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Mal vs Mauvais

Mal and Mauvais - What are the differences?

Mal and Mauvais are often mistaken by French learners.
The first issue people encounter is that they can be adjectives, adverbs, and nouns.
The second issue is that they both translate to “bad” in English.

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Mauvais Mal
Mal and Mauvais. Différences examples and Free PDF

Mal and Mauvais - What Type of Words?

As you can see, most of the translations turn around “Bad”. Let’s see each one in detail with examples. 

Difference Between Adjective & Adverb

An adjective refers to a noun or can be used to describe the well-being/state of someone/something.

An adverb refers to a verb.

J’ai un mauvais français = adjective
I have a bad French

Je parle mal français = adverb
I speak French badly

Here we can see that mauvais refers to français on the first line, when mal refers to parle in the second example.

Mal and Mauvais as Adjectives

Mauvais = Bad - Poor - Wrong

Mauvais as an adjective agrees in gender and number. mauvais doesn’t change in the masculine plural because a double S isn’t possible in French.

Il a de mauvaises notes.
He has bad grades.

C’est une mauvaise façon d’expliquer.
It’s a bad/poor way to explain.

Mal = Bad

Mal is used as an adjective after être and verbs of well-being.
Mal doesn’t agree in gender and number.

Elle va mal depuis quelques temps.
She has been bad/ill for some time.

C’est mal de mentir.
It’s bad to lie.

Mal Mauvais as Adverbs

Mauvais = Bad

Ça sent mauvais ici.
It smells bad here.

Il fait mauvais aujourd’hui.
The weather today is bad.

Mal = Badly - Poorly

Tu as mal dormi ?
Did you sleep badly?

Ce livre est mal écrit.
This book is poorly written.

Il s’exprime mal.
He speaks badly.

Mal = in an expression of quantity - Pas mal de

J’ai pas mal de travail à finir
I have quite a lot of work to finish.

C’est mal de mentir.
It’s bad to lie.

Mal Mauvais as Nouns

Le mauvais = The bad - Not common

Je n’ai pas mangé le mauvais.
I didn’t eat the bad.

Le mal = The pain - The evil

J’ai le mal de mer.
I am seasick.

J’ai le mal du pays.
I am homesick.

Le bien et le mal.
Good and Evil.

I hope you now understand better how to use mal and mauvais in French. Keep practicing and don’t hesitate to leave a comment with an example to try. I will correct you if you want me to.

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    Mal Mauvais - What Are the Differences in French?

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    Dylane is the owner & founder of “The perfect French with Dylane”, a YouTube channel and website where she teaches students from all around the world all the aspects of the French language.

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