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15 French Mistakes to Avoid

15 French Mistakes to Avoid in 2023!

Mistakes are a part of learning a new language. They are important! I myself made quite a few when I was learning English, and I still make some. However, some mistakes can be avoided. In this lesson, I share with you 15 French mistakes I hear students make all the time and that can be avoided in 2023. 

There is a mix of: 
French pronunciation 
French grammar 
French conjugation 
Choice of words (False friends) 

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15 French mistakes to avoid

1. Ça va et tu ? - Ouch!

Ça va et tu ? is probably one of the most common French mistakes I have heard of the year. It’s simply the wrong pronoun but the mistakes is easily understood for English speakers. 

In English “I am good and you?” – You, even tho it’s an emphatic pronoun, doesn’t change from the subject pronoun “you.” In French, they are different. 

In French, this pronoun is called Un pronom tonique. Let’s review them and see a couple of situations where we use them.

moime
toiyou
luihim
elleher
nousus
vousyou
euxthem (m)
ellesthem (f)

When to Use an Emphatic Pronoun in French?

Emphatic pronouns in French have many uses but here are three of the most common ones: 

After etand
Ça va et toi ? I am good and you?

After pourfor
C’est pour toi. It’s for you.

After avecwith
Je veux venir avec toi. I want to come with you.

2. Don't Pronounce the Last Consonant of the Word

This is an honest mistake but in French, we don’t pronounce the last letter of the word (most of the time), especially when this one is a consonant.
For example the adjective Green : vert, we only pronounce the T when we have the super E at the end: Vert – Verte

Think of the final E as the super hero of the French language. The final E gives its power to the consonant before to be pronounced, but E, as a good super hero working in the background, isn’t pronounced at all. 

3. False Friends - DOn't Mix Them Up!

False friends are extremely common. How has never try a word from their own language with a French accent just to see if it’s going to work? 
I did! It doesn’t always work and it can lead to quite a few embarrassing mistakes! 

The list of false friends between French and English is quite long. I will make a new blog post about it soon, but here are a few: 

Attendre vs To attend
To waitAssister

Librairie vs Library
A bookstoreUne bibliothèque

Blessé vs Blessed
InjuredBéni(e)

4. Rencontrer vs Retrouver = To meet

I may have to make a longer post on this one but Rencontrer in French is used when you meet someone for the first time – Retrouver is used when you meet someone and you have plans with them.

J’ai rencontré mes beaux-parents le week-end dernier.
I met my in-laws last weekend.

J’ai retrouvé mes beaux-parents au centre commercial.
I met my in-laws at the mall.

5. Imparfait vs Passé composé

I know, I know. This one is hard to overcome when learning French  because there is a lot to learn but remember that the imparfait is for the background, passé composé is for a precise event.

Je regardais la télévision quand le téléphone a sonné. 
I was watching TV when the phone rang.

Je regardais la télévision quand le téléphone sonnait.

I was watching TV while the phone was ringing.
This one means the phone rang the whole time you were watching TV. Quite uncomfortable, isn’t it?

You can watch this video if you need to more about the imparfait vs passé composé.

6. Don't Say: Je suis excité(e)

This one is also a false friend but I always find it important to make a separate point about it because Je suis excité(e), in French, doesn’t mean what you think it s. And it can be quite embarrassing!

Je suis excité(e) means that you are aroused. Not that you are excited.

To be excited is Avoir hâteÊtre impatient(e)

7. Using Avoir Instead of Être

This mistake comes from translating sentences word by word from English to French. Been there, done that! 

In French, we use Avoir instead of Être for sensation and feelings: 

J’ai froid – I am cold
J’ai chaud – I am hot
J’ai faim – I am hungry
J’ai soif – I am thirsty
J’ai peur – I am afraid
J’ai mal – To be in pain

8. J'ai allé - J'ai resté

If you are familiar with French conjugation, you probably know that verbs are usually conjugated with the auxiliary Avoir for compound tenses. A compound tense is when the conjugation has two different verbs.

A short list of verbs in French take Être and not Avoir when conjugated in compound tenses such as passé composé. Let’s see them again.

Use the acronyms DR & MRS VANDERTRAMPP to remember them:

DevenirTo become
– Je suis devenu(e)I became

RevenirTo come back
– Tu es revenu(e)You came back

&

MonterTo go up
– Il est montéHe went up

ResterTo stay
– Elle est restéeShe stayed

SortirTo go out
– On est sorti(e.s)We went out

VenirTo come
– Nous sommes venu(e)sWe came

AllerTo go
– Vous êtes allé(e)sYou went

NaîtreTo be born
– Ils sont nésThey were born

DescendreTo go down
– Elles sont descenduesThey went down

EntrerTo enter
– Je suis entré(e) I entered

RentrerTo go home
– Tu es rentré(e)You went home

TomberTo fall
– Il est tombé He fell

RetournerTo return
– Elle est retournéeShe returned

ArriverTo arrive
– On est arrivé(e)sWe arrived

MourirTo die
– Vous êtes mort(e)sYou died

PartirTo leave
– Ils sont partisThey left

PasserTo pass by
– Elles sont passéesThey passed by

9. Visiter vs Rendre visite = To visit

Visiter is only for cities, and museums, not for people.
Rendre visite is for people.
 

If you use visiter for people, it sounds like you will visit their inside.

 
J’ai rendu visite à ma grand-mère.
I visited my grandmother.
 
J’ai visité Paris.
I visited Paris.
 
 

10. Connaître vs Savoir

They both mean To know, I know I know.
But remember that Savoir translates to To know how to do something and is often followed by a verb.

Je sais parler français.
I know how to speak French.

Je connais cette chanson.
I know this song.

11. Using C'est froid for the Weather

Actually, I could add c’est chaud as well. Those are for temperatures, yes but for food, drinks, and sensations, not for the weather.

Il fait chaud.
It’s hot.

Il fait froid.
It’s cold.

But:
C’est chaud.
It’s hot. (café – nourriture – touché)

12. Pas des instead of Pas de

Pas is the second part of the negation in French (ne … pas). In a negative sentence, the article des becomes de – not matter what.
Pas des doesn’t exist in French, it’s only pas de. It can also be pas d’ when followed by a vowel or a silent H.

J’ai des gâteaux.
I have cakes.

Je n’ai pas de gâteaux.
I don’t have cakes.


J’ai des idées.
I have ideas.

Je n’ai pas d’idées.
I don’t have ideas.

13. Beaucoup des instead Beaucoup de

Just like pas des in point 12, any reference of quantity in French followed by de will stay de or d’, no matter what.

J’ai des amis.
I have friends.

J’ai beaucoup d’amis.
I have a lot of friends.

 

Tu as des plantes. 
You have plants.

Tu as beaucoup de plantes.
You have a lot of plants.

14. Forgetting Contractions

In French, we use a lot of contractions, just like in English. Not using them is a grammar mistakes but it also makes sounds unnatural. Contractions are made for the language to be easy to pronounce.

One of the common contractions are Le & LA becoming L’ when followed by a vowel or a silent H.

Le ami = l’amithe friend

La eau = l’eauthe water

15. U and OU

Mispronouncing U and OU is usually pretty innocent.
If you say J’ai pu (I was able to) – J’ai pou – it sounds like you say that you have lice.
Obviously, in the sentence, everyone is going to understand that you don’t have lice.

The one that can be a little misunderstood is beaucoup (a lot) – if you say BEAUCU – That means Beau Culbeautiful butt.

Awkward!

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Video: 15 Mistakes to Avoid in French

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    About Dylane

    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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