Most Common Grammar Mistakes in French

There are things we just can’t translate word for word. When learning a new language, there are many pitfalls we can’t avoid unless we study their specific rules. Here are some of the most common mistakes English speakers make when learning French...
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The 5 Most Common Grammar Mistakes in French:

1. It looks...

Even though the verb to look is regarder in French, we cannot use it when translating the expression: ‘it looks like’.

Regarder is used to refer to the action of looking at something, but it is not appropriate when establishing a similarity between two things or giving your opinion on something. Here is how you should translate this expression:

Ça ressemble à … It looks like…  

When giving your opinion on something you should use the verb to be instead of the verb look.

C’est bon/ mauvais /horribleIt looks good/ bad /horrible

2. To be

In some circumstances the verb ‘to be’ is replaced by the verb ‘to have’. Here are some phrases that require the verb avoir (also known as the verb ‘to have’ in French) instead of the verb ‘to be’ in French:

J’ai 5 ans       I am 5 years old

J’ai faim         I am hungry

J’ai soif          I am thirsty

J’ai chaud      I am hot

J’ai froid         I am cold

J’ai peur        I am scared

3. To see VS. To watch

Even though voir and regarder are two verbs used to describe the action of sight, they are used in entirely different situations. Regarder (watch/look) means that your attention is on the thing you are watching, and that your action is intentional.

For example: you can watch/look (regarder) the clock to know the time, but at the same time you see (voir) all the other objects in the room even though you are not paying attention to them.  

When talking about a movie we can use both verbs. However, in the past tense, we use the verb voir (to see) more often.

Hier, j’ai vu un film.  –   Yesterday, I saw a movie.

Ce soir, je vais regarder un film.  –   Tonight, I will watch a movie. 

4. To know

Unlike the English language,  there are two verbs to talk about your knowledge in French: connaître and savoir. Savoir is used to talk about different skills and knowing how to do something.

Je sais comment le faire.  –  I know how to do it.

Je sais jouer du piano.   –    I know how to play piano. 

Je sais cuisiner.   –     I know how to cook.

On the other hand, connaître refers to your knowledge about something.

Je connais toutes les provinces du Canada.  –   I know all the provinces of Canada.

Je connais le verbe être.  –  I know the verb to be.

5. De

As mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, there are things we just can’t translate word for word. Here is a list of expressions and verbs that are always followed by de.

Beaucoup de

N’a pas de

N’a jamais de

Avoir honte de

Décider de

Avoir peur de (des)

Free Printable Worksheets: Practice Your French Grammar

I hope you found some of these tips useful! Now it is time to test your knowledge with our worksheets: 

Worksheet 1

Worksheet 2

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