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Confusing French Pairs

Lessons to help you distinguish between oft-confused groups of French verbs, expressions, and grammatical structures.

Confusing French Pairs Quiz
Quiz on a variety of confusing French pairs.

À vs De
These little words cause big problems! Learn all about these common prepositions.

Accent Homographs
Think accents don't matter when writing or typing in French? Think again! There are dozens of French word pairs which are spelled (though not always pronounced) the same other than accents. To avoid confusion, you should always distinguish between these "accent homographs" by using the correct accents.

Ainsi, Alors, Donc - "Then" in French
The French words ainsi, alors, and donc are commonly used to explain the consequences or effect of an action. This lesson should help you to understand the difference between these terms and thus use them correctly.

Amener, Emmener, Apporter, Emporter
Learn how to say "to take" and "to bring" in French.

An/Année, Jour/Journée, Matin/Matinée, Soir/Soirée
There are two French words for year (an, année), day (jour, journée), morning (matin, matinée), and evening (soir, soirée). This lesson will help you learn to tell these confusing pairs apart.

Apprendre, Enseigner, Instruire, Éduquer
These four verbs mean "to teach," but there are subtle differences in meaning and usage. Learn to recognize and use these four verbs correctly.

Après, Ensuite, Puis - "Then" in French
Après, ensuite and puis are used to indicate the order of events. This lesson should help you to understand the difference between these terms and thus use them correctly.

Avant vs Auparavant
They both mean "before," so how do you know which one to use when?

Bise, bisou, baiser
French has a number of different words for "kiss," which, though not surprising for such a romantic language, can be confusing for French learners. What's the difference between bise, bisou, and baiser?

Bon vs Bien
The French words bon and bien are often confused, because they have somewhat similar meanings and they can both be adjectives, adverbs, or nouns.

C'est vs Il est
The French expressions c'est and il est are very similar in meaning. They are both used in impersonal expressions as well as for general comments, but they are not interchangeable. Learn the difference between c'est and il est and then take the test.

Ces vs Ses
When writing, it's easy to mix up ces and ses. Learn the equally easy way to avoid this French mistake.

Dans vs En
The prepositions en and dans can both be used to express time and location in French, but their uses are completely different.

Depuis, Pendant, Pour
The French prepositions depuis, pendant, and—far less commonly—pour each express the duration of an event in French a little differently, with the result that many English speakers mix up depuis and pendant and overuse pour. This lesson explains the different meanings and uses for each preposition.

Depuis vs Il y a
The French temporal expressions depuis and il y a have distinctly different meanings and uses, yet they commonly present difficulties for French students. Here is a detailed explanation and comparison of depuis and il y a to help you clearly understand the difference once and for all.

Depuis vs Pendant, En vs Dans
Je vais dans or en une heure? Je vais pendant or pour deux semaines? Many French students are confused by the French prepositions for time. The problem is that there are so many different French temporal prepositions with different uses. Study this lesson to learn the difference between pendant, depuis, à, en, dans, and pour.

De trop vs Trop (de)
Learn the difference between "de trop" and "trop (de)."

Devoir vs Falloir - Verbs expressing obligation and necessity
The French verbs devoir and falloir can be confusing because they both express obligation and necessity, but in different ways. In addition, each verb has a different meaning when followed by a noun.

Encore vs Toujours
The French adverbs encore and toujours can be confusing, because they each have several meanings that partially overlap. After studying this lesson, you'll remember the differences toujours.

Entendre dire vs Entendre parler
The French expressions "entendre dire" and "entendre parler" have very similar meanings, but they are used in different grammatical constructions.

Faire vs Rendre
When talking about making someone feel/be a certain way, "to make" may be translated by faire or rendre. Take a look at this lesson to learn how to decide between these two verbs.

Habiter vs Vivre - To Live
The French verbs habiter and vivre both mean "to live," but are used in different circumstances. You won't be able to live with yourself if you don't learn how to use them both.

