Top 5 Very Embarrassing & Common Mistakes in French


Today, it’s Comme une Française TV’s first birthday!

To celebrate this event, I figured you’d want something VERY honest, VERY fresh and VERY useful. 🙂

Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher. Welcome to Comme une Française.
Today, like every Tuesday, I’ll help you get better at speaking and understanding everyday French.
C’est parti !

Just a warning: this episode contains explicit sexual expressions (in French and in English) so you might want to use earbuds or send the kids to play in their rooms.

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1) Je te baise – Je t’embrasse

 This is a very classic mistake!

For “to do the cheek kisses (in French greetings)” we use the phrasal verb Faire la bise. Do NOT use Baiser –  even if Google Translate suggests it!

Learn more about this French greeting in my lesson: La Bise

You have to use the whole phrase Faire la bise because baiser by itself means: “to f*ck.” Either literally (explicit) or figuratively, as in: 

Ah merde, je suis baisée. = Ah sh*t, I’m f*cked. 

So be careful with that one!

You can also use S’embrasser (= to kiss each other) for Faire la bise… But it can be ambiguous! For example: 

Allez, on s’embrasse !” = “Come on, let’s do (the greeting) la bise.” (“On” is more chaste.)

J’ai envie de t’embrasser.” = “I want to kiss you.” (“Je” is more personal, intimate.)

Keep track of the context! 🙂

Finally, “Kisses” at the end of a letter (or an email) would be simple: Bises, or Je t’embrasse, or (familiar) Bisous.

2) Je suis excitée – J’ai hâte 

To say “I’m excited,” do NOT say Je suis excité(e) !

Instead, you can use:

  • J’ai hâte ! (= I can’t wait.)
  • Je suis impatiente à l’idée de… (= I’m excited about…)

Indeed, for an adult, excité(e) means aroused. As also in: Ça m’excite. (= It’s arousing.) That can be embarrassing! 

However, we sometimes use excité innocently… when applied to children, mostly. 

Les enfants sont tout excités. (= The children are agitated, over-excited.)

Or the expression:  excité comme une puce (= “agitated like a flea” (literally) = so excited you can’t sit still.)


3) Une amie m’a introduit – Une amie m’a parlée de

This one made me smile a lot because I’m SURE I’ve made the same kind of mistakes in English and Spanish.


« A friend introduced me » does NOT translate to « Une amie m’a introduit ». « Introduire » in French more directly means « to insert / to penetrate». So I’ll leave the meaning to your imagination.


To say “A friend introduced me to [something],” you can use:
Une amie m’a parlé de [quelque chose] (= A friend talked to me about [something])
Une amie m’a fait découvrir [quelque chose] (= A friend helped me discover [something]) 

And to say “Let me introduce you to John,” you can say: “Je te présente John.


4) Préservatifs – Conservateurs

I had no idea about this, but it seems that confusing “préservatifs” for “conservateurs” is a VERY popular mistake 🙂 

Preservatives (in food) are des conservateurs (it also means conservatives.)

Meanwhile, un préservatif is… a condom!

5) J’ai chaud – Je suis chaude

J’ai chaudI’m hot (as in I think the temperature is too high.) It’s the same in the masculine and feminine.

Je suis chaud (masculine) / Je suis chaude (feminine) = I’m horny (especially in the feminine)

Don’t make the mistake! 

However, we also use Je suis chaud casually to mean “I’m motivated / I’m in.” For example:

Je suis chaud pour faire cette randonnée. = I’m motivated for that hike. 

Ça te dit une rando samedi ?
– Oui, je suis chaud.  

Would you like to go hiking on saturday? / Yeah, I’m in.

Other expressions with chaud :

Je suis chaud comme la braise. = I’m hot as embers (literally) = I’m horny.

Je suis chaud patate.I’m hot potato (literally) = “I’m VERY motivated.”

C’est chaud ! = It’s hot (as in temperature) OR (colloquially) it’s difficult or it’s tragic / very concerning.

6) Bonus – Vaseline

In France, la vaseline is basically only known as a sexual lubricant. It has a very strong sexual connotation!

 So if you ask for it in France, people will go « hmmmm »…

I know in the UK and other countries it’s used as a hand cream and the brand is “just a brand”. But in France, it’s not. So if you’re looking for a hand creme, ask for “de la crème pour les mains”. You might be able to find something similar to vaseline, but with another name. Vaseline as you may know it, is definitely not available in France.

Want to save this for later ?

Et toi ?

Have you made any of these mistakes in France?
Do you have any different awkward moments to share?

Share your answers in the comments below!

And now:

→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Allez, salut 🙂


Join the conversation!

  • I lived in Paris in the early eighties and had a French (almost) boyfriend. We were in my chambre-de-bonne, talking about random subjects. For some reason, I can’t recall why, he asked me “tu m’en veux”? (Are you mad at me?). My French wasn’t good enough yet, I had never heard the expression before, and I simply translated it for myself as “Do you want me?”
    I happily said “Oui” after which he started questioning my answer, asking me why, getting more and more agitated. Every time he repeated the question I kept saying “Oui”, although slowly sensing that something was going very wrong. He was clearly not happy.
    Well he left and didn’t come back.
    It took me months to figure out the embarrassing mistake.

  • When I was at school (many years ago) I had a French penpal (male), and I remember saying “je suis froide” in a letter to him, and he replied saying it means “not very understanding towards boys”. But I learnt later it means frigid. It’s amazing how these things stick in your mind.

  • Before my second date with a Frenchman, I had to cancel, so I rang him and intending to say SORRY (je suis désolée) … I said “je suis désirée”. Silence at the end of the phone until he laughed and said “Hmmmm, so you are DESIRABLE? I think so too.” That was 14 years ago and after 8 years happily married to this Frenchman, in this case the mistake was a good one! (And we still laugh about it!)

  • Je suis pleine is a classic one mistakenly said for “I’m full” direct translation from English (at end of meal) vs French: “I’m pregnant”, the difference when said between le cou and le cul and la mort and l’amour 🙂

  • Not the same thing but it makes me laugh. A friend asking directions to the train station caused confusion by asking ‘ou est la guerre’.

  • I once asked for vaseline in our local chemist not knowing then what I know now. Quel horreur! I now understand the embarrased reaction from the young female assistant. Thank you Géraldine.

  • je suis pleine—> J’ai trop mange (as recounted by 15 year old female exchange student on eating a large meal with her new host family.

  • I came across this post while looking for a French idiom I had heard of but only half remember. I’ve been so busy lately!–I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed commeunefrancaise!

    J’ai trouve cette poste en cherchant un idiome francaise que j’ai ecoute mais me rappelle a lui juste demi-bien. [Desole pour cet essaie 😅 et pour ecrire sans les accents] Je me suis trop occupe recemment!–Je n’ai pas su combien que commeunefrancaise m’est manque!

  • As a teenager (i.e. 45 years ago) I once asked a French girl “es-tu chaude” … For obvious reasons I have NOT repeated this mistake!

    • Bonjour Jud,

      It’s not! Sorry 🙂

      I have never heard that expression, I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean and a quick Google search doesn’t help me either. What does it mean?

      Anyway, in the right context, people might understand – and using quaint old expressions can be nice, if you’re aware they’re out-fashioned. But, no, it’s not used anymore.

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • I said to my boss “la ferme” instead of “la forme” luckily he knows I am learning French and this was not an intended insult haha.

  • My embarrassing mistake when I arrived in France was when I invited my neighbours to a housewarming party , which my friends said was a good way to get to know everyone and be accepted quicker into the community . Instead of saying on the invite ” je voudrais vous inviter à ma pendaison de crémaillère ” I wrote ” je voudrais vous inviter dans mon crématorium ! 😱 Many came that night out of curiosty to see who this mad foreigner was ! They still laugh about it when we all get together .

