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Read this and you will avoid these 14 French common mistakes made by English speakers

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

When you learn a language, it is normal to make mistakes as you do not know all the rules to build sentences, especially for French language which has plenty of rules, or constructions types. It might be a bit difficult at the beginning to speak French without making mistakes.

However, I personally consider a mistake as an opportunity to do things better and not as a failure as some may think. Learning from your mistakes is one of the best ways of improving your French language skills. Today, I’ll be sharing with you 10 common mistakes that French learners make without even knowing they should say things differently. After reading this, you'll not make them again.

A great way to get naturally used to common phrases used by French native speakers is to get regularly exposed to the language. Watching TV is a great way. You can watch Netflix in your target language, or better get a subscription to Lingopie, which is specially designed for language learners. You can watch Your favorite TV show or movies with subtitles with the possibility on clicking on the words to learn their meaning. And with their flashcard feature, you can review the new words later, and improve your vocabulary.

You can also listen to podcasts on topics of interest while driving, shopping, or doing your jogging. That will be really helpful to naturally acquire the construction of these common phrases, and avoid making mistakes.

# Common Mistake n°1 : Je suis bien

To the question "Comment vas-tu?" We often hear French learners say “je suis bien”. Instead of saying that, you should just say “Je vais bien”, which literally means I am going well but in fact “I am well”.

# Common Mistake n°2 : C’est moi qui a fait

I can understand that this sentence structure can be a little bit confusing with the use of two pronouns "moi" and "qui". But you have to keep in mind that the subject of the verb faire in this sentence is "moi", which is the same as "je". So instead of saying C’est moi qui a fait, you should say “C’est moi qui ai fait”.

# Common Mistake n°3 : Je l’ai dit

Even from French natives, it happens that we hear this mistake. When some People want to say I told him/her, they often make a confusion between the direct pronoun le/la and the indirect pronoun lui. The verb Dire is an indirect transitive verb. So the question you should ask is "j’ai dit à qui? " Every time you can say à qui/ à quoi, then you have to use an indirect pronoun. The best way would be "je lui ai dit".

Note that "Je l'ai dit" can also be translated as "I said it". If that is what you mean, then, there is no mistake in this current context.

# Common Mistake n°4: Ma amie

It’s true that when you were learning possessive adjectives, you were told that the use of ma/mon/mes depends on the gender of the noun following it. But the fact is that here, the possessive Ma ends with a vowel. The word amie starts with a vowel. That makes it sound weird to say Ma amie. In that case, even if amie is a feminine word, you should use the possessive "mon". The correct way would be : Mon amie. The same applies when we use ton or son with a word starting with a vowel. We'll say ton amie /son amie.

# Common Mistake n°5 : J’ai visité mes amis

Saying this is a common mistake. In French, we visit a place. For instance, Je visite un musée => I visit a museum. But we rarely say "je visite mes amis". When speaking about visiting someone we use the verb Rendre visite à quelqu'un. In that case, We should "J'ai rendu visite à mes amis".

Note that in some contexts, we can say I visit a person in French, especially when talking about a sick person or a prisoner. Example : Je visite un malade. 

# Common Mistake n°6 : Je peux demander une question?

Even if "to ask" can be translated as "demander" in French, you have to be careful when using it. In French, words should be used depending on their context. In this case, we would use the verb "poser" to refer to asking questions. The correct way should be : Je peux poser une question?

# Common Mistake n°7 : J'ai beaucoup des amis

The mistake here is to put "des" after beaucoup. Keep in mind once and for all that beaucoup is always followed with "de" when meaning a lot of. The correct way is : J’ai beaucoup d’amis.

14 Commion mistakes made in French that you don't want to make_erreurs frequentes en francais

# Common Mistake n°8 : J’ai travaillé pour trois ans dans cette entreprise

Be aware of the use of time markers pour and pendant. in general, pour is used to express a future duration. Eg. : je vais en France  pour deux semaines = > I am going to France for two weeks. When you want to talk about terminated past duration, you have to use pendant. The correct way should be : J’ai travaillé pendant trois ans dans cette entreprise. => I've worked for 3 years in this enterprise.

# Common Mistake n°9 : je vais à le cinéma /Je fais de le judo

Here, the problem is related to the articles. Write down this special note in your diary! 

When à and de are followed with le or les, then contracted articles are required. We never say à le or de le. À+le=au, à+les =aux, de+le=du and de+les =des. The correct sentence should be : Je vais au cinéma /je fais du judo. 

# Common Mistake n°10 : Merci pour m’aider

Guys, in English you would say thanks for helping me but in French let’s say Merci pour votre aide, merci de m’aider or merci de m’avoir aidé(e). Merci is in general followed by pour + a noun or by pour + a verb. Merci de m'aider can be used in the context of thanking someone who is proposing to help. Merci de m'avoir aidé (e) can be used if the person already helped you and You thank him/her to show your gratitude.

# Common Mistake n°11 : Je vais au docteur

The problem here is a misuse of the preposition. We use the preposition Chez when referring to people or professions like docteur, boulanger, fleuriste. We should say : Je vais chez le docteur.

# Common Mistake n°12 : Je n’ai pas des amis

Keep in mind that when turning a sentence in French to a negative form, you should  use Ne pas +de . If in your affirmative sentence you use un, une, or des, then these articles turn to be de in the negative sentence. J’ai des amis becomes in the negative sentence je n’ai pas d'amis.

I am sharing with you this pdf of the website Instantfle designed to help you memorize the use of Pas de /beaucoup de in a fun way, with a logical building.

# Common Mistake n°13 : Le samedi prochain

When talking about dates, always remember that we don’t need to use the articles for a specific day, unless we want to mention something repetitive. The best way should be : Samedi prochain, je vais faire de la randonnée. => Next Saturday, I am going to do hiking.

# Common Mistake n°14 : Mixing up Moi aussi and Moi non plus

Let's take this example of my friend and I talking about vegetables.

  • My friend : Je n'aime pas les légumes. => I don't like vegetables.

  • Me : Moi non plus ! => Me neither.

To reply to a negative sentence like in the example above, you should use the negative form Moi non plus.

  • My friend : J’aime les légumes. => I like vegetables

  • Me : Moi aussi ! => Me too

Moi aussi is only for replying to affirmative sentences like in the example above.

To wrap it up

As a non-French native, you will be influenced by your own native language and your understanding of French grammar rules.

As a matter of fact, making mistakes is normal, and is part of the learning process. The most important thing is to identify them and to undertake corrective actions.

Now that you know some of the most common mistakes made by French learners, I hope you will never make them again if that was your case. If not, try to avoid them by following these explanations.

If you want to take your learning further, we suggest Lingoda for online group classes or private classes. Their classes are affordable (10 to 15 euros per one hour group class), well structured according to CEFR guidelines, with a communicative approach that gets you quickly comfortable speaking. You can join their next challenge, the Lingoda Sprint. If you commit to taking 1 class a day for 2 months (60 classes), without missing any class, you get 100% cashback. and if you choose to take a class every two days (30 classes), you will get 50% cashback.

This is a great way to accelerate your learning with intensive classes. However, this is not for everyone. If you can't commit daily, you better join their regular classes. that you can try for free here.


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