Some Common mistakes in French (added c'est/il est)
Here are some helpful guidelines to those who are studying French:
The second step when learning a language is to build up a new vocabulary, but keep in mind to say those words like a French speaker would. Tell-tale mistakes are:
Saying the letter: H. Words like "hôtel" ( it is just "otel" ).
Saying consonants at the end of a word. We don't pronounce most D, T and S when they are the last letter of a word.
For example, I hear the word "intéressant" pronounced "in-tay-ray-ssant". It should be "in-tay-ress-ssan". No T!
Another common mistake is to read "riz" (rice) as [reez] when it should simply be [ree]. Also, if you pronounce the T at the end of a noun or an adjective, it will sound like you are saying the feminine version of that word. For example, if you say [klee-ant], I will understand "cliente" (female customer). The masculine version is [klee-an].
Warning: Don't overdo the sound "ou." It should sound like the English "oo." If you can't hear a difference between "u" and "ou", you're doing it wrong. One common mistake is to pronounce "beaucoup" like this: [bo ku]. It makes it sounds like you said "beau cul" (meaning "nice ass"). So, be careful! Say [bo koo] to rhyme with a cooing pigeon [coo!] The trick to make the English "oo" sound French is to NOT elongate it.
Making all E (é and è included) sound like AY. The correct rules are as follow:
1) A plain E at the end of the word is to be skipped (replace it by a hyphen in your head)
2) É at the end of a word is to be pronounced. For example, "porte" is said [port-] and "porté" is [por-tay].
3) If a three-syllable word has a plain E in the middle, replace it with a hyphen in your head. Squash the E and read the word as if it were two syllables. For example, "acheter" would become "ach-ter" and would be pronounced [ash-tay].
Saying a long N when it's the last letter of a word or saying a short one when it's followed by an E. Getting it wrong in both cases is actually quite common, but it still drives me up the wall. The letter N should be super-short if at the end of a word (a millisecond), but it needs to be dragged about four times more than you think is decent if it's followed by an "E."
Three words that are murdered all the time are: "semaine" (it's not pronounced "say-main" but "suh-mennnnnnnn"), "personne" (say [pair-sonnnnnnnn]), "téléphone" (it should be [tay-lay-fonnnn]) and "bonne" [bonnnnnnnnnn].
Here is a list of some other words that should come with little warning bells:
"Pour". Saying "pour" (for) to indicate duration of time is a typical mistake made by native English speakers. In French, we say "pendant" or "durant" when a situation has a starting point and a finishing point. For example, "J'ai appris le français pendant 3 ans" (I started learning French at some point in the past and I stopped three years later).
"Pendant" or "durant". Saying "pendant" or "durant" (for) when meaning "since" is another common mistake. "Depuis" is used when a situation is still going on. You should say "J'apprends le français depuis 3 ans" (I've been learning French for 3 years).
"Toujours" (always), "jamais" (never), "souvent" (often) should not be wedged between the subject and the verb in French. Put them after the verb. Ex: "J'étudie souvent le soir" (I often study during the evenings).
With words like "beaucoup"(many/a lot), "un peu" (a little), "assez" (enough of something) and "pas" (no/any) you should always use "de" (or d') and no articles. Do not use "des," even if it's plural. And please, please pronounce "de" as [duh], not [day]. Ex : "J'ai lu beaucoup de livres" (I've read many books).
With "c'est", always use a masculine adjective. Too often I hear "C'est belle!" It should be "C'est beau". For general advice on gender, please see my article: Gender Obsession in French: Chivalry or Burden?
Other problematic words are known as "false friends". For more on that subject, False Friends Info
Learning the Rhythm
The third step to true fluency is learning how to pace words and the space (or lack) between words. Should you stress the first, middle or last syllable? Personally, I find that the last syllable is the shortest in French, but all other syllables have roughly the same length. If we compare the pronunciation of the word "television" for example: I've been told to say it (in English) a bit like "TELLL-a-vee-gee-oNNN." From my point of view, English speakers sing their endings. It drags and drags. French speakers don't like that. We are more "economical" with our endings (I mean plain old lazy). "Télévision" in French, it would be "tay-lay-vee-zeeon." No capitals, because there is no emphasis anywhere. The only special thing is the tiny ‘n’ at the end.