    • Haha Laura, at least that makes for a good story! 🙂

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Il est très important de rendre compte qu’il n’existe pas toujours de traduction (ni même prononciation française) des lieux anglais. Une collègue anglaise m’a raconté que la première fois qu’elle est allée en France pendant son cours à l’université, elle a expliqué à ses nouveaux amis qu’elle étudiait à l’université de Sussex. Malheureusement elle avait essayé de prononcer le nom de la ville avec un accent français. Elle ne comprit pas immédiatement pourquoi ses nouveaux amis français riaient parce qu’elle avait dit qu’elle assistait à l’université de suce-sexe !

    Quant à mes propres erreurs, je me rappelle une visite à Concarneau avec un ami français. Il m’a expliqué que Concarneau est une ville close et j’ai dit « je ne connais pas l’expression ville close – est-ce que c’est la même chose qu’une maison close ? Mon ami m’a dit « Brian, tu as un vocabulaire un peu extraordinaire ! » À ce temps-là je lisais « La peste » de Camus mais je n’avais pas utilisé mon dictionnaire suffisamment !

  • Another word I have learnt to pronounce properly is chats. I had wanted to say J’aime les chats and happily pronounced the ´t’ which got my French colleague laughing his ass off. He then explained that the way i had pronounced ´chats’, it refers to women’s sexual part…..

    • Hi Aly!

      Yes, that’s true. And sadly, French owners of female cats learn quickly they can’t say “c’est ma chatte” (= that’s my female cat).

      But I guess it’s kind of the same in English 🙂

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Hi, my embarrassing mistake occurred when I visited the office of the Syndic which manages my apartment building. This was some years ago, I had only met the manager a few times and my French was very basic! I entered the reception and I thought the manager said, “Bonjour, tu vas bien?” I knew that the use of “tu” was familiar and assumed that he had decided to start addressing me in this way. In the conversation which followed, I used “tu” and I noticed that he seemed uncomfortable. It was only later that I realised that he had actually said, “TOUT va bien?”

    • Oooh nooo, that’s embarrassing!

      You made the right call, with the information you had. Too bad it wasn’t clear, but that happens…

      Have a good day Steven, thanks for sharing 🙂

      (- Arthur, writer for Comme une Française)

  • I go to la préfecture and they speaking to me and i do not know and thing , i be like can you speak english pls.

    They smile and keep on speaking french so i cantinue to speak and they answer me in french. I feel like to cry.

    Im tired of this now so i need to learn french and to become an asistant social to help people.

  • Had embarrassing situation at garage. I thought I had a problem with my exhaust pipe je pense problem avec sortir pipe. They fell about the pour mechanic was red faced so they got someone who could speak a little English . I haven’t been back since far too embarrassed.

  • Mon marie ma dit qu’il est été dans la voiture avec ses collègues français et les ont trouvé les signes près de l’autoroute ‘ soft verges ” très drôles. Excusez moi Géraldine :’)

  • I made many mistakes. I said “vous avez une belle cul dans cette robe madame” i dis ont know that cul = ass. I asked a man to fill my glass like this : Vous pouvez me remplir svp? And I said to my mother in law : ” merci pour votre cadeau maitenant on peut remplacer des autre qui sont degulasse ” the words ending in asse is most likely bad words. Debutante should have been the right word. I also still wonder what to respond to a friend when they say “je t’embrasse” should I say “egalement” ? Ou “je t’embrasse aussi” ? Merci d’avance pour votre réponse

  • J’ai trouvé la leçon – Embarrassing mistakes – très utile et je voulais la télécharger. il y a un bouton marqué télécharger PDF, mais cela ne révèle pas la leçon, mais plutôt une description de la leçon. Pouvez-vous m’aider ici?

  • First visit to France I went into a chemist to buy some sea sickness tablets for my return journey to the uk.Everyone turned and looked at me when I entered. I looked at them. There was an awkward moment before they all turned back to the counter. A moment later the door opened. A woman walked in and said Bonjour. The whole shop turned to her and said Bonjour back. My first lesson in French etiquette.

  • My wife is Welsh. During a conversation in a tabac I told everyone that she was from pay gal. Which if I’ve spelt it right is a red light district in Paris.

  • Chere Gerladine-merci beaucoup pour ce video. Je l’ai trouve tres utile. J’adore le francais langue parce que elle tres elegantic, et le deuxieme raison est: Ma chere maman, qui a decede il y a 6 ans, est nee au Maroc a Casablanca. Alors, elle avait parle le francais depuis elle etait une jeune fille. Au fait je m’appelle Talia. Je suis Israelienne Australiene, et j’habit a Melbourne avec mon mari Michel.(Michael). Il est anglais . Je apprends francais depuis avril 2019 avec Quizik et Alexa. J’ai acheve niveau C1. Je pense que votre method de ensigner le francais est tres pratique et amusant, surtot le conversional. J’ai une tante qui habit en france, et vos videos m’ont fait de lui ecrir messages, plus facilement. Bravo-contiune comme ca. J’ai aussi dit a ma soeur et mes amis par votre lecons. Au fait, je ne peux pas tapper avec “acents” parce que Je n’ai pad de saisir (keyboard)francais. Je vous remercier. A bientot

  • Quand j’avais seize ans, il y a longtemps, je restais avec une famille francaise et apres avoir mange on m’a demande…voudrais -tu un peu plus? Non merci, j’ai dit, je suis pleine! Tout le monde a rigole
    et moi, apres l’explication j’etais rouge comme une betterave!

  • Mme. Lepère, are these words also embarrassing in the Québécois-French vocabulary? This coming Summer I hope to visit Montréal, and wish to avoid “le faux pas!”

      • Vaseline is very popular in Quebec, you can find it in any drug store like Jean Coutu, Phramaprix etc. It’s just a body lotion with almost the half price of other brands like Nivea. The problem is not vocabulary, (except French Quebecois doesn’t borrow so many English words as French Parisian does), but the pronunciation. Quebecois have no problem with French Parisian, because of immigrations and universities (sort of standard in high education), but it’s hard for you to understand the local’s accent. If you stay in Montreal, English is fine, people turn to English automatically when they feel your French is not fluent enough. lol

  • Vaseline? Comment dire « yikes! » en français? Et puis, introduire…vous m’avez fait découvrir quelque chose. Merci!

  • J’ai vecu en france pendant 5 ans mais j’enseignee anglais et mes amis veulent parler anglais! Mon francais parle est horrible. Mon accent etc

  • I remember a school trip to France getting out a pot of Vaseline for my dry lips and everybody giggling, it was explained to me then about it being a sexual lubricant!

  • I told my vétérinaire “mon chat a une crotte (a poop) sur son nez”. I meant to say une croûte (a scab)!

  • Bonjour Geraldine ! Merci pour la vidéo, j’aime bien les sujets mais il faut que tu trouve le moyen pour bloquer les annonces pub sorte “comment faire revenir ton ex”.

  • Bonjour, j’habite en France depuis plus de 10 ans (expat US) et merci pour cette vidéo! C’était marrant, car j’ai toujours du mal à me rappeler des distinctions pour ces trois expressions: introduire/ présenter, excité/hâte et préservatif/conservateur, alors merci pour le rappel. 😉

  • Bonjour Geraldine!

    J’avais deja vu cet episode de Comme une francaise plusieurs fois quand j’ai apercu quelquechose de bizarre aujourd’hui au cinema.
    Le film etait Rock’n Roll de Guillaume Canet avec Marion Cotillard, les freres Attal etc. (je le recommande!)
    Dans une scene, l’heroine de Marion Cotiallard (Marion) explique a son mari Guillaume (Guillaume Canet) qu’elle a recu une nouvelle role dans un film Canadien. Et elle dit “Je suis tellement excitee”. Il lui repond “Moi aussi, je suis exite” et l’embrasse – evidemment la deuxieme fois l’expression a une connotation sexuelle. Mais la premiere – quand elle dit ca – il ne semble pas que la signification soit “aroused”, mais plutot “excited”.
    Au fait, la scene est juste au debut du film.

