Learn French: 5 Classic French Mistakes

Salut !

In one year since the popular video “Embarrassing mistakes in French” I’ve received thousands of emails and comments.
I read each one of them, so here are some frequent mistakes I want to help you with.

I know you love the “classic mistakes” episodes. So here’s another one – for you!

Et toi?

Which one of these mistakes do you make the most?
Is there a mystery mistake you haven’t been able to fix yet? Maybe we can help!
I’m sure you have a nice story to share.

Géraldine
PS: Suprise coming next week!

Join the conversation!

  • D’accord pour “chérie”. Mais est-ce qu’on peut appeler une amie “ma chère”? Si non, quel terme affectueux peut-on utiliser pour des amis/amies?

    • Tout à fait, Maria.
      Mais attention à l’usage. C’est un peu formel donc c’est utilisé de façon humoristique, en général.

  • Bonjour:
    J’habite en Normandie, et tout le monde ici dit ‘au revoir’ (ou pour être plus exact) “a’ ‘voir, au ‘voir, et encore plus de variations! Peut-être c’est une différence régionale?

  • Many of the birthday cards in shops say grosse bise (or something like that). Can I send that to an ordinary girlfriend or is it especially for a lover or best friend?

    • Hi Melanie,

      Grosse bise/Grosses bises/Bises/Bisous is 100% ok with friends (close or not very close).
      For girlfriend/boyfriend, keep the “Je t’aime”.
      🙂

      To give you more info on this precise topic,
      In France, friendship and love are really 2 different things.
      So you will never treat your best friend the same way you’d treat your girlfriend/boyfriend.
      This is why you’d never send a “je t’aime” card or Valentine one to a friend in France.

  • Salut, Geraldine. A quick question about the silent p: Would you pronounce the p in trop if it were followed by an a, as in trop âgé ?
    Merci !

  • The link to adding comments does not work on Janine Marsh’s video.
    Since she mentioned the Paris Opera House with a seat reserved for the Phantom, I thought it would be interesting to see the bee hives on the roof of the Opera in Paris. One could do a tour of Parisian bee keepers. Bees thrive in Paris because pesticides are not used in the gardens and parks. Here in America we have lost eighty percent of our pollinating insects. Also, Patric Blanc’s vertical gardens certainly cool off concrete facades in Paris. I would like to learn more about them.

  • Judy,
    I’ll look for others to comment as well, but we don’t have the nasal sound needed for “prince” in English. However, if you think of the word we use to imitate a baby crying or someone who is complaining “wah, wah” or “waa waa” with a nasal sound to it, you’ll have the right effect for prince. Then just add the s sound at the end. Also, if you go to the website for Wordreference (.com) and choose French to English from the drop-down menu, type/search for prince. Once on the page, you’ll see an audio icon right next to the word. Click on it, and you’ll hear the correct pronunciation!

  • In some department stores and boutiques, the sales people say, “Au revoir, Madame” when I leave. So, I say “Au Revoir” to them, too.

      • When entering a shop, is it better to say, for example, Bonjour or Bonjour Madame? and when buying a magazine at a kiosk, do you just say Bonjour? Merci!

        • Bonjour Judy,
          A general “Bonjour” in a shop is perfect.
          If you’re buying from someone in particular a “Bonjour Madame/Monsieur” is always appreciated!

  • When texting with my French friends we typically sing off with “a+” (meaning “à plus tard”). Sometimes I will use “à demain” or “à bientôt” but “a+” is used most.

  • Au Revoir [A-R]. Pensez-vous que ce soit un peu différent en le sud de France? Tous le monde français semble de dire “Au revoir” tous le temps; souvent précédé par “allez”. (Je ne sait pas si c’est “allez” ou “aller”.) En sortent un magasin on n’entends jamais “a la prochaine” (!), toujours A-R. En sortent kinésithérapie c’est toujours “A-R” ou “a la prochaine, A-R”. Il semble que on est oblige toujours de dire A-R en sortent une groupe ou un petit magasin. Je n’ai pas des amis proche français, donc pas d’entrainement!

    • Bonjour Norman,
      Tout à fait, il est possible que ça soit différent selon les régions !
      Ecoute ce qu’il se dit autour de toi et tu trouveras la meilleure phrase. 🙂

  • I work with many French coworkers and customers in the US. Many I only see once or twice a month, for brief moments and many of the customers are single time encounters. I am curious about the use of Bonjour and Bonsoir. I was under the impression that I use Bonsoir after 6pm or so, but many of them say Bonjour, even well into the evening. Which one should I use? Can I continue to use Bonsoir, or should I be addressing them with Bonjour as well? Merci

    • Bonjour Kristin,
      Great question!
      If they use “Bonjour”, feel free to use “bonjour” too. 🙂
      They *should* use bonsoir. BUT. Sometimes, we don’t always say what we are *supposed* to say. That’s life. 🙂
      Also, remember that when you live abroad, your native language changes too (my French grammar was “broken” after my 2 years in England, and I had to “relearn” how to build a proper sentence).
      So maybe their French is a little broken too, that’s normal.

  • Some French teachers in the states use the CaReFuL rule to help with French pronunciation. It almost always works.
    If a French word ends in C, R, F or L (the consonants in CaReFuL), it will be pronounced. Examples: Luc, jour, neuf and mal. All other consonants are usually silent. Of course the silent “e” changes everything: Louis, Louise. This rule explains things like Champs-Elysées, beaucoup, temps, etc. There are always exceptions like fils and yaourt but the CaReFuL rule is very useful most of the time.

