She says tomahto and I say tomate: French v English

Here and there

Something that frequently catches out us native French speakers in English is the use of “here” and “there”. Well, it does me.

The other variation is “this” and “that”. We might be out walking the dog. My wife will say “Do you want to go this way, or that way?”

I usually say “that way” when I’m talking about the path which is further away from her and nearest to me. She will say, “You don’t mean that way, you mean this way.” The same happens with “over here” and  “over there”. This is what causes the confusion. In French, we express “this or that” by adding another word after the noun. For example, “cette route-ci” or “cette route-la”. But in many instances,  the “ci” or “la” is not necessary, so we don’t bother. (Do I hear some cynical English speakers saying “French people removing words rather than adding them? Unbelievable!”

This and that

But in the English, two separate and related words are used. For example, “this chair” means “the chair that is closest to me” – with me being the person who is speaking. “That chair” means “the chair  which is the one further away from me (the speaker). Similarly “here” means “right next to me” whereas “there” means “further away from me. ”

Looking from her point of view

Sometimes the confusion is caused because I mean to say “there” when it is there as far as my wife is concerned,  because it is nearer to me than it is to her. But she still says “No, you mean here” in her  teachery voice. I find this rather ungrateful -her not recognising my helpful acknowledgement of her viewpoint…