    Excuse-moi d’omettre les accents – malheureusement les techniques montrees dans l’episode “How to type French accents on your keyboard” ne marchent pas sur mon PC. Je suis tellement desollee.


    • Bonjour,

      Tout à fait ! Je pense qu’ils ont utilisé le double-sens du mot pour créer l’humour dans la scène.

      Bien vu, Desislava !

  • Les fautes de langues sont rigolos; quand je suis arrive en France comme étudiante en l’année 1979, j’ai demande a la famille avec qui je restais; “Est-ce qu’il ya des préservatifs dans la confiture?” J’avais 17 ans a l’époque est bien sur que tout le monde s’éclatent a rier.

  • now i know (je suis chaud) that;s the only thing i remember more,
    looking forward to learn more especially actual conversation i finish my basic and as of now i can read and write basic words but my problem is understanding when someone is talking to me because they really talk so fast as if je suis francais and really makes me perturbe when i dont understand, hopefully by joining COMME UNE FRANCAISE i will learn the magic or shoukd i say technique on how to understand they mouth movement hehehehe just joking to understand what they are saying.

  • i’m taking a solo trip to France next week and will keep these in mind haha! hopefully they won’t come out now that I know them… like when you’re thinking so much about not saying something, you actually end up saying it ! Thanks for the funny episode !

  • Oui, c’est vrai, c’est genant mais pas le fin du monde. J’ai donner une presentation a une groupe des hommes des affaires a propos les préservatifs de E. Leclerc – quelles horreurs – la seul réponse – les sourires énormes – je crois qu’ils y n’avez rien entendu que le gaffe.

  • Excitée. I remember saying this in a Polyglot Meetup in Paris (“I’m excited that the wifi is finally being installed in my apartment”). I made immediate friends! I love learning languages.

  • After a good meal and after being asked if I wanted more I replied ,
    ‘Je suis plein”
    Seemed ok to me, after all I was full. Funny thing was he wouldn’t serve me any more wine…….

  • I made that mistake of saying “I am hot” when I was hanging out with some Spanish speaking friends. I Speak Spanish, but I grew up in the US. So I was not all aware of the sexual meaning. It was so embarrassing, but it was funny. They explained with laughter that, that meant I was horny. So I played it off by saying, “Well. that too” ja ja ja.

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  • Dining in Rocamadour on an arbored terrace perched above the Dordogne river, I was telling my French friend how my wife and I had gotten together. In my fractured French, I explained that we first became close friends in Santa Barbara and five years later, she asked if she could come visit me in San Francisco. When I said that my response was, “Oui, j’ai toujours les jambes ouvertes pour toi!” my friend exploded with laughter.

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  • My first year teaching French I was very motivated to speak only French from the very beginning of the year. Two weeks into the class, a student came in late and very disruptive so I said “Tu es en retard!” (pointing to the classroom clock) Well crying ensued as she thought I called her a retard. Lesson learned to speak very slowly and methodically. Needless to say, that student never liked me very much because she didn’t believe I wasn’t calling her dumb. She was just late to class. MDR

  • Hi Geraldine,

    I am brazilian living in Paris and I work in a shop. So at one moment we were distributing some “calissons” as gifts for our clients and I think I spent about 10 days offering the clients out loud “caleçons” until someone explained to me. :/
    Thanks for the lessons! Merci

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  • I made the mistake of mispronouncing asking a bunch of colleagues if the were interested in “descendre au pub pour un boisson”, using the standard French “U” sound. Eyebrows were raised, a few giggles ensued. Lesson learned — pronounce it “puhb”, or short and curlies will come to everyone’s mind (except your own).

    • Ahahah, Rob, en effet, ça doit surprendre !
      Tu peux dire aussi “Aller au pub pour boire un verre”. C’est la traduction de “get a drink”. 😉

  • I knew I would see the excitée thing in the video… Before I did my homestay in Béziers, I had to write a letter to my host family. Of course I sent them a letter finished with “je suis excitée de vous voir” — I’m sure they realized it was a mistake since I was only 15 at the time, but it was still a little embarrassing when I found out!

  • Is it true that after a good meal you should not say ” Umm! I am full” as you would in English? I was laughed at once with other dinner guests saying “je suis plein” means I am pregnant! Lester

  • Erreurs,,, pas encore…. cet épisode était vraiment intéressant 😀 Je vous remercie….

  • Il fait beaucoup d’annees au passe quand je vivais en argentine. J’avais avec moi un copain de l’eglise. Nous allions chez une nouvelle soeur qui se reunit a l’eglise. Nous allions la visiter pour arriver etre des amis et trouver comment elle va. Elle, sa fille, moi, et mon copain etions assis dans son salon a manger. Commencames une discussion. Nous parlions en espanol. Je le parle tres bien. Pendant la discussion j’avais oublie un mot important. lol. En lieu de dire s’il vous plait, je ne veux pas que vous tombiez au plancher, car ses motions me donnaient l’idee qu’elle allait se tomber de se chaise. Je me suis leve de ma chaise et par accident je luis dit san penser de ca: s’il vous plait, ne vous emmerdez pas vous. Tous les gens dans la salle se riias avec beaucoup de force! Tellement! Elle m’appella une tete merdeuse! J”etais si embarrasse! Enfin elle meme avait compris et s’est devenue mon amie! Je n’oublierai jamais cet evenement! J’espere que vous pardonnez mes expressions au dessus! C’etait un vrai experience! Lol!

  • Embarrassing mistake #7 – I have a (female) cat. You can ‘do the math’ as it were. Today I speak of GiGi – mon chat 😀

  • I worked as an au pair years ago. I asked the 8 year old daughter in front of her 9 year old brother where the frying pan was in the kitchen so I could start cooking dinner. I think I used the correct word, but the wrong article and they ran out of the kitchen laughing and screaming for their mama. A French friend told me the word I used meant “pubic hair.”

  • I hope people know that vaseline should NEVER be used with condoms! It breaks them! 😮 the connotation is slowly changing in the USA (from what I see) because it’s so often used as an example of what NOT to use it for.

  • I am going to Paris next week and am so nervous about speaking French. I forget everything when I’m under pressure. However, I do love the humor of miscommunications. I read through all of these comments and was laughing so hard, I cried. I’ll try to remember that mistakes are humorous and hopefully I can relax a little.

    • I am exactly the same Collette. Full of confidence when I know what I am going to say, but then once engaged in a conversation – I go to pieces.

        • Thank you Geraldine. Had a stranger stop at the house today looking for an animal refuge in the area and I hadn’t heard of it; so we went onto the internet together and tried to find directions; which we didn’t find but gave him guidance. He thanked me very much for helping him and said I was very kind. Felt very ‘chuffed’ (an Englishism)!

  • I was spending time with a family in Normandy, and was very interested in the distinctive rural architecture. I was particularly struck by some especially elegant pigsties. I reported at dinner that “J’etais enchantée aujourd’hui d’observer beaucoups des cochonneries distinctivemente Normande …” Probably lots of grammatical errors embedded in that little sentence, but one *major* gaffe!

  • Not a personal experience but it happened to a friend. She was taken out on a date by a French boy and invited him in for coffee. He got amorous and wanted to go much further than she did. She kept telling him to get off and couldn’t understand why he didn’t stop his advances. She finally realised she was not shouting “va-t-en! va-t-en!” but “vas-y! vas-y!”