  • A mistake I used to make when feeling hot in the summer in France, was to say;
    ‘Je suis chaud ‘( I am hot ), my friends quickly told me that I should say; ‘J’ai chaud ‘(I have hot ). The explanation being that the first literal expression has the meaning, ‘I’m feeling hot,sexy,randy’ etc.. So doesn’t rule out the possibility of it being used, just got to get the context right. A question of être ou avoir. So not a good idea to ask someone you don’t know well, ‘vous etes chaud?’ better ‘vous avez chaud?’.
    We had quite a laugh about it, all the same.
    Merci et bien joue pour le vidéos Géraldine

  • Salut Géraldine.

    Le mot “droit” m´a fait confus une fois. J´ai démandé mon chemin, et j´avais cru que “tout droit” signifie que il faut virer à droite. Alors ma femme m´a convaincu de acheter un GPS. 😉

    • Both are fine, depending on the context.
      “J’habite à Salignac” is fine everywhere.
      “J’habite Salignac” is a little bit more elegant. And also I’d use it with something after : “J’habite Salignac depuis 2 ans.”

  • Salut, Geraldine! Bonne vidéo comme toujours! Je suis toujours impatient de recevoir nouveux matériaux! Mais j’ai une question: Je sais que le verbe manquer quand utilisé avec une personne veut dire “to miss” comme “Tu me manque,” mais est-il le meme chose avec un objet? Est-ce qu’on dit “La lampe me manque,” pour dire “I miss the lamp?” Si tu peux m’aider, je serai complètement ravi! A bientôt!

  • I heard when learning at school that to say ‘ je suis plein’ – after eating – in english ‘I am full’ means I am pregnant in french? true or false?

  • Exceptions to the “p” rule are for words like “pneu” and “psychologue”, where it would be silent in English, but you do say it in French.

    • Just HOW do you say the “p” in pneu? Is it ppnoo? My (belgian) young niece just falls about laughing every time I attempt this word but she won’t tell me (little devil!). We are cyclists so ‘pneu’ comes up a lot! 😉

      • Hi Dawn,

        Let’s take the word pneu as an example. The two sounds almost rhyme: The “p” is pronounced with a slight p sound, like at the beginning of the word “push”. “Neu” is pronounced like the beginning of the word “neurology.”

        In the psychologue example, I would compare it to the sound you make when you hiss at someone to get their attention in a quiet room (usually written in English “psst”. Of course, we don’t pronounce the “t” there).

        Hope that helps =)

  • Géraldine, merci bien pour cette vidéo! Je suis prof de français aux EU et (je dois admettre) j’utilisais “bien fait” en félicitant le travail de mes élèves. (Oups.) Désormais je serai plus prudente, grâce a vous! 🙂

    • Moi aussi, j’utilise souvent “Bien fait” avec mes élèves. Qu’est-ce que je dois dire ou écrire sur leurs papiers? Merci, Géraldine!
      And yes, once I called one of my French girlfriends “Chérie” and she quickly asked me NOT to do that. I certainly understood my faux pas quickly as we did not want anyone to think that we were partners!
      Teresa

      • Moi aussi, je fais la meme faute! I have to force myself just to say “très bien”, ou “un travail bien fait”. I have a friend in France who I call “ma petite Francaise” and she calls me her “petite Canadienne”. 🙂

      • I say “bravo” or simply “bien” to complement my students. When writing on their papers I might say “un bon effort” or “excellent.”

      • “Bien fait” is not “Well done” at all.
        Use “Bon travail” instead or “Bravo” or “Très bien” for your students. 😉

    • huhuhu, it happens. 😉
      I LOVE having French teachers like you in the audience.
      Use « Bon travail » instead or « Bravo » or « Très bien » for your students. This is what teachers use, here.

  • Coucou!

    J’ai utilisé la phrase “Je suis pleine” quand un ami m’a offert une troisième crêpe. J’ai voulu dire « I’m full ». Malheureusement, il m’a dit que « Je suis pleine » est un peu vulgaire. « Je suis pleine » can also mean « I’m pregnant » ! Il m’a dit que je dois utiliser « je suis rassasiée ».

    • oui si ” je suis pleine” peut être vulgaire , vu le contexte ” après 3 crêpes” on comprend parfaitement ce que tu veux dire et ce n’est pas vulgaire

    • “Je suis pleine” after eating too much, would be “maladroit” but not vulgar, as you’d understand it’s about food, no worries. 🙂
      “Je suis rassasiée” is a little bit too formal here. I’d say “J’ai assez mangé” or “J’ai bien mangé”.

  • Oops! My example sentences were lost in the guillemets! I wanted to know how to say things like: ‘I didn’t expect to see you’, ‘I didn’t expect you to come’, ‘Thank you, I didn’t expect anything, you shouldn’t have’ etc. I have been learning French for quite a long time, but I always have difficulty with this one.

  • Hi Geraldine. This was very useful. Thank you.
    Please could you do an episode about how to say ‘to expect someone or something’ (s’attendre a), or to not expect something. I am never sure how to say, for example, <>, or <>, or <> etc.
    Thanks. Michelle

  • When someone says bonne soirée or bonne journée I am never sure what the correct response is (for example when leaving a shop or a restaurant) I usually smile and say merci but I’m sure this isn’t correct.

      • I don’t know whether this is common in France, but here in French-speaking Switzerland, when someone says something like “Bonne journeée” you can reply ‘Pareil” (or, longer form, “Pareillement”) which means “Same to you”.

    • Great question, Sue!
      “Merci vous aussi” or “Bonne soirée”/”Bonne journée” are perfect. 🙂

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