I struggle to explain to my French colleagues that they shouldn't simply port "usage" over to every place in English that they would use it in French.

I'm looking for a French equivalent of the English meaning of "usage". Google Translate helped me find "utilisation" but it's difficult for me to understand the nuances of the differences in French of these two words.

Edit: They tend to use "usage", and almost never "use" when writing documentation, such as this page title: "Advanced usages of X". What I'm looking for is a way to convey to them in French the odd note this strikes in English. I'd like to be able to say something like "it's as if you'd said '_____ avancée de X' in French".

  • If this type of question is inappropriate for this site, I apologize and ask in advance for pointers to the right place. May 18, 2018 at 17:21
  • 1
    A similar question was asked in French. Also, could you make your question a bit clearer? Utilization is not a French word. Was it just a spelling mistake for utilisation? May 18, 2018 at 19:03
  • I've corrected my spelling @StéphaneGimenez. Is more clarification needed? May 18, 2018 at 19:11
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    1 of 2: Regardless of your reason for asking, I see your question as asking about any nuances between the French meanings of (2 or more) French words (ie, usage, utilization & any other near synonyms thereof), so I think your question is not only appropriate for here, but interesting as well. (That your intention might be to use any information that you get here to eventually try to help your French colleagues fine-tune their English [or to help you fine-tune your understanding of their English] does not make your question off-topic, imo.)
    – Papa Poule
    May 18, 2018 at 21:04
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    2 of 2: Now as to whether it’s a duplicate of @StéphaneGimenez ‘s 2011 question is another matter, but maybe if you provided example sentences of “usage” being used “incorrectly”/willy-nilly by your colleagues in English (along with your choice for the most suitable English alternative to each of those instances of “usage”) and asked for the best French translations of each of those alternatives (and why), your question might withstand whatever reasons for closure it might have and get some good answers to boot!
    – Papa Poule
    May 18, 2018 at 21:05

2 Answers 2


This could be a difficult strategy because at the end of the day, the translation is only marginally wrong and it's easy to find monolingual or bilingual dictionary entries that seem to justify it. Take the first couple of definitions of "usage" on Wiktionary:

  1. The manner or the amount of using; use.
  2. Habit or accepted practice.

Showing why (1) doesn't apply to your case seems hard. And if you go to respectable dictionaries like the OED, which does list "practice/tradition" before "the manner of using", you'll have to make a subtle argument about why the order shows that your colleagues' us(ag)e is invalid...

But if you feel you have to go this route, I suggest:

It's as if you said « pratiques avancées » or « actes d'utilisation avancés ». Close but not right.

The tack I would rather take is simply:

"Usage" sounds odd there in English. In this context, where you mean something like "function" (« fonction »), we just say "use". For example, "To what use will you put this software?"

  • I think my biggest problem with this use of “usages” relates to its being used kind of awkwardly as a countable noun, especially a plural one, when countable “uses” would sound better to me. Is that at least part of the “marginally wrong” that you see in it? If so, maybe comparing it to a questionable plural use of any usually uncountable French noun would convey the message.
    – Papa Poule
    May 21, 2018 at 0:05
  • @PapaPoule Good insight! I think I agree. It's not common and moreover it's declining. Hmm... French does like to pluralize what English wouldn't (informations, bagages, spaghettis ...). Not sure if an analogy can be made that will sound equally awkward.
    – Luke Sawczak
    May 21, 2018 at 0:46

How about:

  • use (English) = a habit / habitude (French) to replace "usage"
  • function (English) = purpose / fonction (French) to replace "usage"
  • in use (English) = something you utilise / en usage(French)to replace "usage"
  • practice = custom = tradition (English) / to replace "usage"

I hope it helps.

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