20 common mistakes in French to avoid

Steering Clear of French Faux Pas: 20 Common Errors to Watch Out For

Ah, French! A language of romance, elegance, and… occasional pitfalls for the eager learner.

Whether you’re just starting on your linguistic journey or you’re polishing your fluency, there are common mistakes that many individuals make.

The key is to recognize, correct, and move forward confidently.

In this post, we’ll tackle 20 of the most frequent errors that learners of French often make, ensuring you can sidestep these traps.

1. Confusing Gender: French nouns have genders (masculine or feminine). Mixing them up can change the meaning. For example, ‘le’ dessert (the dessert) vs. ‘la’ dessert (the desert).

2. Misplaced Adjectives: While many French adjectives follow the noun, some come before it. For instance, it’s “une belle femme” (a beautiful woman), not “une femme belle”.

3. Incorrect Verb Conjugations: Many learners mix up verb endings, especially between “er”, “ir”, and “re” verbs.

4. Overusing “être”: Not all verbs use “être” in the compound tenses. Most use “avoir”, except for Dr & Mrs. Vandertramp verbs.

5. Incorrect Prepositions: Knowing when to use “à” vs “de” or “en” vs “dans” can be tricky.

6. Mispronouncing Final Consonants: Typically, final consonants in French aren’t pronounced unless they’re followed by a vowel sound.

7. Forgetting Liaisons: French often links the final consonant of one word to the beginning vowel of the next, like in “petit ami” (petit ami).

8. Confusing “savoir” and “connaître”: Both mean “to know,” but “savoir” is about knowing facts, while “connaître” is about being acquainted with someone or something.

9. Over-relying on “je suis” for “I am”: In situations like age, French uses “j’ai” (I have). So, it’s “J’ai 25 ans” (I am 25 years old), not “Je suis 25 ans.”

10. Mixing Up “c’est” and “il est”: Use “c’est” before a noun and “il est” before an adjective.

11. Faux Amis (False Friends): Words like “librairie” (bookstore) and “bibliothèque” (library) can be misleading.

12. Using “actuellement” for “actually”: In French, “actuellement” means “currently”.

13. Misunderstanding “sympathique”: It means “nice” or “pleasant”, not “sympathetic”.

14. Forgetting Accents: Changing or omitting accents can change word meanings, e.g., “ou” (or) vs. “où” (where).

15. Overcomplicating Questions: Instead of inversion, you can simply raise your tone, e.g., “Vous venez?” instead of “Venez-vous?”

16. Ignoring the Subjunctive: This mood is essential in many contexts, like wishes or expressing doubt.

17. Overusing “bien”: Not all positives are expressed with “bien”. Sometimes “bon” is more appropriate.

18. Misusing “depuis”: It means “since” or “for”, but its usage differs from English.

19. Incorrect Negations: Ensure you use both “ne” and “pas”, e.g., “Je ne sais pas.”

20. Confusing “demander” and “demander à”: The former means “to ask” and the latter “to ask someone”.

In conclusion, while French can be intricate and filled with nuances, awareness of these common pitfalls will steer you clear of many mistakes.

Remember, practice and immersion are your best allies. With every error corrected, you’re one step closer to flawless French! Bonne chance!

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