To Meet
The English verb to meet, when referring to meeting people, is very vague. Its five literal French equivalents are much more specific, so you need to know in which circumstances to use each of them. This lesson will meet your expectations.

Meilleur vs Mieux
Like bon and bien, meilleur and mieux can be confusing for French students. Meilleur is the comparative and superlative form of the adjective bon (good), while mieux is the comparative and superlative form of the adverb bien (well). When translating into English, there is no difference between meilleur and mieux, hence the confusion.

Merci pour or Merci de?
There's a common dilemma about whether to use de or pour when thanking someone for something. Take a look at this lesson to learn the formulas.

Noms avec deux genres - Dual-gender nouns
The gender of nouns tends to be a sticky grammar point for French students, and there are a number of French nouns which are identical in pronunciation (and often spelling as well) but which have different meanings depending on whether they are masculine or feminine.

Nouveau vs Neuf
English speakers sometimes find it difficult to translate "new" into French, due to confusion over the French words nouveau and neuf. Read over this lesson, learn the difference between nouveau and neuf, and you won't have any more trouble saying new in French.

Number Expressions
There are quite a few confusing pairs and difficult expressions related to numbers in French: second/deuxième, en premier/au premier/de premier, tiers/troisième....

Only / Not Only - Ne... que, Seulement, and their negatives
There are two common French equivalents for the restrictive only in English: ne... que and seulement. These two terms mean essentially the same thing, but their negative forms are a bit more complicated.

Parce que, Car, Puisque, Comme
The French conjunctions parce que, car, puisque, and comme are commonly used to draw conclusions or otherwise relate a cause or explanation with a result or conclusion. These conjunctions have similar but not identical meanings and uses - this lesson explains the difference.

Partir, S'en aller, Sortir, Quitter, Laisser
Learn how to choose between these 5 verbs meaning to leave.

Passé composé vs Imperfect - French Past Tenses
During the first year of French study, every student becomes aware of the troublesome relationship between the two main past tenses: imperfect and passé composé. This lesson compares and contrasts the usage of these two French verb tenses.

Penser à vs Penser de
They both translate as "to think about," but if you think about it, that English phrase has two different meanings. Find out which is which with this lesson.

Quand, Lorsque, Lors de, Pendant
What's the difference between the conjunctions quand and lorsque, the similar-looking expressions lorsque and lors de, and the temporal terms lors de and pendant? That's what this lesson is all about.

Qui vs Que - Interrogative Pronouns
Learn how to use qui and que to ask questions.

To Return
The English verb to return has seven (7!) French equivalents: retourner, revenir, rentrer, rendre, rembourser, rapporter, and renvoyer. This is because the English verb to return is very general and can mean different things. The French verbs are much more precise, so in order to use the correct one, you need to figure out exactly what you want to say. Study this lesson to learn the difference.

Savoir vs Connaître - French Verbs "To Know"
French has two verbs which can be translated by the English verb "to know": savoir and connaître. This can be confusing to English speakers, but in fact there are distinct differences in meaning and usage for the two verbs.

To Take
Learn the difference between prendre, amener, and the other French equivalents of "to take."

Tant vs Autant
The French words tant and autant are both adverbs of quantity, but their meanings and uses are different. Autant means as much/many and is usually used in comparisons. Tant means so much/many and tends to be used to intensify. Take a look at this summary table for more details.

Temporal prepositions
Learn the difference between pendant, depuis, dans, en, and à.

Tu vs Vous
It is essential to understand the difference between the two words for "you."

Visit, To Visit, Visitor
All of this visiting vocabulary has several French equivalents. Une visite vs un séjour; rendre visite vs visiter vs aller voir - these and more are thoroughly explained and dissected in this lesson.

"What" in French
French learners often have trouble deciding how to translate "what" into French. Should it be que or quoi, or maybe that pesky quel? Understanding the difference between these terms is critical to knowing how to use them correctly.

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