Liaisons As for how we string words together, there is a thing called "liaison." It's a sort of bridge between the end of one word and the beginning of the next word. But French speakers don't do it all the time. Here are the rules laid out for you:
- Liaisons are made when a word finishes with a consonant and the next word starts with a vowel.
- Liaisons must be made between article and nouns. For example: "un," "les" and "des."
- Liaisons must also be made between a subject and a verb. For example: "nous", "vous", "ils" and "elle."
- Liaisons must be made between possessive adjectives and nouns. For example: "mon," "ton," "son" and "leurs."
- Liaison with "comment" (how) and "sous" (under) are strongly advised.
- Other liaisons are optional. They vary according to taste and geography.
- Liaison with "et" (and) are forbidden.
Now, let's see how it works. It's quite simple really.
Double the last consonant and carry it across to the next word. This way, you can leave a gap between two words, but still link them. For example: un example = un Nexampl-
If the last consonant is an S, don't pronounce it. Carry the letter Z across instead. For example: nous avons = noo Zavon-
Leaving no gaps at all, so a sentence like "Nous avons des oiseaux" sounds like [noozavondayzwazo].
Saying a subject (like "ils") and dragging the last consonant (so it becomes [eelzzz]) while thinking of the verb that should come next.
My last piece of advice is to pay attention to how natives speak. Take notes. You will discover some cute short cuts and weird links that are trendy in your area (or in the place you intend to visit). This will help you to blend in hugely.
That’s it for now! I've covered all the ground I was hoping to. I hope you liked it and found it useful. Keep practicing and good luck with it all!
Added from a question below; these are basic infos but there are more complicated usage for each.
Here are some that must know about prepositional IN from English
EN - is more for countries / places
En France (female countries that does not need la)
En a certain Language Je le sais en Anglais , i know it in English
EN AS ADVERB Could also mean it/ to recall something Le journal? J'en ai acheté un, The journal? I have bought one literally I have bought the journal one
AU - at the / aux - at the (plural place)
au supermarché, at the supermarket
DANS - into/ put in / inside something
dans ton sac, in your bag
CHEZ - at someone's house
nous allons chez moi; we are going into my house.
*Links to see for wider scope on En and Dans
C'est vs Il est
I have to add this because i still fall with the trap between these two
C'est and il est are the root forms, used for impersonal expressions and general comments: It's interesting, It's nice, It's fortunate, It's too bad, etc.
When talking about specific people, things, or ideas, c'est and il est may change.
C'est becomes ce sont when followed by a plural noun. In spoken French, though, c'est is often used anyway.
Il est becomes elle est, ils sont, or elles sont, as appropriate depending on the gender and number of the noun that it is replacing or modifying. Ce sont des Français ? Non, des Italiens. Are they French? No, Italian. Voici Alice - elle est professeur. This is Alice - she's a teacher. Despite their similar meanings, the expressions c'est and il est are not interchangeable - there are rules for using each one. The following table summarizes the different things that can be used after each of them.
IL EST | C'EST
Adjective describing a person V|S Adjective describing a situation
- Il est fort, cet homme. | J'entends sa voix, c'est bizarre.
- (That man is strong.) | (I hear his voice, it's weird.)
- Elle est intelligente. | C'est normal !
- (She is smart.) | (That's normal!)
Unmodified adverb V|S Modified adverb
- Il est tard. | C'est trop tard.
- (It's late.) | (It's too late.)
- Elles sont ici. | C'est très loin d'ici.
- (They are here) | (It's very far from here.)
Unmodified noun | Modified noun
- Il est avocat. | C'est un avocat.
- (He's a lawyer.) | (He's a lawyer.)
- Elle est actrice. | C'est une bonne actrice.
- (She's an actress.) | (She's a good actress.)
Prepositional phrase (people) V|S Proper name
- Il est à la banque. | C'est John. (That's John.)
- (He's at the bank.)
- Elle est en France. | Stressed pronoun
- (She's in France.) | C'est moi. (That's me.)
