Common French grammatical mistakes

Common French grammatical mistakes

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Added by July 28, 2014


Learn to avoid 7 grammatical mistakes when speaking French

Learning to speak French perfectly well is obviously a serious challenge. The language has many traps ready for foreigners to fall into. That’s why I’ve put together a list of some very common mistakes I’ve heard French learners make. Why don’t we get rid of those right now?!

1. C’EST instead of IL EST (or vice versa)

French common grammar mistakesTranslating a little phrase like “it is” into French may seem simple to start with, but careful here! There are two possible expressions you may use: “C’est” and “Il est”. The trick is knowing when to use which!

    • Use  “C’EST” when it is followed by a Noun (C’est un chien). Alternatively, use “C’EST” + Adjective (C’est beau!) when making a generic statement about a place or other.
    • Use “IL EST” when it is followed by an Adjective and when we precisely know, from the context, what “IL” refers to – whether it be an object or a person. (J’aime ce perroquet. Il est drôle!). Alternatively, use “IL EST” to indicate someone’s profession  (Il est acrobate) – notice that in French, there is no indefinite article when indicating someone’s occupation.

2. DES instead of DE or D’

    • “DES” becomes “DE” whenever there is a negative sentenceJ’ai des poires. BUT Je n’ai pas de poires.                                 

Exception: When you use the verb “Etre”, this rule does not apply! – Ce sont des poires becomes Ce ne sont pas des poires.

    • Beaucoup+ DE (lots of): Il y a beaucoup de personnes ici.
    • With adjectives placed in front of nouns: Il a de mauvaises habitudes.

3. DE L’EAU instead of D’EAUFrench common grammar mistakes

Articles can definitely be a pain in the butt! No doubt! When talking about plain water, watch out, for you may drown! So let’s clarify the various phrases you’re most likely to use.

Je veux de l’eau: simple affirmative sentence. But you’ll say: Je ne veux pas d’eau.

And finally, if you specify the quantity of water you’d like, you’ll say:

Je veux un verre d’eau / une bouteille d’eau.


4. DE LE instead of DU

This is another very common mistake French learners make. Let’s clarify that once and for all: DE + LE does not exist!!! Whenever you’re tempted to use that, switch it to DU instead, as in:  La femme du boulanger est rigolote

5. À LE instead of AU

Same as above. The preposition AU will be followed by a masculine noun and is none other than the contraction of À + LE.

On va au restaurant?

6. POUR instead of PENDANT 

When you start learning French you learn that POUR means FOR. But whenever you refer to a period of time, this simple rule no longer works. PENDANT is the word you need then. J’étais en France pendant trois semaines. 

Exception: You should use “POUR” to refer to a time frame, in a future context only. Je pars pour trois semaines.


The tendency here is to translate “It’s the same” literally. If you only say “C’EST LA MÊME” in French, you’re translating “It’s the same one” – with “la” replacing a feminine object/person previously mentioned. The correct way of translating “It’s the same” is actually “C’EST LA MÊME CHOSE“.

Soraya Garre, French actress

Bon français!


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