The 8 Most Common French Mistakes (And How You Can Avoid Them)

The 8 Most Common French Mistakes (And How You Can Avoid Them)

Learning a foreign language isn't easy.

It surely can't happen overnight but if you still succeed to learn your target language quickly, there's no guarantee that you won't make mistakes.

French isn't one of the hardest languages to learn.

Even though many similarities between French and English can ease your learning process, the two of them aren't different languages without a reason.

All that means making grammar, pronunciation, or accent mistakes while you are on your learning path.

But that doesn't have to be so devastating for you.

Making mistakes is part of the learning process and one, surely unconventional way of learning the language, but a useful one that can show you what you shouldn't do.

The following 8 most common French mistakes are there to help you realize how you shouldn't make them and pay attention to the others your French tutors are presenting.

And now, let's get started.

The 8 Most Common French Mistakes Any French Learner Can Avoid

Every learner has his own learning method and the way he understands how the language works.

That also means that every learner can make some mistakes that most others wouldn't.

Some mistakes, however, come from the influence of English, their native languages, or even some rules that don't seem logical.

In the following lines, we will present to you the 8 most common mistakes French learners make and which you can easily avoid.

Mistake No 1: 'Ma Amie'

Just like other Romance languages, one of the common things is gender agreement.

Gender agreement means that words in a sentence have to agree with gender. For example, if a noun in the sentence is masculine singular, it leads for the other words to follow that rule.

One of the common mistakes French students make is using the phrase 'ma amie.'

In French, words that begin with a vowel usually use words, prepositions,s, or articles that end with a consonant.

Even though saying 'ma amie' sounds logical because the word ‘amie’ is feminine and so the word 'ma' has to be feminine as well, it isn’t correct.

In this case, no matter if you use the word 'ami' in masculine or feminine, you always use the phrase like it is masculine.

So, we say 'mon ami' but also 'mon amie.'

Mistake No.2: Misplacing Adjectives

It is well-known that in English, we put adjectives before nouns. In French, it is the other way round.

Or at least with the majority of the adjectives.

In some cases, however, the French put adjectives before nouns just like the English do.

Some of the most common adjectives used this way are:

  • Bon- Good
  • Mauvais- Bad
  • Grand- Big
  • Joli- Pretty
  • Petit- Small

For example, you can't say 'le garcon bon' but 'bon garcon.'

Mistake No.3: ‘Pour’ And ‘Pendant’ Confusion

The word 'pour' means 'for' in English, and the word 'pendant' can be translated as 'during.'

But the story doesn't end here.

One of the common mistakes people make in French is using these two words in a time period.

In English, when we want to describe periods of time, we use 'for.'

I French, we don't use 'pour' for these occasions.

When we want to describe some particular period of time, we use 'pendant' except in the future tense when we can use 'pour.'

Mistake No.4: Recontrer Vs. Retrouver

One of the common mistakes French learners make is using the verbs 'rencontrer' and 'retrouver.'

The verb 'rencontrer' means 'to meet' and the verb 'retrouver,' 'to find.'

These are the basic meanings but the catch is in the situations in using them.

The verb 'recontrer' is usually used when you come across someone on the street, by accident, or seeing someone for the first time.

The verb 'retrouver' is used in situations when you want or have to meet with someone on purpose or when you've already arranged a meeting with someone.

Mistake No.5: False Cognates

Even though French and English are two different languages, coming from different language branches, their mutual closeness and historical events made the two nations impact one another and, therefore, impact one another's languages.

There are many French words used in English and the other way round.

Around 60% of the vocabulary between these two languages is similar, if not the same.

That's a great advantage in learning and memorizing French vocabulary. However, you must pay attention to the false friends, the words or phrases that sound similar or the same in both languages but have entirely different meanings.

Here are some of the false cognates:

  • Actuellement(Fr)- Actually (En)
  • Car(Fr)- Coach (En)
  • Coin (Fr)- Corner (En)
  • Compréhensif (Fr)- Understanding (En)
  • éventuellement (Fr)- Possibly (En)
  • Librairie (Fr)- Bookshop (En)
  • Pain (Fr)- Bread (En)
  • Supplier (Fr)- To beg (En)

Mistake No.6: The Definite Article

When it comes to the articles, French learners are an advantage because, just like in English, in French. Moreover, their function is quite similar.

In English, when we talk about some specific things, we use the definite article, which is ‘the.’

In French, the definite article exists in several forms, depending on gender and number.

Therefore, in French, we have ‘le’ for masculine singular, ‘la’ for feminine singular, ‘les’ for both genders in plural form, and ‘l’’ for singular nouns that start with a vowel.

One main difference, however, in using definite articles is that in English, when we generalize things, we simply don’t use the article.

In French, the situation is the opposite, so in those circumstances, we use the definite article, like in the following example.

J’aime le chocolat- I like chocolate.

Mistake No.7: Preposition Combinations

If we compare English and French prepositions, French is the easier one because, in English, there are more prepositions than in French.

But that’s just at first sight.

Prepositions in French can be challenging when they are used with verbs, so you should pay extra attention to them.

The verb ‘to play’ in English doesn’t require preposition, but in French it does. Moreover, it will depend on your context, so if you want to say that you want to play an instrument, you will have to use the preposition ‘de’ but if you want to play sport, you will use the preposition ‘à.’

Or the commonly used verb ‘penser à’ uses different prepositions depending on what you want to express. If you want to say ‘I think of you,’ you will use the verb with the preposition ‘à,’ such as ‘Je pense à toi.’ (I’m thinking of you.) But if you want to ask someone ‘What do you think of me?’ you will use the preposition ‘du,’ that is, to say ‘Que penses-tu de moi?’

Mistake No.8: ‘C’est’ And ‘Il/Ell Est’ Confusion

Simple phrases exist for a reason: to make other people use them easily and without making mistakes.

By now, French has proven that even the simplest things in the language have to be carefully used.

That’s the case with the phrases ‘c’est’ (it is) and ‘il/elle est.’ (he/she is)

The phrase ‘c’est’ is generally used before masculine adjectives when it describes general things and before articles ‘un’ and ‘le.’

The phrase ‘il/elle est’ is used in situations when there isn’t an article in the sentence.

If you thought that’s all you need to know about these phrases, it isn’t.

The phrase ‘c’est’ can be used with other articles as well, such as ‘un/une’ and ‘le/la/les.’

Here’s a typical example: 

C’est une bonne amie à moi.- She’s a good friend to me.

Final Thoughts

Even though you might think that at first, making mistakes isn’t the end of the world.

It is one more way to find out more about the language and how to learn to use it.

These 8 commonly used French mistakes are listed to help you realize whether you’ve been making them or you already know the proper usage.

What are the most common mistakes in French?

Mistake No 1: 'Ma Amie', Mistake No.2: Misplacing Adjectives, Mistake No.3: ‘Pour’ And ‘Pendant’ Confusion, Mistake No.4: Recontrer Vs. Retrouver, Mistake No.5: False Cognates, Mistake No.6: The Definite Article, Mistake No.7: Preposition Combinations

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