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Lesson Transcript

Virginie: Bonjour!
Eric: Eric here. All about season 1, lesson 12. Top Five Mistakes to Avoid When Speaking French. Hello and welcome to all about season 1 at frenchpod101.com where we study modern French in a fun, educational format.
Virginie: So brush up on the French that you started learning long ago or start learning today.
Eric: Hi Virginie. How is it going today? What are we going to be looking at for this lesson?
Virginie: I am good thank you. In this lesson, we are going to talk about the top 5 mistakes not to make when speaking French.
Eric: Okay so the top mistakes to avoid. Do I ever make mistakes when I speak French Virginie?
Virginie: No never.
Eric: Great. You flatter me. What are some mistakes that we should definitely try to avoid in speaking French?

Lesson focus

Virginie: Don’t be scared of making mistakes in French. It’s just naturally part of the learning process.
Eric: So there is no reason to be shy or to feel you know, hesitant about speaking. The only way to learn is to go out and meet some French people and try to speak to them.
Virginie: Yes and you will learn a lot by making mistakes. You know, it’s a positive thing to make mistakes.
Eric: Okay but we are going to give you some advice today about how to avoid common mistakes for English speakers.
Virginie: Okay let’s give out our list Eric.
Eric: Number one is gender agreement.
Virginie: Number two is the confusion between “être” and “avoir”.
Eric: Number three is conjugation agreement.
Virginie: Number four is future or conditional?
Eric: And finally number5 “l’imparfait” or the “passé composé”.
Virginie: Now let’s say the two first mistakes which are gender’s agreement and the confusion between être and avoir are usually beginner’s ones.
Eric: But the third error that people make conjugation agreements comes to everyone even native speakers of French.
Virginie: And number 4 which is, is it a future or conditional is more for lower intermediate to advanced students.
Eric: This is going to be the same for #5 “l’imparfait” or the “passé composé” which are both past tenses in French usually reserved for more advanced students.
Virginie: So let’s start with our first on the list, genders agreements. Don’t you think sometimes Eric it’s frustrating when you learn French not to know whether it’s a female word or a male word.
Eric: Of course because in English we don’t have this concept, it’s very different.
Virginie: And a quick reminder. In French, when we talk about things, we use she and he, “elle” et “il” as opposed to the English it. For example, to say talking about a table, it’s beautiful, you will say “elle est belle” she is beautiful.
Eric: Right. So a table is a she, interesting.
Virginie: So if you want to avoid saying she instead of he or he instead of she, you can listen to this tip.
Eric: Right. There are some endings that every female noun are going to follow. For example “ion”, “l’institution”, “l’addition” institution or the check, these are both going to end with “ion” female.
Virginie: All the words ending with “ion” in French are going to be female, easy. Then as another example, all nouns ending with té, t-acute accent, are also female like “la générosité”.
Eric: Generosity.
Virginie: La légèreté.
Eric: Lightness.
Virginie: And la facilité too. See that’s easy. You are guaranteed to detect female from male in one second but can you tell us more about male words Eric?
Eric: Of course all the nouns ending in “isme” are male. For example “l’alpisnisme” mountain climbing, “le prisme” the prism.
Virginie: Oh and I have another useful tip here. Almost all the nouns ending with a consonant are male except for the “tion” nouns that we mentioned earlier.
Eric: Right. Those are the ones that end tion.
Virginie: But watch out! This doesn’t mean that all female nouns end with a vowel.
Eric: Right.
Virginie: So there are more rules to help you know whether a thing is male or female and you will find them in the lesson notes attached to this recording. And also there are some exceptions of course. You can’t really avoid them. Okay now, mistake #2. The use of “to be” and “to have”. Etre et avoir.
Eric: This is going to be a little different than the usage in English. For example, when we are getting an age, you would say I am 22 in English.
Virginie: Yeah this is a very specific situation and you have to say in French: J’ai 22 ans.
Eric: I have 22 years.
