Most Common Mistakes in French and How to Avoid Them!
Learning French may be a challenge. I make lots of mistakes when I speak. Perhaps you’re like me. I asked Marion to write a post on the most common mistakes in French and how to avoid them. She is a French teacher and knows everything about this topic.
Over to you, Marion!
Making mistakes is part of every learning process. It helps you get better. “Learning from your mistakes” is especially true for learning a language.
French is a hard language to learn so you will make mistakes and that is fine! Sometimes it could even be fun for you and your interlocutors. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes but learn from them instead.
I listed the most common mistakes that I often hear when I teach.
1. Incorrect use of beaucoup DE + noun
This is one of the most common mistakes in French. Very often I hear students say, “J’ai mangé beaucoup des tomates”. However, the correct way to say it is, “J’ai mangé beaucoup De tomates”.
Why is that?
Well, beaucoup is already in the plural form so no need to use des. The noun that follows has to be plural. So for example,“Nous avons vu beaucoup de chevaux.”
Be careful!! If beaucoup is used with a verb, de is not necessary. Look at this example: “Elle parle beaucoup”. Only use de if a noun follows it.
2. Les expressions qui utilisent “Avoir”
“Je suis faim”, “Je suis chaud”, “Je suis peur”, “Je suis 27 ans”… Very common to hear from someone who is learning French. Bad news for you (Sorry) but this is wrong!
You should use avoir and not être like in English (for example). You should say “J’ai faim”, “J’ai chaud”, “J’ai peur”, “J’ai 27 ans”. Why is that? Because in French, we don’t use an adjective but we use a noun: La faim, le chaud, la peur, l’an. So we say, “I have hunger”, “I have fear”, “I have years”…
Here’s the list of the expressions that use “avoir”:
- avoir chaud – to be hot
- avoir froid – to be cold
- avoir faim – to be hungry
- avoir soif – to be thirsty
- avoir peur – to be scared
- avoir … ans – to be … (years old)
- avoir raison – to be right
- avoir tort – to be wrong
- avoir sommeil – to be sleepy
- avoir de la chance – to be lucky
3. Incorrect use of manquer (= to miss)
One of the other most common mistakes in French is the incorrect use of the verb manquer. It’s probably the worst nightmare of a lot of French learners! I know, I feel the pain… Yes, it’s backward from English and totally confusing!
I miss you is not “Je te manque” but “Tu me manques”. In French, we want to say “You’re missing to me” or “Something/someone is missing to someone or someone else”. So the person or the thing that you’re missing comes first.
Here are a few examples:
- Paris me manque – I miss Paris
- Sa mère lui manque – He/she misses her/his mom
- Leurs enfants leur manquent – They miss their kids
Notice that the person or the thing that you miss is the subject so it has to agree with your verb. That’s why in “Tu me manques”, “manques” gets an “s” at the end of the word.
4. Using the days of the week with a preposition
You probably don’t think you’re making any mistakes on the days of the week. But what about the preposition? Don’t you tend to say, “Sur lundi, je vais à la gym”?
Good news for you! Well, the sentence is not correct but that’s not the point. The good news is that we don’t use any prepositions in front of the days of the week.
We just say: “Lundi, je vais à la gym”.
However, if you want to emphasize the fact that it’s every Monday that you go to the gym, you must say: “Le lundi, je vais à la gym”.
So remember to say: “Mardi, j’ai eu mon cours de français à Marion”. Or, “Ce weekend, je vais skier avec mes amis”.
5. Confusing les faux amis (false friends)
When you’re learning French, you will probably hear about “false friends” or “faux amis”. But what are they? They are words that look very similar in French and English but their meaning is different in both languages.
I listed a few examples in this table:
|English Word (French translation)||French false friend||Meaning of the French word|
|Actually (en fait)||Actuellement||Currently|
|A library (Une bibliothèque)||Une librairie||Bookshop|
|To demand (exiger)||Demander||To ask|
|To rest (se reposer)||Rester||To stay|
|To attend (assister)||Attendre||To wait|
6. Mispronouncing the last letters
One of the other most common mistakes in French is the pronunciation of the last letters. They are often not pronounced.
But which letters should you pronounce and which ones not? I’m going to share with you a little trick that I love!
Take the word: C.a.R.e.F.u.L.
C, R, F, L are the only consonants that we pronounce at the end a word! If it’s a different consonant, don’t pronounce it. And that’s it!
Here a few examples:
- Avec (with) – the letter “c” is pronounced
- Fleur (flower) – the letter “r” is pronounced
- Oeuf (egg) – the letter “f” is pronounced
- Cheval (horse) – the letter “l” is pronounced
- Grand (big/tall) – The letter “d” is NOT pronounced.
- Petit (small) – the letter “t” is NOT pronounced.
- Paresseux (lazy) – the letter “x” is NOT pronounced
You pronounce the last consonant only if there’s a “e” after:
- Grande – The letter “d” is pronounced (because of the “e”)
- Petite – the letter “t” is pronounced
- Paresseuse – the letter “s” is pronounced
Of course, there are some exemptions but it usually works pretty well!
I made a video about it, check it out!
Pronunciation of the ending verbs (-ent)
About the same subject, a common mistake that we hear a lot from French learning students is to pronounce the ent at the end of a verb conjugated for ils/elles.
Look at this example:
“Les enfants cherchent leurs parents”. “cherchent” should be pronounced the same as “cherche”. ent at the end of the verb should never be pronounced.
7. Number 80
I know, not a lot of people like our French numbers! Switzerland and Belgium make fun of us. And most of my students will agree with them. They’re very complicated. Especially 80.
We say “quatre-vingt” which is basically “4 time 20 = 80”. But I’ve noticed that a lot of my students get confused and say other versions of it such as “vingt-quatre”(24) or “quarante-vingt”(40+20).
If it’s one of your problems too, try to fix it by remembering the “4 time 20” trick. It might help you!
8. The means of transport
French and English are different when it comes to talking about the means of transport. The literal translation won’t work. Verbs like to walk, to drive, to fly, to bike can’t be translated directly. When you want to say, “I walk to work” or “I bike to school”, in French you cannot say “Je marche au travail” or “Je fais du vélo à l’école”. To say that, you have to use Aller (to go) and then add the means of transport.
I walk to work —> Je vais au travail à pied (I go to work on foot)
I bike to school —> Je vais à l’école à vélo (I go to school on my bike)
I fly to Miami —> Je vais à Miami en avion (I go to Miami by place)
I drive to the restaurant —> Je vais au restaurant en voiture (I go to the restaurant by car)
Other most common mistakes in French?
Do you know any other mistake people should avoid in French?