8 mistakes you are allowed to make when speaking French

There are mistakes almost every French people make and that I thought you should know about when learning French. I strongly recommend you to avoid them in writing and in any formal  situation. That said, you’re free to use them with your friends if you can easily adapt to all kinds of interactions. Of course, some may disagree with me but I do consider these mistakes a part of our language and I think usage will validate them (it already did for some of them). But, as it is in fact a matter of subjectivity, you have totally the right to avoid them. So, here are the 8 ‘okay’ mistakes French people make all the time on purpose (sometimes) or not (most of the time). 

1. Make the ‘ne’ disappear in a negative sentence

New in France, you will hear people speaking some strange language you don’t know anything about. They says : Ch’ais pas, ch’uis pas arrivé. No way it could French? Of course it is! Let’s translate it:

− Chais pas (je ne sais pas) → I dunno
− Ch’uis pas (je ne suis pas) 
→ I ain’t

That said, when learning French, it is not a good idea to omit the ne unless you are casually talking with your friends. So if you decide not to say the ne, you also should be able 1) not to forget it in every other situation 2) to easily move from a register to another as you could adapt to every kind of interactions. If you are not ready to choose your words and your way of speaking depending of the situation, just go with the correct ne…pas, always. 

2. Use the subjunctive after ‘après que’

You can do the test yourself if you have some French friends. Ask them to choose the correct sentence between these two:

1) Le virus s’est répandu en France après que William y est arrivé.
Le virus s’est répandu en France après que William 
y soit arrivé.
→ The virus spread in France after William got there.

Chances are people will answer that 1) is correct as it may, in fact, sound more familiar to the ear. But the right answer is 2) because you do not use the subjunctive after après. The confusion comes from the fact we use the subjunctive after avant que. So nobody will care if you make the mistake except maybe your French teacher 🙂

3. Ask “ça a été ?” instead of “ça s’est bien passé ?”

That is the usual and polite question that every French waiter will ask you at the end of the meal when clearing the table.

– Ça a été ? → How was it ?

Normally, you just answer parfait or très bien. But a very pedantic person could lecture them about the fact that we don’t say ça a été but ça s’est bien passé. This is due to the lack of equivalent in passé composé for ça va. While there is an imparfait form: ça allait, the form c’est allé seems at least awkward, if not totally wrong. That’s why ça a été took its place even if it doesn’t make sense when you think about it. 

4. Use ‘en même temps’ as an opposition form

En même temps means in the same time. But we also use it following the paradoxical process : I think like this but also like that, so I have two different opinions in the same time.

− J’aime le français. En même temps, c’est difficile. → I like French but I do find it difficult.

5. Say “ça fait sens” instead of “ça a du sens”

I kind of like this expression maybe because it’s shorter than ça a du sens and you don’t hace to pronounce the two [a] side by side. Still, for some reason, some people hate it. They will tell you : 1. It’s an English expression (it makes sense). 2. You cannot put a noun without an article after faire because of the French Grammar blah blah. So, you can answer 1. So what ? Language evolves,  don’t stay stuck in the past, etc. 2. That is just not true : faire peur, faire usage, faire plaisir, faire attention and the list goes on.

6. Say ‘sur Paris’ instead of ‘à Paris’

− Je monte sur Paris. → I go to Paris (when cominf anywhere in France).

Quite a strange expression to say the less that we use when going to big cities especially Paris. It can be explained by the location of Paris on the map which is in the northern part of France as we also say descendre sur Marseille which is in the South. Regardless, sur is not a correct preposition here as it cannot replace à. Though, you have to consider it as a special expression to not feel guilty using it. Also, everybody would be impressed by your skills in French 😉

7. Say ‘réaliser’ instead of ‘se rendre compte’

This one too came from English but people don’t care (or don’t know) as much as for ça fait sens. Réaliser in French normally means 1) make or 2) realize / fulfill (a dream). To say you realize something (meaning you just noticed it), you shoud chose between se rendre compte or s’apercevoir.

– Je me rends que j’ai oublié de souhaiter son anniversaire à ma mère.

Casually, you can say :

– Je réalise que j’ai oublié de souhaiter son anniversaire à ma mère.
→ I realize that I forgot to wish my mother an happy birthday.

8. Say ‘amener quelque chose’

We usually don’t make any difference between amener and apporter although, actually, we should. Amener is used with animate beings and apporter with things.

– J’ai amené ma sœur à la soirée.
→ I brought my sister to the party.
– J’ai apporté du champagne à la soirée.
→ I brought champagne to the party.

But you are free to no care about it and to say:

– J’ai amené du champagne à la soirée.

See also the 8 mistakes you are not allowed to make when speaking French

malgré que

fermer la lumière

du coup du coup du coup

quoi pour demander de répéter

elle s’est faite prendre

je monte en en haut et je descend en bas

Les mauvaises liaisons : trop Z important Les haricots

Aller au coiffeur et au médecin

En vélo





To go further, check our lessons for beginners on the frontpage and the ebook Learn French! You’ll find tons of activities to practice and get better!