The French Conundrum of Entrez-vous

Use by French vs. English Speakers

The comic strip Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller held a Great Non Sequitur Sign-Off Contest, where readers were invited to send in suggestions for the sign in front of the Au Naturel Deli, behind the door of which lurked a bear with a cleaver. The winning entry, from Mary Cameron of Leander, Texas, had text scrawled on the sign outside that read "Entrée: Vous." Most people might apply a double-entendre to the phrase in this context, which might be translated as "Today's Entrée: You."  This is a very cute and clever realization of the comic!

 

Confusion of Entrée and Entrez

But to understand the double-meaning of this suggested comic, the reader would need to understand the homophonous entrez vous, which is often used by non-native French speakers to mean "Come in." So the sign in this comic would be read with a homonymic understanding as both "Come in" and "Today's Main Dish: You." 

Language Use Differences

The problem is that entrez vous in French doesn't quite mean what non-native French speakers use as its literal translation.  When the phrase is broken down, the French verb entrer is not reflexive; the correct way to say "Come in" is simply entrez in the formal and plural "you" conjugation of the verb. So if the sign in this comic were to indicate that a passerby should enter the shop, it'd simply read "Entrez," and as a result lose its comedic nature. Neither of these words should be confused with entre which translates to "in" or "between" in English and doesn't have the same pronunciation because the "e" at the end is essentially silent.

 An example of the use of this word might be "...ça reste entre nous," meaning "this stays between us," perhaps implicative of a confidential conversation. 

When to Use Entrez-vous

For non-native French speakers, this begs the question if there is ever an appropriate use of the phrase entrez vous in the French language.

The only time you might use entrez vous in French would be in the case of a question. Saying "Entrez-vous?" is similar to asking "Are you coming in?"  or even "What about coming in?" and is more casual and conversational in nature. 

If you're thinking of using entrée vous or entrez-vous interchangeably, even for humor, bear in mind that it will likely not be understood by native French speakers as very humorous. Rather, it's typically seen as a grammatical error.