Mes propres assiettes sont propres.

Mes propres assiettes sont propres.

may PROH-pruh zaa-seeYET saw PROH-pruh.

My own plates are clean.

This is what the winner of the dishwashing competition proclaims! Boasting of his/her own clean plates, and trash-talking the other competitors. Mes propres assiettes sont propres! (And yours aren’t…)

It turns out that propre is really two different words, with different meanings. How does that work? How can you tell?

Normally, in French, adjectives follow the noun: une assiette rouge (ew naa-seeYET roozh, a red plate). There’s a handful of adjectives in French, however, that can be placed either before or after the noun. Propre is one of them. After the noun, it means clean. Before the noun, it means own, and is related to the English word proprietor.

Of course, you can just say mes assiettes (may zaa-seeYET, my plates). By adding propres before assiettes, you are implying that someone else’s assiettes are not at all propres. Who forgot to do the washing up after dinner? Was it you?

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