Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #1 Vocabulary

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, false friends and the most common mistakes of French language learners, so you can avoid them!

Today we will see the most common mistakes about Vocabulary in French



Since English and French have thousands of common
words, it is easy for people with an English background but tricky at the same
time. Words may look alike but do not have the exact same meaning. These words
are called False Friends.

However, there are English words that can be used in
French. Such words are often not adapted to the context or are usually used in
a different language level. They are frequently used in a formal context
instead of spoken French. For instance: politics, economics, law and diplomacy.

Below is a short list of common mistakes of French learners.

– “Visiter” (to visit) for “rendre visite à quelqu’un

Visiter is used
for monuments, countries, or places where you can enter.

  • Je visite ma mère” is wrong (and weird)
  • Je rends visite à ma mère” is right (and nice for your mom)

– “J’ai réalisé” (realize) for “je me suis rendu compte, je me suis aperçu

Réaliser is less
common, more formal and also means Fairein a more
formal way.

– “Commun” (common) forrépandu/courant

Les gens qui
parlent anglais, c’est très répandu, c’est très courant.

– “Actuellement” (actually) for “en fait

A classic mistake even made by French people. Remember this one as it is frequently used! “Actuel” means “Present; Currently” 

– “Société” (society) / “Compagnie” (company) for “entreprise

  • Société (society) is used but more towards describing the type of legal entity.
  • Compagnie (company) can be used for specific fields, like airlines (Compagnie Aérienne).
  • Entreprise is most commonly used when talking about a job.

– “Classe” (class) for “cours

Classe exists in French but it means classroom. So if you attend a class,
you’ll say “Je vais
un cours”.

– “Opportunité” (opportunity) for “la chance, l’occasion

is too formal. It is also used for an important job opening. For example,
“une opportunité professionnelle”, “une oportunité

– “Spécifique” (specific) for “particulier

sounds just more natural and less formal.

– “Journée” (journey) for “voyage

is “a day, a day’s work”.

– “Attendre” (attend) for “assister à

is “to wait”, “J’assiste à un cours”

– “Retirer” (to retire) for “prendre sa retraite

is “to withdraw”, “Je prends ma retraite”

– “Location” for “situation

“Une location” is “a renting”, “La Tour Eiffel est située au sud de Paris”.

This content was originally published here.

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