by Clare Jones

Here is the second half of the spelling reforms in France which have caused such recent controversy despite it being old news. For the first five changes, please refer to last week’s blog and for more details in French look here.

Nouvelle orthographe


  1. Words which have been borrowed from other languages will be made to conform to the normal rules for French words in the plural.

Previously: un match, des matches

Now: un match, des matchs

Previously: une miss (an English girl), des misses

Now: une miss, des miss

An accent will be added if this helps the reader to pronounce the word correctly –

Previously: un revolver

Now: un révolver

Notice that this doesn’t mean that the word is pronounced exactly as it would be in English; rather it has been modified to sound more natural to a French speaker and therefore to be more easily absorbed into the French language.

  1. Lots of words which used to be hyphenated will now be written as one word. These will include
  • words which start with contr(e) and entr(e)
  • words which start with extra, infra, intra and ultra
  • words with scholarly elements such as hydro and socio
  • onomatopoeic words such as tictac
  • foreign words such as weekend

So ‘to go away for a weekend’ will now be partir en weekend.

In fact, dictionary writers are invited to extend the rules above to all hyphenated words so, for example, porte-monnaie (a purse) now becomes portemonnaie.

  1. Words which used to end in -olle, e.g. corolle (corolla – part of a flower) will now end in -ole to bring them into line with words such as bestiole (creature; creepy-crawly) but exceptions to the new rule include la folle (the mad woman), la colle (the glue) and la molle (the soft or spineless woman).

Also, verbs which formerly ended in -otter will now end in -oter with one T. Exceptions to this new spelling rule are the verbs botter (to boot) which comes from a noun –  la botte (the boot) – and any other verbs which come from nouns with a double consonant. So we now have the lovely verb mangeoter (to eat without appetite; to pick at one’s food) which is now in line with another verb I rather like, neigeoter (to snow a little).

  1. The ninth new rule clears up an area which has caused many headaches to learners: the tréma (two dots) has either been moved or added so that it now sits over a letter which is pronounced separately from the letter before or after it.

Bye-bye to: aiguë (high-pitched – feminine adjective), ambiguë (ambiguous – feminine adjective), ambigüité (ambiguity) and also arguer (to argue).

Hello: aigüe, ambigüe, ambigüité and argüer.

There is also now a tréma in the word gageüre (challenge) –

C’est une véritable gageüre ! It’s a real challenge!

  1. The final rule concerns the verb laisser (to let /allow) when followed by an infinitive. Previously in the passé-composé, there would have had to be an agreement, e.g. elle s’est laissée maigrir (she let herself get thin), je les ai laissés partir (I let them leave). Now this construction follows the similar construction using faire followed by an infinitive, where the past participle is invariable: elle s’est laissé maigrir, je les ai laissé partir.


There are several anomalies which have also been regularized. Here are a few of them:

asseoir → assoir (to sit somebody down)

bonhomie → bonhommie (affability)

chariot → charriot (trolley)

combatif → combattif (ready to fight)

eczéma → exéma (eczema)

imbécillité → imbécilité (idiocy)

nénuphar → nénufar (waterlily)

oignon →ognon (onion)

pagaïe → pagaille (mess; chaos)

saccharine → saccarine (saccharine)

papeterie → papèterie (stationery; stationer’s)

leader → leadeur (leader)

allô → allo (hello – on the phone)

I hope I’ve managed to summarize well enough for you to follow the main ideas and that you don’t find the whole thing too much of une véritable gageüre and that it hasn’t made you feel too combattif /combattive ! If it’s all too much for you, go for a trip to the supermarket to take your mind off it, and fill your charriot with ognons ! Don’t forget to leave a comment below, please.

A bientôt!


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    • rroxy

    • May 27, 2016

    • 1:15 pm

    • Reply

    This new rule about French spelling is generally not well accepted by the French. We are used to our more or less strange things and people laugh at the new spelling of “oignon” for example. There is the rule, on the one hand, there are habits on the other hand…..
    Let me tell you something about the word GAGEURE. You wrote: C’est une véritable gageure ! It’s a real challenge!
    If “challenge” means “défi”, this is not the right translation for gageure. We use the word “gageure” in the following meaning: (
    Action ou pensée allant à l’encontre du bon sens ou de la pensée dominante.
    For example: “ton patron veut faire de toi son bras droit? C’est une gageure! Tu es absent la plupart du temps!’
    I hope my comment will be useful!

    • rroxy

    • May 27, 2016

    • 1:17 pm

    • Reply

    I don’t know the word “mangeoter”, I have never heard nor used it.

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About the author

Clare Jones was born in the North of England in 1960. She fell in love with the French language at the age of 11 and went on to study it to degree level at Leicester University, where she also became a qualified teacher. In 2011 Clare collaborated with Tamsin Edwards to produce an iPhone application, “Figure out French, Rouler un patin: to give a French kiss and other French expressions for leisure and health”. Though she now lives in England, Clare always has her nose in a French book and she surrounds herself by all things French. She is currently very busy teaching French as a private tutor and when she has the time, she writes a blog on the subject of the French language (click on the blog tab to read it). Clare enjoys tai-chi, swimming, and cycling in the local country park. She is also an enthusiastic member of her local community choir.

About the illustrator

Tamsin Edwards studied art at both Nene Art College, Northampton, and Derby School of Art during the early 1980s. Though well known for her atmospheric watercolour landscapes, Tamsin also creates quirky pen & wash illustrations, often portraying comic images of people and places. Tamsin has already collaborated with Clare Jones to produce an iPhone application. Past commissioned projects also include the children’s storybook ‘Tales of Two Shires’ and a book of poetic verses. As well as regularly exhibiting work and selling to clients around the world, Tamsin has also had several paintings published in an international magazine. To view further examples of her work or to buy original artwork from this book, please visit Tamsin can be contacted at

Author Photo

Illustrator Tamsin Edwards (left) and author Clare Jones (right)

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