Virginie: Literally and it means I am 22.
Eric: J’ai 22 ans. One sort of metaphorical way of thinking about it is that you have these 22 years in your life experience.
Virginie: Now another common situation of confusion is when you want to say that you are thirsty or you are hungry in French.
Eric: Right. In English, I happen to say I am hungry, I am thirsty but in French, they have hunger or they have thirst.
Virginie: So although in English you use the verb to be, in French you will use the verb to have “avoir”: J’ai soif, j’ai faim. “J’ai soif” is I am thirsty and “j’ai faim” is I am hungry. Mistake #3.
Eric: Make sure to put the right verb form in front of your subject. In French, I arrive sounds different than we arrive.
Virginie: Yeah conjugations are tricky in French.
Eric: Right. So for example, you would say “J’arrive”, “tu arrives”, “il arrive”. Those all sound the same.
Virginie: Yeah they do.
Eric: That means I arrive, you arrive, he arrives.
Virginie: They all sound the same but they are spelled differently.
Eric: “J’arrive” is spelled j-apostrophe-a-r-r-i-v-e.
Virginie: “Tu arrives” is spelled t-u-space-a-r-r-i-v-e-s.
Eric: And “il arrive” is spelled i-l-space-a-r-r-i-v-e. Again the same ending as “je arrive”, “il arrive” is going to be spelled “i-l-space-a-r-r-i-v-e”. Okay Virginie, so what are we going to say when we are talking about we or you in the formal sense or they?
Virginie: These will be “nous arrivons”.
Eric: We arrive.
Virginie: “Vous arrivez”.
Eric: You arrive, when you are talking to a group of people or the formal “vous”.
Virginie: And “ils arrivent”.
Eric: They arrive.
Virginie: These three forms are very different and you can hear that they sound different from each other.
Eric: Can you spell it now for us Virginie?
Virginie: Sure “arrivons” in “nous arrivons” will be a-r-r-i-v-o-n-s
Eric: And “vous arrivez?”
Virginie: “Arrivez” will be a-r-r-i-v-e-z.
Eric: For they arrive, “ils arrivent?”
Virginie: “arrivent” will be a-r-r-i-v-e-n-t.
Eric: So that actually sounds like the other forms “ils arrivent” even though it’s plural.
Virginie: Right but it’s spelled differently.
Eric: Okay just for a very quick recap, that’s how we are going to be conjugating the verb “arriver”. It’s going to change depending on the subject in the sentence.
Virginie: Okay mistake #4 using the conditional instead of the future.
Eric: And vice versa. So while in English the conditional in the future tenses sound very, very different, it would be I would go or I will go. In France, they sound really similar, right Virginie?
Virginie: Yes let’s take the verb “arrive” to arrive and listen to me. I will say first a future tense and then the conditional.
Eric: Okay.
Virginie: J’arriverai, future. J’arriverais, conditional.
Eric: Sounds the same.
Virginie: Yeah it sounds exactly the same but it’s spelled differently and that’s the only way to distinguish them.
Eric: And how are they spelled?
Virginie: “J’arriverai” is spelled j-apostrophe-a-r-r-i-v-e-r-a-i
Eric: And that’s the future tense.
Virginie: And the conditional is: J-apostrophe-a-r-r-i-v-e-r-a-i-s
Eric: So it’s basically the same word but it has an S on the end for the conditional tense.
Virginie: It’s a little easier with “tu” because it sounds slightly different.
Eric: And what does it sound like VIrginie?
Virginie: The future is “tu arriveras” and the conditional is “tu arriverais”.
Eric: It sounds slightly different. One more time for us.
Virginie: “Tu arriveras” and that ends with “as”.
Eric: Right.
Virginie: “Tu arriverais” and that ends with “ais”.
Eric: Okay. I can hear the difference. What does it sound like when we conjugate “il”?
Virginie: The future tense of the verb “arriver” with “il” will be “il arrivera” and in the conditional, it will be “il arriverait”.
