10 Common French Mistakes Made by English Speakers

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Diane SbihiFrench
May 7, 2018
2 minutes
I’ve been teaching french to English native speakers for some years now, and we made together a sort of a “Top 10” of the most common mistakes they made in french…

I thought to share it with you, so here they are … Although if I scratch my head a little bit, I might come up with a “Top 10 ” number 2 !

To be continued … ;)

L’erreur n’annule pas la valeur de l’effort accompli. African Proverb

 1.  “C’est d’accord!”

Using “C’est d’accord” when you mean « it’s fine » or « it’s okay » to describe something. Ex :
  • What do you think of this restaurant ? It’s okay …
  • Is it hard ? It’s fine ….
We wouldn’t use “c’est d’accord” here. “D’accord” means “okay”, but « C’est d’accord » always means « I agree ».
  • Qu’est ce que tu penses de ce restaurant ? Il est bien / il n’est pas mal
  • C’est dur ? Ca va …

2. ‘’Je te manque’’

The French verb “manquer” (to miss) could be a tough one because we don’t place the words in the same order as English speakers.
For example: “I miss you” isn’t ‘’je te manque’’ but  ‘’Tu me manques’’ (You “are missed by” me).

 3. “Actuellement, je l’ai déjà vu”

« Actuellement » is quite a popular one. It is what we call a false cognate (faux-ami), that is a word that looks like another french word, but they mean different things ; and “actuellement” doesn’t mean « actually » but « currently ». «Actually » in french is « En fait »

4. ‘’Hier soir, je suis restée chez mon amie pour une heure’’

Meaning ‘’Last night, I stayed at my friend’s FOR an hour’’
In this instance, ‘’for’’ has to be translated as ‘’Pendant’’ because we are talking about a period of time. So, “For + period of time” (for a month, for a few days …) we would use ‘’Pendant’’.

 5. ‘J’ai attendu cette conférence l’année dernière’’

Another one of our friends the false cognates. “Attendre” in french means “to wait”, not ‘’to attend’’. ‘’Assister à’’ is the word you’re looking for : ‘’J’ai assisté à cette conférence l’année dernière’’  

6.  ‘’Ma amie est arrivée à 18 heures’’

‘’My friend arrived at 6pm’’. Well, fair enough, it should be ‘’MA’’ because “amie” is feminine. But there is another little rule (yes, there always seems to be another little rule !) that says that when a feminine noun begins with a vowel, the masculine possessive adjective is used, and we therefore say ‘’MON amie’’. The thing is that french doesn’t like having a word ending with a vowel just before another one starting with one … Is this an excuse good enough?

7.  ‘’Oh oui définitivement!’’

Another false friend here! This is not the translation for ‘’Yes! Definitely!’’ but actually means ‘’Yes! For good!’’. ‘’Definitely’’ can be translated by ‘’certainement’’, ‘’absolument’’ or ‘’ tout à fait’’. Plenty of options!

8. Confusing « Connaître » et « savoir »

French has two different words for  to know, connaître and savoir, but they aren’t interchangeable! To try and make it simple :
  • Connaître is used only with a noun : Je connais ce livre. Je connais Pierre. Il connait cette ville.
  • Savoir is used for everything else : Je sais ça ! / Je sais qu’il va venir / Je sais parler français. Je sais comment lui parler.

9. ‘’J’ai visité le médecin hier matin’’

‘’I visited the doctor yesterday morning’’. ‘’Visiter’’ is used when you are visiting a town, museum, or another attraction. But “visiting a doctor” will be “aller chez le médecin” or “voir le médecin” for example. Aller works all the time. And if you are visiting relatives or friends, you can also use ‘’rendre visite à’’ : J’ai rendu visite à ma mère hier matin.

10. “Je suis plein/e”

When you want to say « I am full » after having a french good meal, we would say « J’ai bien mangé ! »

Hope that helps ! If you know any others, feel free to share them too !

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