stress on an important word Roman numerals more common, often ordinal less common, rarely ordinal subjunctive common rare Other differences between French and English false cognates Words that look alike but don't necessarily mean the same thing pronunciation Many differences, particularly vowels and the letter R punctuation Different uses and spacing silent letters Many in both, but not the same letters singulars and plurals The grammatical number of nouns may be different. spelling equivalents Patterns in spelling differ in the two languages. word order Adjectives, adverbs, negation plus pronouns may cause problems. How Has French Influenced English? French to English False Cognates 'Actually' Is Surprisingly Different From the French 'Actuellement' The 9 Best French Grammar Books for Language Learners of 2020 Don't Be Fooled by These French False Cognates The Top 10 Beginning French Mistakes List of French to English False Cognates False Cognates are 'Faux Amis' Who Are Not Always Welcome Is Spanish Really Easier Than French? Faux Amis: French-English False Cognates Starting with A Faux Amis - French English False Cognates Letter E French Webquest: Research Project for French Class How Can a Bilingual Dictionary Help When Learn French? What Does the French Expression 'Tiens' Mean? What Does the French Word 'Enchanté' Mean in English? What Words Should You Capitalize in French?