The difference between parce que and car is something that confuses even the most proficient French speakers. For many, they are simply interchangeable terms that both mean “because” in English. Although this is partially true, there actually is a nuance between them.
Fortunately, despite the fact that they are very similar in meaning you’ll be happy to know that the difference that does exist between them is pretty easy to understand with just a quick explanation and a little practice.
Let’s take a look…
parce que - how and when to use it
The French term parce que is commonly known as the translation for “because” and is used to express a reason or cause for something. You will likely hear the term parce que used much more than car because it’s less formal and thus used more often in common speech.
One of the main differences between the terms parce que and car is that you can actually begin a sentence with parce que, something you cannot do with car.
Let’s look at a handful of examples of parce que in action..
Nous allons à la plage parce qu’il fait beau – We are going to the beach because it’s nice out
J’ai acheté cette bouteille d’eau parce que j’avais soif – I bought this bottle of water because I was thirsty
Paul a réussi l’examen parce qu’il a beaucoup étudié – Paul passed the test because he studied a lot
Elle parle plusieurs langues étrangères parce qu’elle voyageait beaucoup – She speaks several foreign languages because she used to travel a lot
Now let’s take a look at some sentences where the sentences begin with parce que.
Parce qu’il est drôle, il a plus d’amis que Pierre – Because he is funny, he has more friends than Pierre
Pourquoi tu n’aimes pas Tim ? Parce qu’il ment tout le temps – Why don’t you like Tim? Because he lies all the time
car - how and when to use it
Although car can also very easily be translated as “because” in English some people prefer to think of it as “for” or “since”. The purpose of car is to simply link two phrases, actions or events together. It’s for this reason that you can’t start a sentence with car. Car is supposed to indicate a reason for something or to justify it. It’s also used less often than parce que and is considered to be more formal. Let’s look at some example sentences.
J’apprends le français car j’aime la France – I am learning French because I like France
Mettez votre manteau car il fait froid – Put on your coat because it’s cold out
Nous courons car nous sommes en retard – We are running because we are late
Ils ne partent pas en vacances car ils n’ont pas d’argent – We aren’t leaving on vacation because we don’t have any money
The differences between parce que and car are often so subtle that even native speakers will often tell you that they are the same thing. This however is good news for us learners as we won’t have to worry too much if we are using the correct one or not. Remember that parce que is used much more than car in common speech and that for the most part you can get away with using it and only it.
Hopefully this guide helped you to get a better grasp on the differences between parce que and car. With just a little bit of practice you should be able to get them down in no time.