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My top 40 intermediate French errors

An interesting conundrum for language teachers: do you expose students to incorrect forms of language to help them be more accurate? Or does this just reinforce error? If you believe the former, then you might want to print this off for your class.

I am really not sure! What do you think?

Here are 40 common mistakes I have come across over the years in written work. They are commonly made by students and, in a few cases, even by native speakers.

Version incorrecte                                                              Version correcte

Je suis visité                                                                          J’ai visité
Je suis quinze ans                                                                  J'ai dix ans
J'ai intelligent                                                                         Je suis intelligent
J’ai resté                                                                               Je suis resté
J’ai retourné                                                                         Je suis retourné(e)
J’ai tombé                                                                            Je suis tombé(e)
J’été                                                                                     J’étais/J’ai été
Je joue le football                                                                  Je joue au football (sport)
Je joue le piano                                                                     Je joue du piano (musique)
J’ai joué depuis 5 ans                                                            Je joue depuis 5 ans
Je suis allé en France pour une semaine                                 Je suis allé(e)...PENDANT...
en Paris                                                                                à Paris
sur le 15 mai                                                                         le 15 mai
de le 10 juin a le 20 juin                                                        du 10 juin au 20 juin
beacoup des                                                                         beaucoup de
un kilo des pommes                                                              un kilo de pommes
une vielle ville                                                                        une vieille ville
interresant                                                                             intéressant
dans le nord d’Angleterre                                                     dans le nord de l’Angleterre
Je mange le pain et les cereals                                              du pain et des céréales
un programme sur la télé                                                      une émission à la télé
elle est seize ans                                                                  elle a seize ans
les yeux bleu et les chevaux brun                                          yeux bleus, cheveux bruns
Je départ                                                                             Je pars
à cinq heure                                                                         à cinq heures
J’arrivé                                                                                J’arrive (NO ACCENT)
mon passe-temps favouri                                                     mon passe-temps favori
Je préféré                                                                            Je préfère
des autres amis                                                                    d’autres amis
J’ecoute à la radio                                                               J’écoute la radio
Je pense que il est intelligent                                                 Je pense qu’il est intelligent
a cinq heures et demi                                                           à cinq heures et demie
J’allé a l’ecole                                                                     Je vais à l’école
à cote de                                                                             à côté de
J’ai cassé ma jambe                                                            Je me suis cassé la jambe
Je peux aider vous?                                                            Je peux vous aider?
J’acheté un cadeau                                                             J’ai acheté (or: J’achète)
Je ne suis allé pas                                                               Je ne suis pas allé
à ma maison                                                                       à la maison (chez moi)
j’ai recontré                                                                        j’ai rencontré

This is a sheet from


  1. parce-que and par example are big favourites too! But I guess you had to stop at 40! Mal for mauvais, too...

  2. parce-que and par example are big favourites too! But I guess you had to stop at 40! Mal for mauvais, too...

  3. Absolutely! Maybe I should extend it to a round 50!

  4. Having graded my exams today, I've been pondering why students who seemed to know all the answers last week during the review made some of the above mistakes today. Once they have learned the passé composé the use of the present tense with an accent on the final e becomes all too frequent despite practice with time frames and structured practice. Is it fatigue, pressure, not thinking, using the clues etc. I have put some of it down to the long weekend without additional review, the need to "just get it over with" and not seeing what is actually on the exam - students who see à but who write á - my bête noire as it is written so often on the paper and the fact they are middle school students who just never check work. Always back to the drawing board to rethink for next year's students.

  5. In a stressful exam situation, many students find the memory load too great. Their knowledge has not become properly internalised because of lack of time and recycling. This will be an issue with the new exams, as it used to be. The answer is probably, in writing, to focus on a limited repertoire of grammar and vocab. Thanks for leaving a comment, Jill.

  6. I think that it would be a great activity to have students use this list to explain WHY the correct answer is correct, once they are past the past tense. This way they discuss the grammar rules behind each one hopefully take note of the rules and come up with more examples. Thanks for sharing this with us

  7. Hi Darc. You may be right. There is an argument which goes that you should avoid exposing students to incorrect forms in case they become embedded or cause confusion. I am uncertain about this, but lean towards avoiding showing errors.


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