Eric: Okay I can hear the difference.
Virginie: You can hear the difference?
Eric: One more time for us.
Virginie: Okay “il arrivera” and that ends with “a”.
Eric: Future tense.
Virginie: And “il arriverait” ends with “ait”.
Eric: Conditional tense.
Virginie: You can hear the difference but it doesn’t strike right away when you hear it in the conversation. So whenever you speak with a French person, just try to pay attention to the context and see if he is talking about something that would happen or something that will happen.
Eric: And if all else fails, feel free to stop them in the conversation and ask them what’s going on.
Virginie: Mistake #5
Eric: This is a tricky one for most people learning French. Do we use the “imparfait” or the “passé composé” when we are speaking in the past tense?
Virginie: Well, when in English, you can use the same past tense in pretty much every situation right. In French, you will have to pick between one of the two main past tenses which are the “imparfait” or the “passé composé”.
Eric: So English really only uses one past tense but French has multiple past tenses.
Virginie: Yes.
Eric: Okay so let’s give an example. If I want to say in French, yesterday I went to the supermarket, what would I say?
Virginie: You would say “Hier je suis allé(e) au supermarché” and you would use the “passé composé”.
Eric: One more time for us.
Virginie: Hier je suis allé(e) au supermarché.
Eric: Yesterday I went to the supermarket.
Virginie: And that’s “passé composé”.
Eric: Je suis allé(e). And now what if I want to say, yesterday I was sick, what would I say?
Virginie: You would say “hier j’étais malade” which is the “imparfait”. J’étais malade.
Eric: So we are picking the tenses depending on the context of the sentence right?
Virginie: Yeah more precisely the nature of the action is what affects the choice you will make between “imparfait” or “passé composé”.
Eric: So when do you use the “imparfait”?
Virginie: You will use the “imparfait” whenever you are making a description.
Eric: I see. So it’s like you are describing something that could be part of a still life.
Virginie: Yeah exactly like imagine a still picture, you describe it in the past, you will use the “imparfait”.
Eric: So any other cases of when we should use “l’imparfait”.
Virginie: Yes whenever you are talking about in habit, you will use the “imparfait”. When I was a kid, I would do this, I would do that.
Eric: When I was in college, I would do this, I would do that.
Virginie: Right. So there are two main usages for the “imparfait”. The still picture description.
Eric: Right.
Virginie: And the habits.
Eric: So what about the “passé composé” when would I use that past tense?
Virginie: Well you can take this still picture we were talking about for the “imparfait” right? You have a landscape.
Eric: Right.
Virginie: Everything is quiet, everything is still. All of a sudden, you have a thunder.
Eric: I see.
Virginie: Coming into the picture and to describe this action of the thunder, you will use the “passé composé”.
Eric: So it’s sort of like a sudden action that’s taking place.
Virginie: Yes it’s a brief action, sudden action that starts and ends in the past.
Eric: Okay. So in our example, yesterday I went to the supermarket. Hier je suis allé(e) au supermarché. It was very quick, you went there for an hour and you were done.
Virginie: Yeah started yesterday, it ended yesterday, it’s done. It’s “passé composé”.
Eric: Okay Virginie, can you give us one more example in the “passé composé”?
Virginie: Sure. For example, you could say, yesterday I ate an Apple: Hier j’ai mangé une pomme.
Eric: Okay. That was a brief action that you did in the past.
Virginie: Yes and it started and ended in the past. The Apple is eaten. Right, so the action is totally over. So you would use the “passé composé”.
Eric: You are not describing a state of being or a habit that you had in the past. If you want to say I ate an Apple every day, you would say: Je mangeais une pomme tous les jours.


Virginie: And that’s the “imparfait”. Thank you Eric. Okay I think we are done for today but don’t forget. Don’t upset about mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes.
Eric: And the less you think about it, the less mistakes you will make.
Virginie: Thank you all for listening.
Eric: Au revoir!