  • Super post! Qu’est-ce que j’ai ri en lisant les commentaires!!! Je vais ajouter encore une histoire: En 2001 j’ai fait mon Erasmus à Paris. J’ai été hébergée à la Cité U. A un moment donné, ma cousine est venue me rendre visite de Grèce. Je lui ai présenté certains des autres résidents et elle, elle essayait de parler en français avec eux. Un jour donc, on entre dans la cuisine et là, on voit une résidente française, qui s’appelait Régine, en train de manger (en plus, elle était un peu grosse…). Alors ma cousine, toute joyeuse, lui dit: “Bonjour Régime!” J’avais envie de disparaître…

  • for spanish speakers it is very tricky to learn the different pronunciation between “vite” and “bite”. Usually we try to say “vite” but we pronounce “bite”. Terrible mistake

  • When I was 13 I visited Le Touquet with my parents and we went to a restaurant. My mother & I wanted to use the ‘ladies’ So I asked the waiter in my best french (as I thought)
    Je voudrai laver mes mains et ma mere aussi. He told me that I had just asked him to wash my mother all over! So I learnt that I should have used se laver – I always remember this verb now!

  • I don’t know if this is seen as embarrassing, but it’s definitely bizarre: we often have dinner with friends from Savoie, and she once asked if it was just me, or if all Americans made noise when they eat! While I can’t speak for all Americans, I do know that many of us make a humming “mmmm” sound when we first taste a food to indicate that we like it. Apparently, the French do not make noises when they eat!

  • The first time we met our future (French) daughter-in-law I asked her (in my very limited French) whether she had been to England before. She had – I told her that we had spent holidays in the South of France when my son was a child and that there were many stray cats around where we stayed – and that my son loved Chat – apparently I used the incorrect pronunciation and told here that my son loved pussy – in the English meaning !! Fortunately my daughter-in-law has a great sense of humour

  • Whilst I was in France, I tried to state that i was currently climbing a tree: “Je monte l’arbre.” Little did I know that, without an ‘à’, I was mounting one!

  • While in France we visited the church of some missionaries that we had been supporting for years. They happened to not be in church that Sunday of our visit. So in talking to a gentleman about them I said: “Nous les avons supporté depuis plusieurs années” He was very kind in correcting my usage of the verb supporter… It does not have the same meaning in French! And then we were able to laugh together. (supporter in French means to put up with someone, not to support them financially)

  • I have made many mistakes in French and get quite embarrassed about it, especially when people laugh at me but I don’t know what they are laughing at me for. I find French very difficult to learn but I really enjoy it.

  • Many years ago in my college French class I was asked to translate “she kisses him so he kisses her” into French. I know the Kate Bush song Un Baiser D’Enfant is The Infant Kiss, so I used “baiser” in the sentence. Ooops.

  • Bravo ton site est super, tes commentaires futés et pertinents. Mais bien je sois sur que tu entretiens ton accent français à dessein, je ne peux t’en tenir rigueur; c’est à la fois : charmant, désarmant et très futé, de plus cela se marie à merveille avec ta beauté.

  • thank you so much! i was about to write my host family that i am ‘ très excité’ . i think that would have been a bad first impression.

  • Today my host brother drove me to school, and when I arrived I said, “merci de me prends” he told me that was not appropriate, and I asked my professor who laughed at me before explaining. If you want to say thanks for taking me, say “merci de m’avoir amenée” my first attempt was considered sexual

  • J’étais en train de parler du parfum de confiture que je préférais et en anglais on dit “preservatives” donc j’ai dit que j’aime les préservatifs de framboise. Ma famille d’accueil m’a corrigé tout de suite! (préservatifs = condom!)

  • Après deux ans d’ecrivant mails aux mes amies francaises, j’ai decouvri que si je mis xx au fin de ma mail, personne comprend bisous, mais ils pensent de les choses comme x film

  • I studied abroad in France. I could speak fairly well in French; however, I did have problems with French idioms. My mother is Canadian French speaking, and I learned most of my French from her. When we were no longer, we would usually say: ” je suis pleine”, meaning I’m full, I’m no longer hungry. My host mother laughed at me and I asked her what was so funny. She said that in her part of France (Avignon), that expression coming from a young girl meant that “I was pregnant”. I was kind of embarassed, but I learned real quick.

  • Une amie et moi, nous restions dans un hôtel à Tours. Le matin après notre arrivée, le concierge nous a posé une question. «Mesdemoiselles, comment est-ce que vous trovez la chambre?» Mon amie a répondu que pour elle le matelot n’était pas confortable, que c’était trop mou. Bien sûr qu’elle aurait du dire «le matelas» ou bien «le lit», et pas «le matelot»!

  • I spent two summers in Montpellier working at des stages. I was told that, if you confuse savoir and connaître it was a big problem. If you say «je te sais» you are saying you know that person bibically, or sexually. Is that correct?

    • Hi Michael,
      For some people (very few), “connaître quelqu’un” in the biblical sense, means indeed, in the sexual way. But I would never understand it this way in everyday life. 🙂

  • Many years ago I left a meeting in France to go to the loo. The corridor was full of people smoking. When I returned to the office I tried to tell my French hosts that the corridor was full of smokers, but instead of “fumeurs”, I used “fumier”.

  • I took my husband to the doctor here in France as he doesn’t speak French. Before prescribing some medication, the doctor asked him in English if he was allergic to anything. Yes, he said, preservatives! Well, she said, you won’t need to put the cream on that! When I stopped laughing, I tried to explain that he meant food preservatives, not condoms. Haha!

  • At a formal dinner with my French family in Bordeaux, when asked if I wanted more to eat, I answered, “Non, merci je suis pleine”–which told them that I was pregnant! After they recovered, my French sister asked me if I meant that I had “assez mangé”. I thanked her for the correction and never repeated that mistake (in word or in act!).

  • Thank you for a terrific video Geraldine. I have been trying to teach myself French since hosting a French foreign exchange student in 2012-2013. I would often email his mother (in horrible French) about how he was doing. Once when he had a cold; I emailed his mother to say that I was “nursing” him back to health; but I used the verb (to breastfeed) rather than a more appropriate verb such as soigner or guerir. That was definitely awkward!

    • Oops. The verb did not show up in this response. I used the verb allaiter when emailing the young man’s mother about his cold.

  • In my early days in France I once told a receptionist that le plombage in our room was not working

  • Ma prof d’anglais a fait une erreur très mal! Elle est allée au Canada (Montréal, je crois) et elle est allée au restaurant. Elle a commandé « putain » en lieu de « poutine » … Elle avait 19 ans ! Les serveurs ont éclaté de rire, mais ils ne s’ont pas expliqué.

    Pardon mes erreurs, svp.

  • I asked someone if their new dog was une chiotte ou un chiot, she laughed and told me the meaning of chiotte was a rude word!

  • Many years ago on a trip to France a very nice lady who owned the inn where we were staying offered my husband a ‘petite tarte salee’. My French not being that good, thought she was offering him a ‘dirty little tart’!

  • Quelle super idée d’avoir créer votre propre site-web pour la langue française! Cela a du prit beaucoup de travail. J’ai regardé votre vidéo, qui était bien fait et qui était un plaisir de regardé, merci. Je voulais dire justement que à Paris, pour les anglophones, les erreurs sont souvent mal vu. C’est vrai, personne ne nous regarde pas comme si on fait des fautes inacceptables–des crimes(!) très graves(!) mais le problème est plutôt qu’ils commencent parler en anglais avec un niveau souvent faux débutant ou par exemple élémentaire, comme si c’était nécessaire ou, par exemple, pour pratiquer leur niveau en anglais, ce qui est très dur à supporter tout le temps mais ce que les parisiennes ne comprennent souvent pas, dans mes expériences. Après on reçoit la question, “mais… pourquoi tu parles pas bien en français…?”
    C’est vrai, en revanche, que par fois on aime bien pratiquer notre savoir en quelque choses, et par fois c’est juste notre façon d’être polit(e), mais comme cela se passe quasiment tous les jours aux restaurants et aux magasins etc, on comprends que Paris n’est vraiment pas la meilleure endroit pour apprendre la française, sauf si on est pas anglophone ou est à la faq. Alors, si vous êtes Parisien, ou si vous êtes étudiant(e) et cherchez apprendre la langue avec cette professeur ou ailleurs, dans une école ou sur internet, je peux vous conseillé de bien faire. Quand on apprends par nous même une langue, il faut énormément de patience et surtout un entourage de copain(e)s gentil(le)s et respectueux(euse).

