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The Most Common Mistakes French Beginners Make

common mistakes in french

You can’t avoid mistakes when you’re a learner.  The most common cause of language mistakes is language interference.

We start translating from our native language to French and realize French people couldn’t understand a word we say. We all get our wires crossed from time to time.

Despite the many similarities and points in common between French and English, some of them are surprising, there are several essential differences as well.

Look at these 7 most common mistakes in French.

common french mistakes j'ai

French common mistakes

1. Je suis bien vs Je vais bien

This is one of the most common mistakes in French because in most languages it feels natural to say “l am good”, with the verb etre.

As opposed to English, French use the verb aller, to define how they feel.

  • Incorrect: Je suis bien.
  • Correct: Je vais bien.

You can read this article to learn about Asking “How are you” in French?

2. Le lundi prochain vs Lundi prochain

In French, there is a different meaning underlying le lundi, and lundi. If you say just Mardi, it means next Tuesday. Take a look at the sentence.

Lundi j’ai rdv chez le médecin.

Next Monday, I have a doctor’s appointment.

  • Incorrect: Le mardi prochain.
  • Correct: Mardi prochain.

 Whereas “le mardi” is to talk about a habit.

Le Mardi je vais à la salle de sport.

On Tuesdays, I go to the gym.

Read our article to expand more on the topic Talking about Time : 7 Days of the Week in French

3. Je suis tard vs Je suis en retard

Most French learners get thinking that the English version can translate literally into French, whilst French expression is etre en retard.

Incorrect: Je suis tard.

Correct: Je suis en retard.

4. Ma Amie or Mon Amie

You learned that the French possessive adjectives,  accord in both genre and number with the noun they refer to. Once you mastered the different masculine and feminine forms,  you confidently use ma, in front of all feminine words, including the ones that start with a vowel. Feminine nouns go along with the ma, ta, sa (my, your,his/her/its) possessive adjective forms.

Many forget the exception to this rule, which is when the feminine word starts with a vowel, we should use the masculine forms (mon, ton,  son), instead of feminine possessive adjectives.

Possessive adjectives ma, ta or sa (my, your or his/her/its) followed by a feminine noun starting with a vowel becomes mon, ton, or son. Thus, to say “my friend,” you’ll always use mon, never mind if the noun is  ami or amie.

Here you can remind yourself about French possessive adjectives.

5. Je suis 20 ans vs J’ai 20 ans

French often translates “to be + adjective” into “to have + noun”.

Like in these cases.

  • avoir peur – to be afraid
  • avoir raison – to be right
  • avoir sommeil – to be sleepy

Typically, that confusion just leads to a common mistake, like saying “Je suis 20 ans” instead of “J’ai 20 ans” when you want to say your age.

6. Je suis faim vs J’ai faim

As in the previous example, avoir is used in many expressions, we use the verb avoir. 

J’ai faim. l am hungry.

To learn more about French Vocabulary and Expressions around food, read our article How to talk about food in French: The Art of Eating.

7. Je suis chaud vs J’ai chaud,e

There are times when this causes real misunderstandings, and the difference isn’t just a grammatical one.

As when you’re feeling hot, be careful to use avoir (J’ai chaud), and not être.

Because when used with the verb etre, it means you’re horny (Je suis chaud/chaude).

Avoiding French Grammar Mistakes 

Understanding these common French grammar mistakes can prevent you from making them.

You can distinguish them easily with practice.

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