The Top French Mistakes Made by English Speakers
Guest Post by Aimee Laurence:
French is a difficult language to learn and it’s normal to make mistakes. English speakers especially struggle with certain parts of the French language when it comes down to speech patterns. By knowing what some common French mistakes are, you can save time and confusion when learning this language.
Top French Mistakes
1) The verbs être and avoir
Être is a verb which means to be whereas avoir means to have. The issue with English speakers is they often use the verb être when they should be using avoir. It’s a normal mistake because, in English, you would say a sentence like “I am hungry” or “I am scared” when talking about a feeling. English speakers commonly say “je suis faim” or “je suis peur,” which is a mistake. In French, those two sentences actually mean “I am hunger” or “I am fear” – the correct way to express those is to say “j’ai faim” or “j’ai peur,” literally I have hunger.
As explains Monique Cadieux, a language tutor at Paper Fellows and Academized, “There is similar confusion when expressing age, because while in English you’d say ‘I am thirty years old,’ the French equivalent is ‘I have 30 years.’ Learning to use these two verbs correctly is a big step when learning the French language.”
2) French Homophones
Another common mistake in French is with French homophones that are easily confused. The same happens in English with words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings – their and there, son and sun, etc. Learning to speak French fluently involves learning the French homophones and the right context to use each word.
Some common ones that are confusing to beginners in French are concert and cancer (the meaning in French is the same as in English). However, in French, they are pronounced nearly the same. Another one is connard and canard (the first word means a jerk and is quite offensive, whereas the second word means duck).
3) False Cognates
Cognates are when one word means something different in French as in English. It’s tricky because there are some words in English that are the same in French and are true cognates (like animal or original). There are a few false cognates that are very confusing to English speakers learning French. One example is monnaie/money, which are closely related but they don’t actually mean the same thing. Monnaie in French means simply small coins, or loose change. If someone says that they don’t have any monnaie, it just means they don’t have any change, not that they don’t have any money.
Another false cognate is librairie/library. They both are locations to get books, but a librairie in French is a bookstore to purchase books, not like a library in English which is where you can borrow books for free. That word in French is actually bibliothèque. Finally, a strange false cognate is bras/bras. In English, bra means a female undergarment, but in French, it’s completely different – it means arm (the body part).
4) Possessive Articles
English speakers also have quite a lot of trouble with possession when they’re learning French. Martin Shelton, an educator at Assignment Writing Service and State of Writing, share with readers that “in English, we would use his, hers, yours, ours, or theirs, and that’s used across the board regardless of the object we’re referring to. In French, though, you need to understand that each noun is either masculine or feminine and that will affect the possessive article that you need to use with it.”
For example, here are a number of sentences to show what this means.
• Marie a emprunté mon livre. (Marie borrowed my book.)
• Marie a emprunté mes livres. (Marie borrowed my books.)
• Marie a emprunté ma bouteille. (Marie borrowed my bottle.)
In each case here, Marie is borrowing something. However, the possessive article changes for each case depending on whether the noun is a masculine noun (mon), plural (mes), or feminine (ma).
By discovering these common errors, it becomes easier to avoid them and get used to saying incorrect sentences. Focus on getting these common mistakes right from the beginning, and it will be easier to get familiar with grammatically correct French.
Aimee Laurence, an editor at BoomEssays.com and Essayroo.com, shares her tips for learning languages and travelling to countries where English isn’t spoken. She enjoys discovering intricacies and differences in other languages and writing about them. She also works as an editor for UKWritings.com.
It’s true about connard and canard. A guy once took my parking place and, after yelling at him, a French friend turned to me and asked, “Why did you call him a duck?”
Very funny Keith, perhaps that scenario will make it into book #3. Really great news about your new audiobook version of Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures in Provence.
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Great, I guess some of them have already been rectified and is in the process but nice post to read.
Thanks for reading Perfectly Provence.