    Merci pour avoir créer votre site, cela aide tellement les gens ::)

  • My first and last most embarrassing mistake in French……. I was young, I had studied French for many years and during a visit to my favorite cheese shop in Paris, I asked for Fromage de Cheval. I quickly learned that I was looking for Chèvre! Oh my, I never made that mistake again!

  • I had a wonderfully embarrassing funny moment when I first learnt French .
    We were on the train from Paris to Vichy and I bought a coke in a can. I remembered the word for straw was close to the pipe… So instead of asking the poor male adolescent server for une paille… I asked for une pip… (For those who don’t know this means … Errrr how do I say this politely, okay I am not going to be – a B***J*b). When he looked shocked I said it a bit louder with and up and down hand gesture, thinking he did not understand … My French Boyfriend explained later what I asked for!

    • AHAHAH. Great story Ingrid! 😀 Poor guy, he’ll remember that for the rest of his life…

  • Bonjour! The first time I visited France, my lovely hostess was showing me my room. My strategy (then and now) when I didn’t know a French word was to use the English word but with a French accent, hoping that I’d scrape by (LOL). I was pleasantly surprised to see an air-conditioner/heater on the wall (in Australia, not all homes have heating/cooling, and we usually abbreviate this to “air con”). So, not knowing at the time that the correct French word was “l’acclimatation”, I gratefully said to the family “oh, j’ai l’air con. Merci!” Apparently I’d just pronounced that I looked stupid. D’oh!

  • I was once in the bar of the TGV travelling with a (black) Gabonese colleague to Paris. As we whizzed past trees filled with mistletoe (gui) I told him, a bit too loudly, about an English Christmas custom: “A noël, en angleterre, on baise tous les femmes sous le gui.”

    The whole bar fell silent and I swear I could see my Afican colleague blushing.

    • « A noël, en Angleterre, on baise tous les femmes sous le gui. »

      Il faut fait attention. Cela ne se dit jamais. C’est très vulgaire.
      On dit : à Noël, en Angleterre, nous nous embrassons toutes les femmes sous le gui

  • Erreurs de débutant
    Il y a longtemps je suis allé en France avec l’armée américaine. À l’école j’ai appris la grammaire et le vocabulaire français, mais presque pas de conversation en français.
    Apres le vol a Paris, je suis arrivé à la gare de train. À ce moment-là je fumais (pas encore). J’avais des cigarettes mais pas d’allumettes. J’ai vu un homme qui fumait. Je me suis approche de lui. J’ai dit « pardon monsieur, est-ce que vous avez des ALLUMINETTES ? ». Il m’a regardé étrangement et il a répondu « Est-ce que vous allez construire quelque chose ? ». J’ai dit, « Non, je cherche du feu ». Il a dit « Ah, vous désirez des allumettes, les voici ».
    Dans un restaurant, le serveur a approché ma table pour prendre notre command. J’ai demandé
    « Quel sort de POISON avez-vous ? » Il s’est fâché. « Monsieur, ce restaurant ne prépare que les bons plats, jamais de poison ! » Je voulais dire quel sort de POISSON avez-vous. Quelle gaffe !

    Une soirée j’étais un invité chez des français. L’hôtesse a préparé des plats délicieux. Elle m’a demandé si je voulais une autre portion. J’ai répondu «Non merci, je suis pleine. Tout le monde rirait. Plus tard quelqu’un m’a expliqué que je suis pleine veut dire que je suis enceinte comme un animal !
    J’étais dentiste dans le service de santé. Un jour j’avais une patiente française (la femme d’un soldat américain). Elle ne parlait pas bien anglais. Pour commencer le traitement j’ai dit « Ouvrez la grande BOCHE s’il vous plaît ». Elle était confuse. Elle a dit « Je ne vois aucun d’allemand ici ». J’ai réalisé que j’ai fait un erreur. J’ai dit « Je suis désole. Je voulais dire ouvrez la bouche svp ».
    J’ai étudié. J’ai pratique et après quelques mois j’ai commencé à parler plus couramment. Apres un an j’étais interprète pour les autre soldats américains. Chez le mécanicien, aux magasins, et même au commissariat de police.
    À Nice je suis monté dans un bus. Le conducteur m’a regardé sans dire un mot. J’attendais pour savoir le tarif. Enfin il a dit qu’il est poli de dire bonjour. J’ai dit « bonjour monsieur ». Il était satisfait et j’ai payé le tarif. J’ai appris qu’on doit dire bonjour à n’importe qui, n’importe quand.
    Apprendre le français, ça me plait beaucoup. Maintenant j’ai de la chance. Ma fille à deux amies françaises. Les enfants de ses amies parle couramment anglais et français. A cause de cela, je peux pratiquer. J’ai adore l’argot français et j’ai quelques livres à ce sujet. Même aujourd’hui je fais des erreurs, mais tant pis. Aucune erreur ne apprentissage.

  • I was staying in a house with my boyfriend’s parents and their friends. There were two (female) cats. I could not stop saying no matter how hard I tried. It could not stay in my brain…. It was terrible.

  • I learned the phrase “il faut appeller un chat un chat” and tried to pass it on to a friend who believe chatte was the proper way to translate cat. It became a very loud discussion in a Paris cafe, and very embarrassing. Also months do not have an article and saying “le juin” sounds like “le joint”

  • Salut!,

    J’ai dit le deuxieme, quatrieme et le cinqiueme aussi :(. J’ai dit le quatrieme et le cinqiueme quand j’etait en train de parler avec ma belle mere!

  • OMG is right!
    I guess I need to stop telling people in French that “I’m excited to introduce them to someone”–Wow,
    that explains the looks they give me.
    Super embarrassing!

    Tangent: Curious to know if “Oh mon dieu” has the same connotations as “OMG” in English?…or what would be the equivalent?

    • Hi Damien,
      Yes, “Oh mon Dieu” has the same connotation. Can be used for something good or bad. 🙂

  • Je suis allée a une soirée entre les amis en France. A cette occasion, j´ai pris aussi mon sac a main en forme d´une tete de chat. En entrant je me suis exclamée : ” Me voila avec ma petite chatte ! “Tous mes amis masculins ont été morts de rire et hélas, aucun d´eux ne m´as pas signalé ma faute embarrassante… Pourant, j´étais si sure que cette division lexicale entre chat et chatte existe, et que c´est bien courant… Mais enfin bref 🙂

  • I once said to my French tutor “j’ai envie de toi” instead of “Je t’envie.” I also said “nous avonc un rapport” instead of “nous avons un bon rapport”. Very embarrassing

  • J’y vais en France pour la première fois en mars. Je dois arrêter de dire « mon ami m’a introduit » avant que je m’embarrasse ahaha

  • Merci beaucoup, Geraldine! À la classe de Français, j’écoute beaucoup mes camarades en classe disent “je suis excitée de [faire quelque chose]”, et je ris chaque fois.

    Mais, bien sûr, j’ai fait la même faute aussi en classe.
    Une autre erreur que j’écoute est quand quelqu’un dit “Je viens”. C’est probablement plus correct de dire “J’arrive”.

    Encore, merci pour m’enseigner les fautes de Français, j’éspere que je ne les dis pas quand j’aller en France.

    Vos vidéos sont très utile! Merci beaucoup.

    • Bonjour Nathan,

      Oui tout à fait !
      Attention : si tu veux dire “A mistake I hear”, utilise le verbe “entendre” : Une faute que j’entends souvent…
      “Ecouter” montre une écoute active. Par exemple : “Ecoute-moi !”. Et ici, ce verbe n’est pas approprié. 🙂

      Et voila, tu as appris une nouvelle chose !

  • “je suis chaud”, also can mean I am drunk (too much wine, beer) oops trop de vin et de bierre. LOL BTW I would laugh for each of those as you said them.

