5 Confusing Expressions For English Speakers in the French language
5 Confusing Expressions For English Speakers in the French language
French language and the five most confusing expressions for English speakers.
You are charmed by the French language, you find it sophisticated and melodic, and would like to be fluent. Or maybe you are an expat in France and you have to master French to adjust to your new life.
Whether it be homophones or synonyms, English speakers usually tend to make recurrent mistakes. After many years teaching hundreds of students, I have listed 5 most common and confusing expressions or verbs for English speakers. I hope this will help you in your French Language journey!
1/ Those confusing ‘two equivalents
’ An/Année, Jour/Journée, Matin/Matinée, Soir/Soirée:
The words for year, day, morning and evening each have two equivalents and very often English speakers mix them up. I often hear: “Je vais vous téléphoner dans le matin”, or “Je vais aller au cinéma dans le soir”. Both of these sentences are incorrect, and now you are going to understand why. Here’s how to know when to use the correct words:
Année, Journée, Matinée, Soirée represent an emphasis on a period of time. While An, Jour, Matin, Soir – are usually used to define a specific point in time. Let’s look at a couple of examples below:
A specific point in time:
“J’habite à Paris depuis un an” – I’ve lived in Paris for a year.
“Elle n’a pas travaillé ce matin” – She didn’t work this morning!
Emphasis on a period of time:
“Cette année a été meilleure que l’année dernière” – This year has been better than last year.
“Je vais te téléphoner dans la matinée” – I will call you in the morning.
To conclude, use the words An, Jour, Matin and Soir with numbers:
“Ils a 30 ans” –He is 30 years old.
“Dans trois jours, je partirai pour L’Angleterre” – I’ll leave for England in three days.
Use Année, Journée, Matinée and Soirée with dans et pendant:
“Je vais travailler dans le soirée” – I am going to work in the evening.
“Elle m’a envoyé cet e-mail dans la matinée” – She sent me this e-mail in the morning.
For almost all adjectives:
“L’année prochaine” - Next year
“C’est une bonne journée pour moi” - It’s a good day for me
2. “Bon” versus “Bien”
I’ll bet most of you get caught with these two words.
Even my most advanced students still make mistakes using Bon et Bien! Like most things, practice makes perfect! Here are the principle theories behind their uses:
“Bon” is usually an adjective and modifies a noun to mean good, suitable, efficient, correct, useful etc. For example:
“Un bon étudiant” – A good student.
“C’est bon” is usually used to make a positive comment on physical sensations. Such as,
“La thé vert c’est très bon” – Green tea is very good.
“C’est bon” can also mean that you have been giventhe green light, and when something is ready or possible. For example, “Une réunion la semaine prochaine à 16h, c’est bon ça marche pour moi” – A meeting next week at 4pm, it’s fine it works for me.
“Bien” is normally an adverb and therefore modifies a verb. For example:
“Jean travaille bien” – (Jean works well).
“C’est bien” is used to give your opinion about something: a movie, a festival, a museum, a good manner, etc. Such as “Le cours, c’est vraiment bien, ça me plait!” – (The lesson is really good, I enjoyed it!).
3. Meilleur Vs Mieux:
After “bon” and “bien” come the comparatives or the superlatives “meilleur”, and “mieux “. If you can get your head around both pairs, you will be speaking like “un vrai Français!”
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).
Now, when translating into English, there is no difference between meilleur and mieux, hence the confusion. If the principle theories are not for you, examples might help you to understand:
Meilleur(e): often used as an adjective. For example:
“Il a une meilleure note que ses amis” – He has a better mark than his friends.
“Il a la meilleure note” – He has the best mark (which is a superlative).
Mieux is used as a comparative that replaces “bien” and is usually used to modify a verb. For example:
“Il court mieux que les autres”– He runs better than the others (as it is a comparative).
“C’est lui qui court le mieux” – it’s him who runs the best (as it is a superlative).
“Je vais mieux” – used in the sense that you feel better.
“C’est mieux” - this expression is used when you give your own positive opinion on something. I very often hear ”C’est meilleur” while the right phrase should actually be “c’est mieux”.
Here are a couple of more examples that are often used:
“Qu’est-ce que vous préférez” un cours de français le matin ou le soir? : What do you prefer: a lesson in the morning or in the afternoon?
“Le matin c’est mieux pour moi par ce que je me sens plus en forme.” In the morning, it’s better for me because I feel in a better form
“C’est mieux que”: used as a recommendation you give to someone (used with the subjunctive).
“C’est mieux que tu restes à la maison si tu es fatigué – It’s better that you stay at home if you are tired.
4. Verbs: Amener, Apporter and Emporter/ Emmener:
These four verbs mean to bring and to take respectively, each serving a different specific purpose:
Apporter/ Emporter: To bring used solely with objects you can carry
“Je vais apporter une bouteille de champagne” – I’m going to take a bottle of champagne
“J’ai emporté mes CDs à la fête”. – I took my CDs to the party.
Amener / emmener: to bring used with people, animals
“Je vais amener un ami à la fête” – I’m going to bring a friend at the party
“J’ai emmené mes parents à l’aéroport “– I took my parents to the airport.
5. Savoir Vs Connaître:
Do you know the difference between Savoir and Connaître? Whilst both Savoir and Connaître mean the same, knowing the difference isn’t always as easy! Here’s some practical tips:
Savoir is used for:
Knowing how to do something:
To know (plus a sentence used with a verb):
“Je sais où il est cache” – I know where he’s hiding
“Je ne sais pas si tu aimes le thé” – I don’t know if you like the tea
Use Connaitre for:
To know a person:
“Oui, je connais Paul” – Yes, I know Paul
To be familiar with a person/thing:
” Je connais cette chanson!” – I know this song!
“Je connais un très bon restaurant” – I know a very good restaurant
And there you have it, the five most confusing French expressions. Clear as mud? For one-on-one help, check out my Private French Lessons In Paris here.
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