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5 Common French Mistakes You’re Probably Making

On the road to learning French, there are many obstacles that trip up even the most dedicated students. Luckily you can learn from others, using the most common French mistakes that students make as a road map to navigate your own journey. Here are the top errors to avoid:

French teenager cheering the national football team


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1. Using the wrong gender


For English speakers, this is one of the most common French mistakes, since English is not a gendered language. While the word endings often give you a clue, there are always exceptions. To overcome this, make sure you learn the gender with each new word. Consider the gendered article an essential part of every word you learn.


2. Confusing the articles


Not only do learners have to know the gender of the noun, but they also need to know which article to use along with it. The way that French uses articles is different from English and can be confusing. Where English wouldn’t use an article, French sometimes does.

Then, you need to choose the correct article: definite, indefinite, or partitive. Pay close attention when learning about the articles so that you don’t get confused with these common French mistakes.


3. Choosing the wrong form of “To Be”


To be or … to be? That is the question! To be in French is être, but there are certain expressions and phrases that use avoir (to have) or faire (to do, to make) to mean the same as “to be” in English. This can easily confuse students of French. Rather than trying to understand the logic of it, simply try to memorise these certain specific uses.


4. Not knowing when to drop letters


French pronunciation is a minefield when it comes to knowing when to pronounce and when to drop certain letters. To avoid confusion remember that in French, contractions are obligatory when a word or article ends in a vowel and the next word starts with a vowel or h. For example, instead of saying je aime, it is always contracted as j’aime.


5. Mixing up confusing words


There are a few word pairs in French that have similar meanings that are very easy to confuse. One of those is connaître and savoir, which both mean to know, yet cannot be used interchangeably. Savoir is used to talk about facts, whereas if you’re talking about a person or being familiar with something, you use connaître.

It sounds simple enough, but in practice, it trips many people up. Another confusing pair is bien and bon, equivalent to well and good in English, with the same confusion between using the adverb and adjective. Take the time when learning similar words to clearly work out the difference in usage between them.

Knowing which common French mistakes to avoid is half the battle in learning French! Equipped with this knowledge, surely you'll be able to face the challenge head-on. Allons-y!

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