  • Bonjour, Geraldine!
    Je suis une nouvelle membre de votre cours. J’apprends beaucoup. J’adore les videos; elles sont très utiles!


  • Mine is so embarrassing that I am even scared to put it on here! One time in France when catching a bus from Paris to Beauvais, I had a particularly heavy suitcase. So I asked one of the bus guys if he would help me with it. *But* instead of saying, ‘Vous s’il vous plaît m’aider avec ma valise?’ (‘Vaslise’ being the word for suitcase) I asked him to help me with my ‘visage’ – my face!!!! I realised as soon as I had said it and could have died a thousand deaths. Ok, I know you are laughing.

  • After a lovely meal at Ma Cuisine in Beaune we offered that we were five happy pigs – Nous sommes cinq joyeux cochons and got a raised eyebrow from the restauranteur. I don’t think the meaning of five satisfied but overfilled guests translated quite right! 😉

  • Wonderful post! I have often used the same cautionary tales in my own classroom about the correct usage of certain words and expressions. Given the young age of my middle school students, I must keep it G-rated bien sûr!

  • Once, while traveling with colleagues in a francophone country, the driver stopped suddenly. I said to him, “Tu n’aimes pas (and then, remembering only that “brakes” had an “ein” sound) appuyer (push on) les seins, eh?” Seins = breasts; freins = brakes!

  • What a fun + useful video, Géraldine! I’m sharing it on twitter! Thanks for all your tips!

  • Great info. Tank’s especially for exposing to me that I have not actually been telling people I am warm or hot.

    Once in french class while listening to a conversation on CD, my teacher asked me what I heard and I replied: “les tétons sont…”. She said no you didn’t. She explained to me that I was talking about a specific part of a woman’s anatomy. What I should have heard was “pietons” or walkers. Boy, there is not a big difference in that one letter to the American ear sometimes.

  • Hi Geraldine – I have done many car rallies in France and classic cars always bring out the french people to wave and clap as we go past. We often ate in restaurants where we got special service and attention – I remember one in particular in a small town near the Alps where after the meal the proprietor insisted we have a small glass of brandy as we left and the waitress ” fait la bise” – she got very excited because I actually kissed her cheek rather than the “air kiss” and jumped around saying ” I got a kiss. I got a kiss!!”

  • I was in Quebec one summer, and while out having drinks with my cousins I wanted to pay for everyone at the table, so I asked the waiter to please be sure to bring me the “facture” (bill) — which is the term commonly used in Quebec instead of “l’addition”. However, I pronounced it like the word “facteur” which means “postman”. Everyone had a good laugh about me asking the waiter to be sure to bring me the postman. 🙂

    • Great story Alice Ann!
      In France, when you ask for “une facture” it’s (usually) a bill that will be used for professional purposes (for bookkeeping for example).
      You’re right, we ask for “l’addition”. 🙂

  • Hi, what about using “gelée de pétrole blanche” instead of vaseline which is what it essentially is?

    • Bonjour Liana,

      C’est une bonne idée mais je pense que personne ne comprendra.
      Si tu cherches de la vaseline précisément, le mieux est de demander “de la vaseline”, si tu en as absolument besoin.

  • Great video, love your site. I began learning French about 7 years ago to enable me to teach Congolese nursing students anesthesia on short term trips to Congo. Imagine the stunned silence in the operating theatre of a very strict Christian hospital when I announced in French that ” je suis excitée ” to show them the brand new anesthesia machine I had brought . I was quietly taken aside and explained the grave error I had made in French. It was all handled very graciously, but I assure you I have never forgotten that moment ! I am always happy to learn any subtle or not so subtle nuance in French language or culture. I love your website and travel frequently in France and French Africa. Merci bcp

  • i once told my french friend “les home coupe les verges”
    i meant the men cut the grass verges at the side of the road !

  • Quand nous cherchions notre maison francaise, j’ai dit a l’agent d’immobilier que je voulions une maison de character aux volailles (volets). Elle etait bien perplexee!

  • How funny that today I accidentally told my French teacher that Americans have a lot of “préservatifs” in their food! Ugh. My nice French professor didn’t tell me my mistake but looked baffled and slightly amused.

  • Back in the days I lived with an American girl. And she came up with the “preservative” expression that you mention, once, during a (rather formal) dinner at my parents’ 🙁 … Who were in no way fluent in English – hence they were just not able to understand what the heck she was speaking about (actually it was organic salad, ie salad without ‘preservatives’)

    …In another context I practiced snow slide with my girlfriend’s sibbling – and tried to explained that I was used to ‘wax’ my skis – using the French word ‘farter’, which came out as ‘I fart my skis’ … and I was so embarrassed when I realized, an hour later, why everybody was like… uhh.. uhhh…sure.

  • I have never forgotten about the anecdote from my first French teacher, many years ago. She told us that when she studied in France during her third year of college, she made the mistake of telling her host family, after a very nice meal, that she was pleine. How I wish I could have seen the looks on her host family’s faces!


  • Merci beaucoup! Je sais maintenant pourqoi mes profs ont ri à moi! Tu m’aides beaucoup! Je ne les commettrai jamais plus!

  • introduire est mal?

    I think in Québec it’s alright to say, that’s the only one I’ve never heard of anyone having trouble with, but perhaps I’ve just never heard it used! Do you know?

    • Bonjour Kayley,

      There’s no word that’s “good” or “bad”. 🙂
      It’s just important to know that some may have a double meaning.

      Also, there are lots of words that are used differently in Québec.

  • Hi Geraldine. I’m a young french professor teaching french in south korea (and french native). A lot of my students are korean-english natives, so I was looking for cool/relaxed content, and I your site just came up.
    I apologize in advance, my english is far from being perfect.

    Your video and the little sheet paper behind are great, i really enjoyed them. I think I’ll re-use it (if you allow me, of course 😉 ).

    I just came here to say that, in my opinion, there’s a mistake on the paper you wrote.
    (I didn’t read all the comments, so maybe it has already been said)

    =>”Une amie m’a introduit … ” =>I actually used this expression a lot in a networking context. Like “Mon ami m’a introduit au patron de l’entreprise”, ou “Il a été introduit par ses parents”. That’s true though I’ve never used it between friends. Only in a job seeking context.

    And about “Je suis chaud”, I would say your translation (“I’m horny”) is true, but only when it’s tuned into a feminine sentence.
    “Je suis chaudE”. Like this, yes, I’m totally positive, it’s a sexual innuendo.
    But when it’s masculine – “Je suis chaud” – it would rather means “I’m ready and exited to do it”
    As in, for example :
    “ça te dit d’aller à la piscine demain ? / would you like going to the swiming pool tmrw ?
    “-Ouais, je suis chaud. / yeah, sounds great

    Even girls use “je suis chaud” (even if it has grammaticaly no sense at all), refering to the second meaning.
    I heard it a lot in the street, even in question mode : “T’es chaud ou pas ?” (You’ll do it or not ?”)

    I can’t refer to any official grammar, it’s really about spoken language. But if a man says “je suis chaud” to me, I’m 100% sure I would understand “I’m ready/excited to do it” instead of thinking about any sexual mood.

    ANYWAY the idea and the whole concept of the video is great ^^


  • mdr! now i know why “mon ami” Gugi was always laughing about me, i was always telling him “Je suis Chaud!!! ” because of the calefactor , in my country we do not have heating

  • Salut Geraldine

    Love your videos. We were once with some French friends discussing our dislike of smoking (one of our party was a chain smoker). I then announced that my father-in-law had died of “le cancer du pneus”. The silence was followed by roars of laughter and they pointed out I should have said, “le cancer du poumon”. I will never make that mistake again.

