10 more mistakes anglophones make in French
Part 3: Ten mistakes to avoid plus ten bonus mistakes and exercises!
This is the second article in a series where I outline the most common mistakes anglophones make in French without realizing it. In other words, I’m pointing out details you may not have heard before, not the usual problems you’ve heard before in other books and courses on the subject.
To read the two articles, go to:
It’s very useful
I’ve noticed that many anglophones have trouble with the word “useful.” I’ve heard all kinds of wrong translations. But it translates simply as utile.
C’est très utile
It’s very useful
Don’t say un challenge. Say instead, un défi.
Learning French is my challenge for 2024
Apprendre le français est mon défi pour 2024
When we talk about addictions in the literal sense (to drugs, alcohol, etc.) or in the figurative sense (being addicted to sport, for example), we should talk about une dépendance. There are also other ways to say it, such as être accro à quelque chose.
❌ Note that une addiction is an anglicism to avoid.
Je suis accro à cette nouvelle série sur Netflix
I’m addicted to this new series on Netflix
Il est dépendant des somnifères
He’s addicted to sleeping pills
👉 Note that the expression être accro à quelque chose is informal, and that in Québec, the preposition à is used (in France, the preposition de can be used.)
When it comes to
This construction is common in English, and you could translate it with the verb s’agir.
When it comes to reading, I prefer science-fiction
Quand il s’agit de lire, je préfère la science-fiction
However, this doesn’t sound very natural in a conversation.
It would be better to say:
En matière de lecture, je préfère la science-fiction
Quand je lis, je préfère la science-fiction
I gave a lecture
In French, une lecture means “the action of reading” or “reading” material.
Il n’y a pas d’Internet au chalet, donc je me suis emporté de la lecture
There’s no Internet at the cottage, so I brought a lot of stuff to read
Mes lectures préférées de 2023
My favorite books of 2023
❌ Une lecture never means “a lecture.”
I gave a lecture at the local university
J’ai donné une conférence à l’université de la région
It’s very famous
Famous is something that’s known by many people.
Fameux, in French, means “known for something (good or bad”), or “that we’ve heard/talked so much about.” The meaning is close but not the same.
She’s very famous in Quebec, but not anywhere else
Elle est très connue au Québec, mais pas ailleurs
We had a meal at a famous restaurant in the region
Nous avons mangé dans un restaurant réputé de la région
This is arguably the most famous restaurant in Paris
C’est sans doute le restaurant le plus célèbre de Paris
👉 The word fameux is not used like the word “famous.”
On va enfin aller à ce fameux restaurant
We’ll finally go to this restaurant we talked so much about
Elle n'a pas hésité à convaincre son copain et à réserver son fameux voyage en Irlande!
She didn’t hesitate to convince her boyfriend and to book this trip to Ireland they had talked so much about
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In French, confortable refers to physical well-being, procured by an object or something like a salary.
It’s a comfortable couch!
C’est un canapé confortable!
❌ To mean “at ease”, don’t use the word confortable.
I’m not comfortable with this person
Cette personne me rend mal à l’aise
I’m not comfortable with this situation
Cette situation me rend mal à l’aise
“At the end of the day”
This expression, which means “when all is taken into account” doesn’t translate literally.
At the end of the day, we each make our own choices
En fin de compte, nous faisons tous nos propres choix
Au final, nous faisons tous nos propres choix
In English, people love to tell people to “enjoy” life, a meal, a drink, or anything imaginable!
In French, in most situations, you wouldn’t use the verb profiter, which has more the meaning of “making the most out of something.”
Profite de tes vacances!
Enjoy your trip
This can translate as “enjoy your vacation” but has the added meaning of “make the most out of it!”
Otherwise, “enjoy” can translate as bon.
Enjoy your meal!
Enjoy your trip!
Enjoy your afternoon!
👉 Let’s not overuse this expression in French the same way it might be used in English. For example, imagine that you’re at a restaurant with a friend, and you run into an acquaintance, who is also with a friend. The two are having a drink. You want to chat with them a little bit, but not for too long. So, after chatting for a bit, you say, “well, we have to go back to our table. Enjoy your drink!”
This is a situation that could be translated in French, but it would sound weird. Why? Because it’s a cultural practice more than an expression you can translate.
So, what would you say in French, in the same situation? Probably just:
“Most of” doesn’t always translate as la plupart.
Remember that la plupart is used most often with the plural. Here are some expressions that translate differently.
J’ai passé une bonne partie de l’après-midi chez moi
I spent most of the afternoon at home
Presque tout l’argent a disparu
Most of the money is gone
J’ai oublié presque tout mon français
I forgot most of my French
👉Remember the expression: une bonne partie de. It’s used for “most” when talking about time.
10 bonus mistakes to avoid and an exercise to review
To complete this series, I decided to add ten more expressions along with a review exercise for my members.