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French mistake: Entrez vous

By December 21, 2009

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I'm a big fan of the comic strip Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, and whether you are or not I'm sure you're wondering what on earth that has to do with French. The cartoonist recently announced the 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, was Entrée: Vous, which you might translate as "Today's special: You." Félicitations ! I like it - very cute and clever.

However, I can't help but feel Ms. Cameron was trying to be even more clever by making a play on the homophonous Entrez vous, which is often used by non-native French speakers to mean "Come in." The problem is that it doesn't. The French verb entrer is not reflexive; the correct way to say "Come in" is simply Entrez. The only time you'd use entrez-vous would be in a question, as in Entrez-vous ou pas ? (Are you coming in or not?) Sorry to be a stickler, but I think even humor should follow grammatical rules.

Lessons: Reflexive verbs | Questions | Homophones | French in English


December 21, 2009 at 1:24 pm
(1) Steven says:

I suppose it could theoretically mean “Enter yourself” or, “Go inside yourself”…which is a physical impossibility, and nobody would ever have a reason to say it…

December 21, 2009 at 3:46 pm
(2) Bill Horne says:

Entrez vous? Do you enter.

December 21, 2009 at 3:57 pm
(3) Laura K Lawless says:

Bill – Yes, as I said, it can be a question. But it’s often mistakenly used as a polite command, along the lines of “do come in.”

Laura K. Lawless
Learn French at About

December 26, 2009 at 1:01 am
(4) Felicity says:

Where is your sense of the spiritual? Go inside yourself is a perfectly acceptable phrase when seeking your subconscious….

March 16, 2010 at 7:46 am
(5) Ronan says:

Go inside yourself. ?

Two kids,one haunted house,one kid to the other,you go in,the second kid to the first,go inside yourself! n est pas ?

April 26, 2010 at 9:38 am
(6) Etienne says:

Even thought it’s possible to estimate it would amount to such things as Enter Yourself, but in truth, and I’m a native French speaker to confirm it, saying “Entrez vous” without a question mark to any native French person will have them have a question mark over their head.

That’s because “entrez vous” without a question mark is not a form used at all in French. It doesn’t exists, the end.

To say “enter yourself”, you’d have to say “Entrez à l’intérieur de vous-même!” because otherwise the speaker will most likely assume you were asking him “Are you coming in?”.

May 4, 2010 at 8:49 am
(7) Marie says:

first of all, excuse my French, but I AM French :-)
- “Entrée” is an appetizer, not a main course…
- Also you could read “Entrez, vous !” as in “Come in, you !” but then the comma is mandatory (as the question mark for the other meaning)

I like your site, but never heard about tirer des carottes !!! Where did you take that ?

. . . . . . . . . .

You’re right that in French une entrée is an appetizer. But in English, “an entree” is a main course.

As for tirer une carotte, I’ve heard it and read it many times. If you do a search on Google, you’ll find plenty of examples.

Laura K. Lawless
Learn French at About

June 24, 2010 at 10:22 am
(8) Luke says:

It could also mean, as stated, ‘Are you coming in?’, posing a question to the reader as to whether s/he is going to read it.

August 2, 2010 at 4:41 am
(9) Andrea says:

I keep reading that ‘entree’ means main course in English. In Australia, where I live and where we speak English, an entree is considered an appetizer, not a main course. Always has been. So I’m not sure where this is coming from. Sorry.

September 2, 2010 at 5:16 am
(10) Grahame says:

Ah it’s the old “two nations divided by a common language”

American English uses entrée to mean main course while English English uses it as the French do i.e a starter or appetiser.

January 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm
(11) Brett says:

Whether vous is intended as an entree or plat principal, going inside doesn’t bear thinking about

June 18, 2011 at 9:12 am
(12) Anna says:

having recently moved to France, and will be inviting new friends round, this information was great to find. Thanks Laura :-)

June 28, 2011 at 7:46 am
(13) Anne Cooper says:

Only in “American ” English is an entrée a main course.

In other English speaking nations the entrée is the smaller course served between soup ( or appetizer) & the main course.

September 29, 2013 at 8:51 pm
(14) CJ says:

A more accurate translation of “entrez-vous” as a statement, would be “come yourself in”.

It’s accurate as a question though; “Entrez-vous?” = “Coming in?”
So I presume that must be where the confusion comes in (no pun intended). It’s something a person would hear while standing awkwardly in a doorway, so they might be more likely to remember it having given them a cue to end the awkwardness. So they cling to it and try to use it again, without fully understanding what the words actually mean.
But I might be over-thinking this.

“Coming in?” seems like a perfectly acceptable invitation to enter, but if you don’t bring your voice up at the end (ie. don’t “pronounce” the qustion mark): “Coming in!”, it doesn’t quite work, and you just sound kind of crazy.

October 19, 2013 at 10:09 am
(15) Jennifer says:

What if you’re saying it to a child or a close friend? Do you still use the form used with “vous” or do you say it with “tu” form?

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