6 must-know foreign terms frequently used in English

These expressions are handy in specific situations. Understanding them is essential, whether you’re hearing, reading or employing them in your communications.

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Knowing the meaning and proper usage of the most prevalent foreign terms will help you understand passages that include them. You might also need or want to use those expressions in particular situations. (Avoid using them just to sound smart, though.)

Here are six foreign terms commonly used in English:

1. De facto

This Latin expression means “actual” (if used as an adjective) or “in practice” (if used as an adverb). In legal terms, de facto is commonly used in contrast to de jure, which means “by law.” Something, therefore, can emerge either de facto (by practice) or de jure (by law).

“And what of the plastic red bench, which has served as his de facto home for the last 15 years and must by now be a collector’s item?” (NY Times)

2. Vis-à-vis

The literal meaning of this French expression is “face to face” (used as an adverb). It is used more widely as a preposition though, meaning “compared with” or “in relation to.”

“It’s going to be a huge catalyst in moving the whole process forward and it really strengthens the U.S. position vis-a-vis our trading partners.” (Yahoo News)

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