Speaking French - Some common mistakes to avoid

Livres d'apprentissage

As you know, French is a fascinating language, but a tricky one! When you’re learning French, there are countless grammar and spelling rules to get to grips with – and a long list of exceptions! Here are a few common mistakes that you can avoid with a little care.

Pay attention to prepositions and articles

When you use the verb se marier (“to marry”), use the preposition avec (“with”): Elle s’est mariée avec un ingénieur parisien (“She married an engineer from Paris”). If you’re talking about your occupation, you should omit the article un or une: "Je suis policier" (“I’m a police officer”) or "je suis étudiant" (“I’m a student”) are the correct forms. When giving your age, always specify the number of years. You should say: J’ai 25 ans (“I’m 25”). And pay attention to the use of the preposition pour (for) with the verb payer (to pay): "J’ai payé ce livre vingt euros" (“I paid twenty euros for this book”) or "j’ai eu ce livre pour vingt euros" (“I got this book for twenty euros”). Don’t use prepositions before days of the week: Samedi, j’ai visité Monaco (“I visited Monaco on Saturday”). Use the article le (“the”) when talking about a habitual action: "Le lundi, je commence mon travail à neuf heures" (“On Mondays, I start work at nine”). Remember not to use the preposition de (“of”) with the verb "aimer" (“to like”): "J’aime beaucoup faire la cuisine" (“I really like cooking”).

Take care with verbs, too

The verb consister (“to consist of”, “to involve”) is often confused with the phrase être composé de (“to consist of”, “to be made up of”). Here are two examples to help you understand the difference: "Les croissants sont composés de beurre, de farine, de sucre et de levure" (“Croissants are made of butter, flour, sugar and yeast”) (= they are made of these ingredients) "Mon travail consiste à informer et à conseiller les clients" (“My work involves informing and advising customers”) (= this is an explanation of my role) When you want to express something that you need, you should say: "j’ai besoin d"e. For example, "j’ai besoin de temps pour apprendre cette leçon" (“I need time to learn this lesson”). Finally, two french verbs that you need to know the difference between "connaître" and "savoir" (“to know”). "Savoir" is more often used to refer to something that you have learned. In addition, "connaître" is used with a noun (je connais bien cet homme – “I know that man well”), while "savoir" requires an infinitive or a subordinate clause (je sais parler français – “I know how to speak French”, or "je sais que tu es malade" – “I know that you’re ill”). We hope you’ll find these tips useful! Until next time, best of luck!

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Teaching French to children