  • Bonjour Geraldine,

    Your video reminded me of many years ago, when I was a student in Grenoble. I was having dinner with my friend’s family. His parents spoke no English. We were drinking cider and I was trying to have a conversation but my French at the time was very poor. I told them that French cidre was much better than American cidre probably because ours is full of “preservatives”. My hostess nearly gagged on her food and I had no idea what I had done wrong. My friend explained to me about “les préservatifs” and I certainly remembered after that! Another time, I thanked her for the nice piece of liver she had sent over to me via her son, but it was a week later. She gave me a quizzical look and asked if I had seen her in church or something, she honestly had no idea that I thought I said liver – because I said “la” instead of “le”!

  • Tu pouvais également parler du “Tu es bonne” qui n’est absolument pas la traduction “You’re good”. Celle-ci m’a souvent fait rire 😉
    Super vidéo btw !

  • OK. But what about the noun “le baiser”? It’s a kiss, right? It comes up in classical music literature all the time. What are appropriate ways to use this word? WordReference gives this example”La maman a déposé un baiser sur le front de son enfant.”

  • Oh wow thank you for this video and website! It’s truly amazing! I definitely made a lot of mistakes like these when I first came here to Paris (and still continue making them, lol).
    At the beginning when someone asked me “Ça va?” I always answered with “Bien. Et toi?” and they gave me a weird look and I just had no idea why. Also another awkward thing that happened a lot was the “Je suis chaud.” until I finally found this website, so no more weird looks and laughters at me from now on 😀

  • Salut Geraldine,

    Joyeux anniversaire pour ton site, et merci mille fois pour cet excellent video!

    About 5 years ago I was travelling in France and doing some volunteer permaculture work to learn about living self-sufficiently, and learning French at the same time 🙂 One of the jobs was to learn some eco-building techniques, and I had a great day building a wall using mud, sand and straw. At the end of the day, I enthusiastically asked the middle aged man who I was working with if tomorrow we would continue doing the wall. But I mis-pronounced the word wall. Instead of saying “demain, on va faire le mur” I asked “demain, on va faire L’AMOUR?!”

    Finally I understood why he gave me a very strange look and practically ran away from me to his wife!

    I’m going to share this video with all my students who are learning French.

    Keep up the great work,

    Katie. XXX

  • I used to teach yoga in Paris. While I was still learning how to teach in French, I once asked a group of women to “prennez les pieds” which, I was told, is a way of describing a sublime orgasm!

    Love your site! I’m also a B-School sister! congrats on your success!

    • Bonjour fellow B-Schooler!

      Absolutely: “Prendre son pied” has a slightly different meaning. 🙂
      Thanks for the kind words.

  • I have just found your site and it is a delight.
    Tit for tat or what you French would say: a Bon chat Bon rat: a common error I notice heaps when les francais parlent anglais is they say “I came in Australia three weeks ago.”
    Apart from being grammatically incorrect it actually translates as I had an orgasm in Australia 3 weeks ago.
    You must always say I arrived in Australia 3 weeks ago or I came TO Australia 3 weeks ago.

    • Bonjour Kate,
      Yes!!! It’s so funny to hear French people make mistakes in English too. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing this example. Very few French people are aware of the double meaning of “to come”.

      • I thought ‘to come’ has a double meaning in French also. Am I wrong? I could’ve sworn it was in movies in the sexual connotation.

  • Tu utilises souvent le mot “familiar” pour évoquer le caractère familier de certaines expressions, cependant le terme correct pour cette acceptation est “colloquial”, ou “informal”. “Familiar” est plutôt utilisé pour parler de quelque chose ou quelqu’un de déjà connu par l’interlocuteur, ou bien un lieu, un comportement habituel, par exemple.

  • Bonjour de Montréal!

    An old friend, from Nova Scotia (La Nouvelle-Écosse en français), taught an economics course at L’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) shortly after arriving here. His French was decent, but he sometimes made pronunciation errors, including speaking about “la tendance à la BAISE du taux de profit”. The students couldn’t stop laughing, and when one provided the explanation after class, that it meant the profit rate tended to F*CK, he smartly added, “Oh, it does that too”.

    There are even a few pitfalls between the French (and the English) spoken in different francophone or anglophone countries. In Québec, the term “gosses” also means les couilles (though people here are certainly aware of the standard French meaning), so a dad saying “J’aime jouer avec mes gosses” can induce hilarity.

  • Bonjour Geraldine,
    I’m new to your site but already love it. I know I’m going to learn a lot, so in exchange, I want to share a little English: although we usually pronounce the letter “H” in a way the French do not (hot, hat, hit), we don’t always pronounce it; the word “honest” is one of those examples.

  • Bonjour Géraldine,

    Je suis Française, je suis arrivée sur ta page grâce à un article du Je voulais juste te dire que je trouve tes vidéos super et vraiment justes donc pour tous les anglophones, vous pouvez écouter les conseils de Géraldine les yeux fermés! J’habite en Grande-Bretagne et j’aimerais vraiment trouver l’équivalent ici pour apprendre tous les trucs des Britanniques!
    Bravo pour ce site 🙂

    • Bonjour Carole,
      Je te remercie du fond du coeur pour cette recommandation. 🙂
      Oui, moi aussi j’aimerais beaucoup suivre “Comme une Anglaise”!

  • Once, on entering a public toilet I exclaimed “Ah il y a un queue!” But of course pronounced it as we say the word “queue” in English.
    Well, yes, there probably were quite a few….

  • At long last I understand about the Vaseline! Many times I have searched for it on supermarket shelves without success. Eventually got it at at the chemist … accompanied with some giggles and smiles from amused sales assistants, obviously surprised to be selling it to an elderly lady!!

  • When making a purchase in a store in Paris with my then 10 year old daughter, I wanted to let the salesperson know that I was using an American credit card without a chip. When I handed him my card, I told him “Je n’ai pas une PIN “(PIN, Personal Identification Number, which I thought was the code that is typed by the card holder into the little machine…) Yes, PIN with the “i” pronounced the French way, so “peen”. As I walked out of the store, I realized that I told him “I don’t have a penis!” To his credit, he didn’t laugh in my face…

  • My mother leaned back in her chair after a lovely meal and said to her hosts, “Je suis pleine,” which they told us, meant not that she was full (she’d said also how good the food had been), but rather that she was pregnant.

  • I was going on and on about how much food in America was so full of preservatives…fortunately my friends stopped me and explained the difference. We laughed hysterically.

  • Bonne année Geraldine et bonne anniversaire à votre site.
    Merci beaucoup pour la leçon pratique; bien sûr, j’ai fait ces erreurs. Ils sont drôles et font beaucoup rires. Une fois, je me suis trompé le mot luxurieux (lustful) au lieu du mot luxueux (luxury) quand j’ai donné un compliment à une personne! C’était une catastrophe!

    Au revoir,

  • So enjoyable – share most of these with my students! I made the mistake a quite a number of years ago while in Canada in asking for what I thought was the exchange rate ‘la rate d’echange’. Well, what I discovered was that ‘la rate’ is ‘spleen’ so in effect I was asking for the ‘spleen exchange’ (LOL). Eveyone in the bank heard my request and all laughed out loud – just slightly embarrassing. During the same visit in Canada, I was visiting a ‘school’ to conduct an interview for a project while at a summer immersion program at Laval University. I approached a rather large ‘garderie d’enfants’ and knowing that ‘garder’ meant ‘to hold’ or ‘to keep’, I thought it was the Canadian French term for a grammar school – where they kept students. Upon seeing bars on some of the windows, I thought to myself, ‘Isn’t this nice, they really care about protecting their students from the outside.’ Then upon seeing all of the employees keys on the wall, I thought ‘Well, they don’t allow any employees to go AWOL while at work – that’s efficient and keeps them honest!’ When speaking with the receptionist, I then learned that it was not a grammar school at all, but a youth detention center! I did discover that une garde d’enfants is the expression for nursery school in Canada, but just this one slight difference was quite a difference in reality – very funny!

  • Thank you for this wonderful blog. I t has helped me alot. Of course, I have made mistakes.
    One time in college French Lab talking to the very handsome student leader that I had lost the hairbow from my ponytail-but the word I used for tail meant something much more graphic in French. He
    quickly told me that word meant something else in French and was not to be used. I was so humiliated!