Bon Apprentissage! :D
Thank you so much!! Your post is super helpful! I have learn many mistake that I have made without realizing. I will try to keep them in mind so that I won't make the same mistakes again :D
Also, I am wondering if you could help me to solve this confusion that I have always had: any way to distinguish when to use "en", "au", or "dans" for "in"?
Thank you :)
It does get a bit complicated - especially because we use certain prepositions in English and they are not always the same ones the French use :)
The following links might help with en and dans
the first is a (basic) video in English by a Frenchman, who has several very clear clips on different french phrases, constructions etc etc The link is straight to the en/dans video, but he has lots of you tube vidoes explaining various things. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shfJRRuL5Ao
This is about-com's explanation http://french.about.com/library/prepositions/bl_prep_en_vs_dans.htm
This is in French, but very good if your French is strong enough :) http://www.francaisfacile.com/exercices/exercice-francais-2/exercice-francais-78651.php
Once you've been speaking French long enough, they come naturally - that's what makes them so hard to explain. It has been said that once you master prepositons (in any language), you have mastered the language. Prepositions, and the way they used (or not used) are so different in every language. Bonne continuation :)
Glad it helped - i fond his videos really clear - he doesn't always cover everything about a topic, because there is so much, but it is amn excellent start to many confusing things. Check out his ne explétif video if that is something you struggle with - it really helped me :)
This is an extremely helpful post and will keep it close at hand. Thank you! But I would like to add that as a beginner, I will probably edit out, "but it still drives me up the wall." It is my hope that most french speakers will be as patient with me as I would be of them if they were learning English. Terrylou
I'm not French, but I'm fairly sure it's only the regular -er verbs that pose this problem, and only in the present tense. Of course, this constitutes quite a few verbs : (
I think the same difficulty is encountered in the subjunctive in most verb groups - hopefully Adrian, if he sees this, will let us know for sure.
Remember that in real life, you will know from context - it is just these out of context audio only phrases that are difficult.
As Adrian said, if the verb starts with a vowel, you can hear the liaison, BUT remember, you WON'T hear this on slow audio mode, because in slow mode, DL pronounces it as two separate words. So if the verb starts with a vowel, listen carefully to the normal audio, not slow and see if you can hear a liaison.
Also sometimes, the phrase will be be something like Ils mangent LEURS repas - the leurs is a bit of a giveaway even in the audio, although somebody could be eating other people's meals I suppose (Il mange leurs repas) lol.
At your level, you will have come across boire - you can hear the difference with this verb
- il boit and ils boiVent so you will hear the V on the end.
There are other irregular verbs and verbs in other verb groups where you will easily be able to tell.
- eg il finit/ils finnissent (-ir verbs) and *il comprend/ils comprennent (-re verbs)
This will probably be a stupid question but the sounds for the accented "e", I don't think my teacher really explained the difference of the sounds well. I also took Japanese in high-school, why bring Japanese up? If I could get a comparison to Japanese "I & E" sounds (which I have straight in my head) and to the accented "E"'s I might be a bit better at French.
i dont have idea yet how japanese i and e works because i didn't get to study it yet. heres a closer look how they sound from english:
french e sounds close to ah/ uh
bed = bèd; said
stay = sté; bruleé
noel = noËl; you would rarely encounter this e in french
crepe= crêpe / gêt
Great resource! Another tip about "c'est" vs. "il est" that helps me is whether it's followed by "à" or "de" after an adjective and before a verb. For example-
"c'est difficile À faire ça" vs. "il est difficile DE faire ça". However, in spoken French it's common to hear "de" used with "c'est" (eg. "c'est difficile de faire ça"), and I've actually been corrected after using "à" with "c'est" by native speakers who don't know differently. That leads me to believe that using "à" after "c'est" is more literary.
(I am a native French speaker.)
"Je suis avocat", "Il est avocat", yes. But "C'est un avocat" means "It is a lawyer" or "This is a lawyer". I am having a hard time explaining the subtlety, but in the first two cases, "Je suis" and "Il est" are about what they do, whereas the third case is more about identifying what you see (say, by pointing at a picture of a lawyer).