Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #2 Grammar

My background as a French teacher made me realize a lot of things. Everyone learning a language despite of their nationality has his or her difficulties. As majority of my students are native English speakers, they face the same problems. We all know that more than 30% of English language has a French origin. Even non-native English speakers tend to use the same sentence structure as English. That is a very clever strategy, but this technique is not perfect. I am here to give you more.

You will find here what you need to be careful with, the most common mistakes of French language learners, so you can avoid them!

Today we will see the most common mistakes about Grammar and Structures!

2. GRAMMAR AND STRUCTURE DIFFICULTIES

It is easy to make yourself understood quickly, but hard to understand every subtle rule. Especially in the French language, it really makes a difference. Here is a list of the most common difficult words for grammar and structures.

IL EST or C’EST?

C’est/ Ce sont 

C’est and Ce sont are followed by: 

  • C’est + noun, including modified nouns: C’est un chien. C’est un français. Ce sont des chats.
  • C’est + proper noun, pronoun: C’est Jean. C’est moi.
  • C’est + dates: La fête nationale c’est le 14 juillet, c’est lundi prochain.
  • C’est + adjective for non-specific referents: C’est super! C’est génial! C’est incroyable!

il/elle est, ils/elles sont

Use il/elle est introduce the following: 

  • Il est + adjective alone: Il est gentil. Il est français.
  • Il est + nationality, occupation, religion (used as adjectives in French): Elle est étudiante. Il est docteur.

Remember that il(s) and elle(s) refer to a specific person or thing. Ce do not refer to a specific person or thing. It can be translated as that.

ÊTRE or AVOIR?

Remember that:

  • Majority of French verbs build on composed tenses with the AVOIR auxiliary
  • Reflexive verbs are built with ETRE
  • In most cases, if the verb is about a mouvement, chose the auxiliaire ÊTRE (“il est retourné”, “il est reparti” … )

PARLER or DIRE?

Parler is more mechanical and talks about something, but does not refer to the exact word.

Parler can be translated as “to speak, talk”, which refers to general speaking.

  • On parle français.
  • On parle de quelque chose.

Dire is used to specify what you are talking about exactly.

Dire means more “to say”, which refers to a precise sentence or a dialogue.

  • Il dit qu’il a sommeil.
  • Il a dit « oui » 

There’s a famous expression “parler pour ne rien dire“, meaning speaking without saying actually anything interesting.

Conjugation after a relative pronoun (Qui, Que)

QUI stands for the subject and is followed by a verb

QUE stands for the object and is followed by a subject

Remember that: If the subject doing the action is at the same time, the action after and before will use QUI.

  • L’armoire qui est très chère
  • La fille qui est à côté de moi est très jolie
  • Le garçon qui m’a servi un café

If another pronoun is doing the action after, then it’s QUE

  •  Le chien que tu as acheté 
  • Le garçon que j’ai rencontré 
  • Le livre que tu me donnes est trop épais 

So when using a relative pronoun, remember to make the verb in agreement with the subject:

  • les employés qui vont (not va ) travailler
  • les élèves qui ont (not a ) un manuel

That’s all for today! I hope it helps. If you have questions leave a comment or book a lesson with us!

2 thoughts on “Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #2 Grammar”

  1. Pingback: Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #1 Vocabulary – It's French Juice!

  2. Pingback: Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #3 Grammar (Again!) – It's French Juice!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *