After learning French for a while, whether in a class or on your own, you've probably found that there are some things you just can't figure out how to say, or that people are always correcting you on. These may be issues that you haven't been taught yet, or concepts that you've studied but just don't get. As an intermediate French speaker, there is still plenty of time to fix these mistakes before they fossilize in your mind. Here are ten of the most common intermediate-level French mistakes with links to lessons.
French Mistake 1 - Y and En
Y and en are known as adverbial pronouns - they replace the preposition à or de plus a noun, respectively. They consistently cause problems for intermediate French speakers, though I'm not sure whether this is because they are not adequately taught in French classes, or simply because they are difficult to master. Regardless of the reason for the difficulties, the fact is that both y and en are extremely important in French, so be sure to study this lesson.
Y and En | French prepositions
French Mistake 2 - Manquer
The French verb manquer (to miss) is a tough one because the word order is the opposite of what you probably expect. For example, "I miss you" translates not as je te manque but rather tu me manques (literally, "you are missing to me.") Once you understand the proper French word order, you'll never miss this one again.
Manquer | Regular -ER verbs
French Mistake 3 - Le Passé
French past tenses are definitely tricky. The passé composé vs imparfait issue is a constant struggle until students truly understand each of these tenses and the differences between them. There's also the matter of the passé simple, which needs to be understood but not used. Get past this confusion with these lessons.
Imparfait | Passé composé | Passé composé vs Imparfait | Passé simple
French Mistake 4 - Agreement
Agreement of adjectives and être verbs may seem pointless and aggravating, but it's part of the French language and needs to be learned. There are several kinds of agreement; the ones intermediate students really need to watch out for are agreement of adjectives with the nouns they modify, and agreement of the past participle of être verbs with their subjects in the passé composé and other compound tenses.
Adjective agreement | Être verbs | Compound tenses
French Mistake 5 - Faux amis
There are thousands of French words that look a lot like English words, and while many of them are true cognates (i.e., mean the same thing in both languages), a lot of them are false cognates. If you look at the word actuellement and think "Aha! That's the French translation of actually," you're going to make a mistake, because it actually means "currently." Actuellement and hundreds of other faux amis are explained on my site, so take the time to learn the most common ones and thus avoid common pitfalls.
Vrais amis | Faux amis
Beginning French Mistakes 1 - 5 | Beginning French Mistakes 6 - 10
Intermediate French Mistakes 1 - 5 | Intermediate French Mistakes 6 - 10
High-Intermediate French Mistakes 1 - 5 | High-Intermediate French Mistakes 6 - 10
Advanced French Mistakes 1 - 5 | Advanced French Mistakes 6 - 10