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Tâche and tache : stop the confusion between these 2 French words

French spelling: Say stop to the confusion between the words tâche and tache!

by | 16 Jun 2016 | French Language


The words tâche and tache are extremely similar in pronunciation ; if you’re extremely attentive, you might just about notice a longer a sound in tâche. Don’t tell the French, most don’t even notice or know! And this is precisely what explains why so many French people have a real doubt when they have to write one of the two words. Right, they may have doubts, but not you! 😉

Have you learnt both words yet? Do you know what they mean?

Une tâche
means a task, a job you have to do, a chore.

So when that’s what you want to mean, remember to add the circumflex accent on the â. Be aware that most of the time, a circumflex accent on French words is the remaining trace of a former s that used to be part of the word in old French.
Very often, you can notice you still have it in English. For instance the words hospital, hostel and forest are typically old French words (derived from the Latin words) that still had the s at the time they were adopted in English.
The s is still there in English but has disappeared in French. Yet, in French, these words are now left with a circumflex accent instead, which is why we now have the words hôpital, hôtel, forêt.
Therefore, if you remember that a task is une tâche, there’s little chance you will forget the circumflex accent on top of the â.

Une tache
, though, has a completely different meaning and can be translated in a number of ways in English depending on the context: it can be a trace, a stain, a blotch or a spot (e.g. the spots on a ladybird). In any case, it is always some kind of mark. In that case, you don’t need to add an accent and you can very simply spell it tache.

The same is true of the verbs that derive from tâche and tache : tâcher de and tacher.

Tâcher de is to try to do. The connection with tâche is the effort you have to put into your task.

  • Vous tâcherez de vous souvenir de l’orthographe de ces mots → Vous travaillerez / ferez l’effort de vous souvenir de l’orthographe de ces mots. (You’ll try / do your best to remember precisely how to spell these words.)

Tacher is to mark, stain or tarnish something.

  • Il a renversé du café et taché sa veste. Sa veste est tachée ! (He’s spilled coffee and stained his jacket. His jacket is stained!)

There you are! Now try to remember both words and their spelling, you’ve mastered the difference between tâche and tache, as well as tâcher de and tacher. Well done! 😀


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