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I know that the correct form is "raté" but I see a lot of people writing "râté". Is there an explanation for that?

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Likely because there are more similar words using a circumflex:

  • bâté
  • gâté
  • hâté
  • pâté
  • tâté

than not:

  • daté
  • maté

The eye, more accustomed to see a circumflex accent in four-letter words ending in "-ate" affects the writing of the word "raté".

The influence of the spelling of one word to another is a common cause of mistakes. For example, barrique sometimes lead people to write baril with two R's, barril. The word artichaut (artichoke) is often written artichaud by the influence of chaud (hot).

Note that a circumflex accent changes the pronunciation of the A in francophone Belgium and Switzerland but doesn't make a strong difference or any difference at all in many parts of France except eastern regions.

See this Mathieu Avanzi's page

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I guess people living in regions where there is no distinction are more likely to miswrite raté.

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  • Do you find people also mispronounce it? – Luke Sawczak Oct 24 at 13:54
  • @LukeSawczak The circumflex accent is not an indication of the pronunciation but of a lost s before the t; this s is found in the etymology. – LPH Oct 24 at 14:07
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    @LPH This lost S definitely influenced the pronunciation, and still does it depending on the region. In that case it is pronounced [ɑ] vs [a]. See bdl.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/bdl/gabarit_bdl.asp?id=3697 – jlliagre Oct 24 at 14:19
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    @LPH However universal it is or not, in this particular paradigm, bâté, gâté, hâté, pâté, tâté are all pronounced with [ɑ], whereas daté, maté, and raté are all pronounced with [a], at least according to Wiktionary (too many links to bother copying and pasting but compare gâter and rater). – Luke Sawczak Oct 24 at 15:10
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    @LukeSawczak It's apparent that a rule (implicit at least) was [ɑ] for "â" and [a] for "a" but it has not been made evident to me as there was no difference in pronunciation in the regions where I attended school, nor rules about that in the basic grammars I used, although the explanation relative to the disappearance of the s was often made ; the pronunciation part, somehow was omitted. – LPH Oct 24 at 15:21

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