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  2. Using a dictionary

Using a dictionary

When you don't know how to say something in another language or if you don't understand a word and want to find its translation in French, you can use a dictionary or an online dictionary.


1. Using a paper dictionary

Using a dictionary in another language can be tricky.

You must learn how to use it and what the symbols are for.

First of all, you already know that it is divided into 2 parts: one for French words translated into the other language, the other with words from the other language to be translated into French.


2. Using an online dictionary

For my part, I really encourage you to use WordReference, a very good online dictionary.      

You can use it for all the languages you can learn at school!

Something you should never use is Google Translation: if you copy a French sentence in Google Translation, you are sure to get something very funny!

One day, one of my pupils raised his hand to correct a sentence from a translation exercice.

First, I did not realise what he had said, suddenly I started laughing! 

He was very surprised when I told him "Thanks Google Translation!"

The French sentence was "Mon frère s'est acheté un beau blouson en cuire." I hope you can see the mispelling which shows my pupil was neither very good at French.

He said : "My brother bought himself a nice jacket to cook."  

The 1st thing is that a jacket can't be "nice" which means "gentil" and  le cuir is "Leather" not to be mistaken with the verb "cuire" which is "cook".

The correct sentence I was expecting was "My brother bought himself a beautiful leather jacket."












3. How to understand the dictionary symbols.

J'ai choisi de partir du mot HEAD, un mot qui à la base semble anodin, très facile à traduire.

Je vais vous montrer qu'il n'en est rien !


Le mot HEAD est en gras. 

Ensuite, on note les catégories grammaticales auxquelles il peut appartenir.

Ici, HEAD peut être un nom (n), un adjectif (Adj), un verbe transitif (vtr) ou un verbe intransitif (vi).

Pour le nom, on voit qu'il y a plusieurs sens : 

Le 1er, c'est l'anatomie : (anatomy: skull) : on donne le synonyme, "crâne" et on le traduit par le nom féminin (nf) tête

Word reference vous donne ensuite un exemple en anglais et la traduction de l'exemple.

The neck connects the head to the body.  ►  Le cou relie la tête au corps.


Le 2ème sens du nom Head, c'est celui dans l'expression "Pile ou face ?" ou Head signifie "face"


Le 3ème sens est celui synonyme de "(leader, director) (dirigeant)" donc "chef (de [qch]) nm" ou "directeur, directrice (de [qch])"


Ensuite, Head peut être un adjectif synonyme de " (principal)" et qui signifie "en chef " ou "chef "

ex : The head physician is Dr. Thomas.    ►    Le médecin en chef est le Dr Thomas.


Enfin, Head est aussi un verbe intransitif ou transitif qui signifie "être à la tête de", "présider" vtr, ou bien "se diriger" qui est alors un verbe pronominal.


Viennent après toutes les expressions dans lesquelles le mot HEAD peut se trouver.


Grâce à toutes ses catégories, on se rend compte de la nécessité de bien regarder la nature du mot qu'on veut traduire et de ne jamais prendre le 1er de la liste ! Sinon, gare aux mauvais choix et aux situations comiques !!!



Exercise 1: Use what you have just learnt to find the proper translation for the underlined words or expressions. 

For verbal groups, write the French infinitive.

Mike is very good at geography. His sister too. 
I can’t speak Chinese, it’s too difficult.
I bought a new dress yesterday.
Will you dress the salad for me, please?
What make is your car? 
I’m going to make a chocolate cake.
We’ve got to make a decision.
She collects rare stamps.
Do you like rare meat?  
I like my new neighbours, they are very kind.
I don’t know your boss. What kind of person is he? 
Look at that man ! He looks strange!   
I think he is looking for something. 
Don’t believe him ! He’s lying
Jim was lying on the bed when I arrived.
Could you give me a hand, please?
My watch is electronic, it’s got no hands.  
My brother was walking hand in hand with a strange woman!  
I like football, on the other hand I never go to the matches!