Faux Pas: 4 French Language Pitfalls



Faux Pas: 4 French Language Pitfalls

In our slightly biased opinion, French is the most beautiful language in the world but it’s not the simplest to learn. This article sums up four easy mistakes – “faux pas” – you may make when speaking and writing French.

Grammatical Rules

Never put feminine after “C’estC’est beau la pluie / C’est beau la vie. It’s easier once you get the hang of it.

Féminin/masculin – Gender can be tricky for native English speakers to get right but there’s another element to consider: words can have the same pronunciation but another gender and so a different meaning:

  • La paix (peace) – le pet (fart/gas)
  • Le mousse (apprentice sailor) – la mousse (foam/moss/mousse)
  • Le livre (book) – la livre (pound)
  • Le moule (mould/baking pan) – la moule (mussel)

It’s easy to unwittingly break France’s linguistic rules © Julian Alecxander

Social Rules

Tutoyer et vouvoyerThis is often one of the most difficult aspects of the French language for students to get right as the formality boundary isn’t always clear. In a nutshell, use “tu”  with family and friends, and “vous” with anyone else.

Always say “bonjour” when entering shops – Visitors to France often get in trouble unintentionally by not saying “bonjour/bonsoir” as they come into a shop. If you do, the service is likely to – seemingly miraculously – improve.

S.L.Immersion (Séjour Linguistique en Immersion) teach and share these aspects of French culture and language and more with their students. Students do an immersion homestay at the teacher’s home with us. Tutors work a lot on the pronunciation and French way of life as well to avoid faux pas in speaking with local people while travelling to France. Find out more.

Lead photo credit : Don't be afraid to starting learning French © Erik Mclean

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  •  Victoria Zebrower
    2023-11-30 01:37:22
    Victoria Zebrower
    So, “c’est la vie” is incorrect? I have heard that so often in the States and in France. Above, the “lead photo credit” has an English mistake; “Don’t be afraid of starting learning French” should be written, don’t be afraid to start learning French or don’t be afraid of learning French. Two gerunds in a row are never used. I think that’s the same in French, n’est pas? Thank you for the idiomatic expressions. One never learns these in a class and it’s very difficult to learn them in any case. I taught English to adults from all over the world and I loved trying to teach our many expressions and I was surprised that people who had a good command of English were not at all familiar with these. That’s when I realized that idioms and idiomatic expressions are so unique to each language and are difficult to understand, much less commit to memory, because they make so little sense to someone not raised with these gems.