Three most common mistakes made by French learners



Making linguistic or grammatical mistakes when learning a foreign language is quite normal, especially when you are just starting out. In this article we will reveal the most common mistakes made by French language learners and help you to remedy them.

I will invite you to read this article if you want to improve your French and avoid these common mistakes.



Gender mistakes: feminine vs masculine words


In French grammar, there is a clear distinction between the feminine and the masculine. Every noun has a gender, either feminine or masculine, and this requires the use of an article adapted to the gender. Thus, if a noun is feminine, such as “leçon” (lesson), we will use the articles “une/la” to qualify it; conversely, if a noun is masculine, such as “livre” (book), we will use the articles “un/le” to qualify it.


Let’s illustrate this with concrete examples:

  • « J’apprends une leçon de français/J’apprends la leçon de français » I’m learning a French lesson/I’m learning the French lesson
  • « C’est un livre de français/C’est le livre de français » This is a French book/This is the French book


This is also true for countries that can be feminine or masculine, such as Canada (masculine) or France (feminine).

Understanding the difference between gender will help you making yourself understood more easily during your interactions in French. That is why gender differentiation is one of the first thing to be  taught to French learners.



The use of the verbs avoir and être


The verbs avoir and être are two essential verbs in French communication and are often confused.


Although it is possible in some cases to translate a sentence directly from English to French by retaining the use of the verb “être” or “avoir”, this is not valid in all cases and modifications may be necessary. For example, In English we say I am 20 years old but in French we say “J’ai 20 ans” meaning I have 20 years old.

A key takeaway from this is that we should not systematically translate our words from English to French in a literal manner. This can lead to misunderstandings and real errors of meaning!



Prepositions before country names


You have just returned from a trip or are about to leave for another country and you want to talk about it with your French-speaking friends but you are not sure of the right prepositions to use? Then the following will probably be very useful!


Another important point in French that has no equivalent in English is the use of different prepositions in front of country names. The prepositions “en, au, aux” are essential to correctly describe your travel stories and to respect the grammar rule.


Here are some examples:

– « Je rends visite à ma famille en France. » I am visiting my family in France.

– « Je pars en vacances au Canada.» I am going on holiday to Canada.

– « Mes amis sont aux États-Unis. »  My friends are in the USA.


These prepositions are not interchangeable and are not chosen randomly. They correspond to a very precise grammatical rule: “en” is used for countries with feminine sounding names such as France; “au” for countries with masculine sounding names countries such as Canada; and “aux” for countries with names ending in “s” such as the United States or the Philippines.

You have just had an overview of the most common mistakes made by learners of the French language.



You are probably wondering how to avoid them and improve your French?

We have the solution to help you! Register to our French class.

French Alliance Francaise Ottawa

We will be happy to accompany you in your learning of French!