Common Grammar Mistakes in French
We continue outlining most common mistakes English speakers make in French.
Here’s a brief overview of typical pitfalls that await when we try to compose a grammatically correct sentence in French.
It’s only a brief list that’ll help you refresh your knowledge and build your confidence.
- The use of adjectives in French is different from the ones in English. First, you have to make the adjective agree with the noun. So if the noun is plural, you have to put a ‘s’. If the noun is feminine, if you can, you have to put an ‘e’. Another important thing is that adjectives in French can be put both before and after a noun and some of them have a specific place, but once again, you have to learn it all by heart!
- a blue pen – ‘un stylo bleu’
- a blue car – ‘une voiture bleue’
- two blue houses – ‘deux maisons bleues’
- Two big blue houses – ‘deux grandes maisons bleues
- In French the difference between Tu and Vous is really important. It can be hard to make a distinction, as both words are translated by ‘you’ in English… BUT the rule is simple:
- if you don’t know the person, or the person is your superior, then you would automatically say ‘vous’ as a form of respect. The same happens if you speak to someone a lot older or your in-laws.
- if you speak to someone of your age or to your friends you can say ‘tu’.
- Of course, sometimes it is nice to start saying ‘vous’ (or vouvoyer) to someone and wait for them to invite you to say ‘tu’ (or tutoyer) instead. ‘On peut se tutoyer?’ – Can I say ‘tu’?
- Prepositions can be hard, here are some examples of the most common ones used:
- Je suis intéressé (e) PAR – je m’intéresse à
- Je suis allée EN… for a Feminine country : France, Irlande, Angleterre, Allemagne, Espagne
- Je suis allée AU… for a masculine country : Portugal
- Je suis allée AUX… for plural country : USA, Pays-Bas
- Je suis allée À… for a city : Paris, Dublin, Londres…
- The negative form in French always has two parts so don’t forget the second part! The first part always comes before the verb and the second part always comes after it. There are several options:
- Ne/n’… pas: je ne peux pas danser (I can’t dance)
- Ne/n’… plus : Je ne peux plus danser (I can’t dance anymore)
- Ne/n’… jamais : Je n’ai jamais dansé (I have never danced)
- Ne/n’…rien : Je n’ai rien mangé (I didn’t eat anything)
- Ne/n’… guère : Je n’ai guère faim (I am not hungry) N.B. This is a very formal form.
- Ne/n’…ni…ni: Je n’ai ni faim ni soif (I am neither hungry nor thirsty)
- Ne/n’… aucun: Je n’ai aucun ami (I have no friends)
- Ne/n’…personne : Je ne vois personne (I can’t see anyone)
- French has a lot of tenses, you will first learn the Present Tense and then one of the past tenses called ‘le passé-composé’. It consists of two parts: the auxiliary and the verb. In French we have two auxiliaries: ‘être’ and ‘avoir’, ‘to be’ and ‘to have’. Most verbs use ‘avoir’, only 17 use ‘être’ and here is an acronym to remember them: Dr & Mrs Vandertramp
On a Final Note:
The above brief list along with the article about common mistakes in Pronunciation and Vocabulary areas will help you build your knowledge of French language.
You will definitely use all of this vocabulary and structures in daily conversations if you go to France.
So keep your French fresh, you’ll be glad you did!