Word Confusion: Cher, Chéri vs Chère, Cherie

Posted March 23, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 26 June 2017

This word confusion has been bugging me for a long time, and a book I read this morning inspired me to go and explore its proper usage. I know that, in general, French adds an e — blonde, Françoise, Claude — to feminize the word, so why do so many movies find a male character addressing the female one as cher? I simply couldn’t “see” the e on the end.

Yep, it turned out that there are two spellings for the female version: cherie (it’s easy to “see” that ie when someone speaks) while chère is not so easy as only the r is pronounced. It explains why I was so confused!

I recently encountered Francis Bonnefoy’s post “ON THE USE OF CHER/CHÉRIE/CHÉRI/CHÈRE” at Folly Feelings, and it’s the first time I’ve encountered the masculine chéri… Nor was I aware that the French consider using cher/chère as snobbish or a form of sarcasm. It did make sense that the chéri/chérie would be a more intimate endearment, though.

If anyone knows how Cajuns use cher/chère and chéri/chérie, let us know!

My, My

As for mon and ma… Never does this twain meet! In other words, don’t address a man as ma cherie. It’s feminine all the way. Ma is the feminine version of my and used only with females; mon is the male version of my. Yep, you guessed it. It’s only used with males.

A woman may address a man she knows well as mon chèr or a man she knows really well as mon chéri.

A man may address a woman he knows well as ma chère or a woman he knows really well as ma chérie.

Italics Required

When I looked up both words in my Apple Dictionary, I was surprised to find it’s a river in France as well as the singer. There was nothing there or in Merriam-Webster for cher, chère, or cherie. This means it’s not considered a commonly used foreign word in America, and it requires italics.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Cher Chéri Chère Chérie
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Folly Feelings: On the Use of Cher/Chérie/Chéri/Chère

Trailer screenshot of Louis Jourdan

“Madame Bovary trailer” is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Cher Louis Jourdan from the film Madame Bovary.

The cover for Ilona Andrews' Bayou Moon

“Cover of Bayou Moon” is a book by Ilona Andrews and is courtesy of Goodreads.

Chère Cerise is one stubborn woman.

Part of Grammar:
Noun Noun
Plural for Nouns:
chers chéris chères chéries
Proper Pronoun Usage:
Rule: French pronouns and articles used with one of these nouns also follow the rules of masculine versus feminine.
Singular Plural
Masculine Feminine Both Masc. & Fem.
my mon ma mes
the le la les
one un une des

A form of address


A form of address

my dear

Most common in writing a letter to someone they know

If talking, it’s usually sarcastic or snobbish

my darling

Warmer and more endearing

Often used either for one’s lover or one’s children

my dear

Most common in writing a letter to someone they know

If talking, it’s usually sarcastic or snobbish

my darling

Warmer and more endearing

Often used either for one’s lover or one’s children

Mon cher Jean, (addressing a letter)

My dear John,

Georges, mon cher, I’ve told you again and again to put the cap back on the toothpaste.

Mon cher fil, you were brilliant!

My dear son…

Elementary, mon cher Watson…
Mon chéri, would you rub my back?

That dinner last night, chéri, was fantastic.

Les chéris were brilliant in the play.
Chère Jeanne, (addressing a letter)

My dear Jeanne,

Now look, ma chère sœur, you can’t wear that!

Now look, my dear sister…

Oh, ma chérie ami

Oh, my very dear friend…

Chérie, you are gorgeous in that dress!

Mes chéries, we are going dancing and enjoying a girls’ night out.

You may want to explore other masculine-feminine word confusions from the French such as “Fiancé versus Fiancée“, “Blond versus Blonde (which includes Brunet vs Brunette)”, “Chargé d’affaires vs Chargée d’affaires“, ” Confidant vs Confidante vs Confident“, “Attach vs Attaché vs Attachée“, or “Protégé versus Protégée“.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

This Strawberry-banana Smoothie is Better Than the Wildberry is by Courtney Carmody under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.