French Language Blog

Two Different Mails – Email In French Posted by on May 25, 2016 in Vocabulary

Photo by Dennis Skley on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Photo by Dennis Skley on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Talking about the Internet in French can be confusing. There’s a mix of vocabulary borrowed from English and new terms in French. It can also be hard to know how to say any symbol whether it’s just numbers or “@” (arobase). Then there’s learning how to type using un clavier AZERTY!

Writing and sending emails is another area that can complicate things. A common word for email in French is mail, and even after I knew that I would still get confused. Hearing the English word immediately made me think of a physical address rather than an email address!

One time when I needed to buy de l’assurance (some insurance) and la sécretaire was asking for my information I mixed up the French mail and the English mail pretty badly. Everything was fine until she asked me:

– Et votre adresse mail ?
– Ah oui. J’habite…

And your email address?
Ah yes. I live on…

She looked at me like I was crazy as I began giving her une adresse postale (a postal address). I didn’t even realize I had made a mistake as she began to explain:

– Non, non. J’ai besoin de votre adresse mail. Vous nous avez déjà donné votre adresse postale.
– Adresse mail ?
– Oui, pour que nous puissions vous envoyer des mails concernant votre compte.
– Pour m’envoyer du courrier ?
– Non, des mails.
– Ce n’est pas où j’habite ?
– Non… c’est sur Internet…
– Ooooh ! Oooooh ! Je comprends ! Désolé ! Oui, mon adresse mail est….

No, no. I need your email address. You already gave us your postal address.
Email address?
Yes, so that we can send you emails about your account.
To send me mail?
No, emails.
It’s not where I live?
Non… It’s on the Internet…
Ooooh! Oooooh! I understand! Sorry! Yes, my email address is…

I don’t know who was more confused while I struggled to understand mail as email. I did know that I would be sure not to confuse the two words again!

There are other words to refer to email in French and if you are ever in a similar situation you can ask if they want your addresse électronique or courrier électronique to be sure that you are saying the right thing.

Another word that’s often used au Québec is courriel, which is un mot-valise (a portmanteau) of courrier and électronique.

It’s also possible to see and hear email, e-mail or mél.

Have you ever run into trouble with des faux amis (false friends) in French? Let me know in un commentaire below!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. sunshine:

    That was a great post. Can you tell us what other countries use for email; les belges ou les suisses par example. Courriel , c’est utilise uniquement par les Quebecquois?
    merci d’avance

    • John Bauer:

      @sunshine Salut sunshine !

      Merci pour votre commentaire ! I can’t tell you or certain what is used en Belgique ou en Suisse, but I imagine it’s similar to the French usage. if you’re looking for more information, I found an article in French that talks about the different words for email in French: Courriel, E-Mail, Mél