  • Oh Noooo! I think I’ve done all of them! Went to live in France about 16 years ago, and lived there for 5 years. I can distinctly remember many episodes of funny looks and surprise … This makes me laugh now! Thank you. Merci mille fois!

  • Salut et Joyeux anniversaire! My husband once mistook ‘decide’ for ‘decedee’. He was of course told that someone was deceased and mistook it for her having ‘decided not to’…it was compounded by him Mis-hearing the next part of the conversation and laughing!

  • This episode is fabulously comic – especially for a senior citizen.
    Perhaps you could publish an illustrated book. Your embarrassing mistakes
    cartoon is worthy of The New Yorker Magazine.

    • Thanks! You’re welcome Aldona!
      Yes, as I do everything my self, I’m still on the learning curve. 🙂
      Finally found out how to turn the sound up.

  • Geraldine, your website is my absolute favorite for learning French. Your short and sweet lessons are so relevant, useful and interesting. Just what I need to bring the French I learned so long ago up to date. Thank you so much!!!

    • Bonjour Katharine,

      Glad to help! It’s wonderful to hear that your French improves again! Congratulations!

  • Bonjour Geraldine et merci pour la video d’aujourdhui. En anglais, oui nous disons “my friend introduced me”. Je n’ai pas acune idee que se tradui comme ca. Quelle error et si drole! Merci pour le dessin, un si bonne aide memoire.

    • Bonjour Carolann,

      Yes, I saw the direct translation in emails many times. 🙂
      Glad you like the sketchnote!

  • Many congratulations Geraldine, can’t believe it’s a year since I saw your first instalment. I really love your site and have passed it on. Did you come to England for the theatre trip?


    Karen (la comedienne)

    • Bonjour Karen,

      Yes! I’m just back from 2 VERY packed day in London.
      We went to see Richard II and Jeeves & Wooster. It was “extraordinaire”.
      British theater is really my passion and every time I go to see a play (and often more than one), it confirms it.
      At the Barbican, I purchased “Something Written in the State of Denmark” by Keith Osborn: a great book for an outside like me.

      Unfortunately, as we had planned a lot of visits, I didn’t have time to see anyone. 🙁
      But we’re already planning to go back, probably to Stratford AND London, hopefully this summer.

      I’ll then schedule some time to meet you and who knows a “Comme une Française London meeting” with readers?

      (my friends still can’t believe I have a reader from the RSC)

  • Felicitations on your anniversary! I love your site and really enjoyed this segment. I remember on my first trip to France, while living with a lovely family for the summer, at the end of the meal I announced “je suis pleine”, which I assumed meant I was full, but was told it was argot for I’m pregnant. Donc je suis souvent pleine de surprises, but never just pleine.
    Thanks Geraldine and keep the great content coming! Bises
    Joyce of Travel Beyond Paris

    • Bonjour Joyce,
      Merci !
      Yes absolutely: “Je suis pleine” means “pregnant” and on top of that, it normally applies to animals. 🙂

      • I made the same mistake when I was an exchange student, living with a French family in Nice! I was very embarassed but I never made that mistake again!

        I just found your channel last night! I love it and can’t wait to show some episodes to my students! Is there a way to know which are approriate for different age groups before viewing them?

        • Bonjour Sharon,

          Thanks for your message!
          The content of Comme une Française is made for adults so I’d recommend you check each video before showing them to children. 😉

      • Géraldine

        J’ai fait le même erreur quand j’étais passer un séjour avec une famille française (qui devenu des beaux amis plus tard). J’ai appris que le bon phrase est «je suis rassasie» ou «j’ai bien mangé».

  • Excellent episode, but then I find all of your episodes excellent. The sketchnote is very helpful. I love having a pictoral summary of the day’s lesson. Merci!

  • On my first trip to France I made the classic mistake… When asked which cultural differences I liked about France, I answered “J’aime comment les gens se baisent dans la rue” meaning I liked the tradition of giving a bise when meeting a friend. Naturally they all fell about laughing and quickly let me know my mistake!

    Great video, Geraldine, very informative as always. Congratulations on the 1st anniversary!

  • I once (in a restaurant, with all the old ladies from our Sewing group), introduced my friend Allison’s Mum (Mary) “as in la vierge” or as in ” The Virgin Mary” but didn’t pronounce Vierge correctly and they all set about laughing ….well we three Anglais couldn’t understand why, until one of the ladies who spoke English said I had actually said “Mary, as in the Penis ” !!!

    Verge for one and Vierge for the other …..we all had a really good laugh about it…and it was brought up afterwards more than once !!

  • Hi Géraldine 🙂
    Once we went to meet some friends that they just painted the walls of their new house, so I asked them: Wow c’est jolie, c’est vous qui avez fait “La Mur”? 😀 They get kind of shoked and uncomfortable for a second and then I showed the walls and I repeated my question, and they understood me by asking me: Ouiii “Le Mur” ? 😀
    … So embarrassing.

  • Here is the story from my 1st 2 months living here. Myself and my husband and 2 friends are in a magasin a Poitiers choosing fabric to make a large curtain. After about 30 mins I need to remove my jacket, commenting to the man serving us, “Je suis chaud”! I knew it was wrong, but I was still stumbling around with Je suis and J’ai.
    ON our way down the stairs to pay for the material, the assistant took my husband aside and told him discreetly what I’d said, which was very sweet and kind.
    About 3 weeks later we went back for another item and as we ascended the stairs my husband said to the same assistant, “Aujourd’hui, elle a chaud!” The assistant was embarrassed and turn to me and ask, “Did he tell you?”

    I have never forgotten that lesson, and my husband never forgets to tell the histoire around the dinner table with friends English and French!

    Thank you Geraldine, it is a great video and many lessons within it.

    • Bonjour Kathy,
      It’s wonderful to share this anecdote with your friends. 🙂
      It reminds us that mistakes are ok as long as you’re ready to make fun of them!

  • When I was a kid and I went on holiday to Bretagne, France ,with my family, my mother asked for “Baisers” in a bakery, since in Germany, “les mérengues” are called “Baisers” (with french pronounciation).
    During those holidays, she also tried to do some small talk with a French family, and wanted to say that she was German (Je suis allemande), but instead, she said “J’aime Allemand”, which was very embarrassing.

  • Zut alors! Great lesson – I think I have made all these mistakes at some time! I have been told by a friend that when you dine you should never say “c’est bon” because that also is considered sexual… I don’t know if this is true. I try not to say it just in case! , Janine at The Good LIfe France…. bises!

    • Bonjour Janine,

      (Almost) everything in French can have a double meaning so it depends on the context.
      At dinner, I don’t see any reason why not saying “C’est (très) bon” if you wish to compliment the cook. 🙂
      Bises à toi aussi !

      • Bonjour tout le monde
        I’m a french learning english so i can help you on this question. Everyone can uses c’est bon during the dinner, but you can also use it when you’re having sex. But the biggest part of french people will not think to the sexual meaning 🙂

  • When I lived in Paris, my roommate kept asking me to see if I could find shallots in the market stalls in our quartier – I looked up “shallots” int French/English dictionary & learned that in French they’re called “ciboules”… so that afternoon I went up to a vegetable stall & asked the middle-aged man there, “Parfon, m’sieur, est-ce que vous avez des
    ciboules?” He got a twinkle in his eye and said to me, ” Non, moi, je n’en ai que deux!” And I understood the joke! So we both laughed ;-).

    • The first time I ever slept at my in-law’s house, I slept very poorly. The pillow was rock hard and I woke up very early. My father-in-law was the only person awake when I got downstairs. He asked me “Alors, as-tu bien dormi ?” I replied “Oui, à part que j’ai un peu mal au cul.” Not exactly the right thing to say to my future in-laws! Fortunately he has a great sense of humor and we still laugh about it.

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