Have you never experienced some doubtful moments when you say something and wonder if what you have just said is correct? It often occurs (happens) when two words have a very similar meaning or pronunciation. Let us look at some of them:
* MINERS & MINORS
A miner is someone whose job is to dig the earth. In France, the North and East were specialized in such industry in the nineteenth century.
Minors represent very young people under 18 years old in France. They are not considered as adult by the society.
* QUITE & QUIET
Much of the difficulty in the word "quite" comes from the general rule (there are exceptions) that the affirmative "quite" is the equivalent of "rather" (plutot). Example: It is quite expensive.
On the opposite, the negative "quite" means "completely" (tout a fait). Example: It is not quite ready.
Quiet means without noise. There is two syllable (kwai-yette) whereas for quite, we have only one (kwaitte).
* HAUT DE GAMME?
Upscale and downscale / upmarket and downmarket. These terms are used about nearly any product, newspapers included, and correspond roughly to "haut de gamme" and "bas de gamme".
* DEALS AND DEALERS
Be careful! The noun "deal", the verb "to deal" and the person " a dealer" all have rather different senses.
A deal is "une affaire", a good deal, a bad deal, we made a deal. The connotation is sometimes, but not always dishonest. It is a deal = c'est d'accord!
To deal in something can be neutral - she deals in used office machines - or pejorative - he deals in drugs and illegal arms.
A dealer is even more dangerous: The word is limited to drug dealers, arms dealers and, curiously car dealers and antique dealers.
* A DENT OR A BUMP?
Unlike in French, dents and bumps in English are very specific. A dent is concave. A bump is convex.
Ex: Your car has a dent.
If you bump (cognez) your head, you may have a bump on your head...
In both cases, the French term is "bosse".
* ARE YOU SICK, ILL OR DISEASED?
How do you say "etre malade" in English?
To be sick is the simplest and most common and maybe the best expression.
"To be ill" is more bourgeois.
"Disease/diseased" is either a clinical and scientific term, or a word that connotes gravity, even horror.
Beware! In British English, "I am going to be sick" means "je vais vomir!".
* IN JAIL OR IN PRISON?
These two words mean about the same thing, but jail is a bit more temporary. If you are in prison, it is probably for a long time.
Note that in Great Britain, you can find "jail" spelt as "gaol". The pronounciation is the same.
* IT SUITS YOU
A suit is, of course, un costume. But to suit is a verb meaning to be acceptable or to go well with. The new contract suits me very well. That colour suits you.
* AGENDA & SCHEDULE
An agenda is not "un agenda" but "un ordre du jour".
A schedule is anything that coordinates "what" with "when": your personal schedule (agenda), a train schedule (horaire)...
Garbage, rubbish, trash and junk are all often used figuratively.
Rubbish! Garbage! are exclamations that indicate something of no value (foutaise!).
Trash tends to communicate low moral value: Hollywood makes a lot of trashy films.
* ARE YOU MEAN?
In British English, mean = avare.
In American, mean = mechant.
* WEDDINGS & MARRIAGES
A wedding is the ceremony of marriage. Marriage is the resulting state.
Weddings can be expensive and complicated, but they are nothing compared to marriage...
What do you think about these remarks?
With best wishes,