Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #1 Vocabulary

My background as a French teacher made me realize a lot of things. Everyone learning a language despite of their nationality has his or her difficulties. As majority of my students are native English speakers, they face the same problems. We all know that more than 30% of English language has a French origin. Even non-native English speakers tend to use the same sentence structure as English. That is a very clever strategy, but this technique is not perfect. I am here to give you more.

You will find here what you need to be careful with, false friends and the most common mistakes of French language learners, so you can avoid them!

Today we will see the most common mistakes about Vocabulary in French


Since English and French have thousands of common words, it is easy for people with an English background but tricky at the same time. Words may look alike but do not have the exact same meaning. These words are called False Friends.

However, there are English words that can be used in French. Such words are often not adapted to the context or are usually used in a different language level. They are frequently used in a formal context instead of spoken French. For instance: politics, economics, law and diplomacy.

Below is a short list of common mistakes of French learners.

– “Visiter” (to visit) for “rendre visite à quelqu’un

Visiter is used for monuments, countries, or places where you can enter.

  • Je visite ma mère” is wrong (and weird)
  • Je rends visite à ma mère” is right (and nice for your mom)

– “J’ai réalisé” (realize) for “je me suis rendu compte, je me suis aperçu

Réaliser is less common, more formal and also means Fairein a more formal way.

– “Commun” (common) forrépandu/courant

Les gens qui parlent anglais, c’est très répandu, c’est très courant.

– “Actuellement” (actually) for “en fait

A classic mistake even made by French people. Remember this one as it is frequently used! “Actuel” means “Present; Currently” 

– “Société” (society) / “Compagnie” (company) for “entreprise

  • Société (society) is used but more towards describing the type of legal entity.
  • Compagnie (company) can be used for specific fields, like airlines (Compagnie Aérienne).
  • Entreprise is most commonly used when talking about a job.

– “Classe” (class) for “cours

Classe exists in French but it means classroom. So if you attend a class, you’ll say “Je vais assister à un cours”.

– “Opportunité” (opportunity) for “la chance, l’occasion

“Opportunité” is too formal. It is also used for an important job opening. For example, “une opportunité professionnelle”, “une oportunité financière”.

– “Spécifique” (specific) for “particulier

“particulier” sounds just more natural and less formal.

– “Journée” (journey) for “voyage

“Journée” is “a day, a day’s work”.

– “Attendre” (attend) for “assister à

“Attendre” is “to wait”, “J’assiste à un cours”

– “Retirer” (to retire) for “prendre sa retraite

“Retirer” is “to withdraw”, “Je prends ma retraite”

– “Location” for “situation

“Une location” is “a renting”, “La Tour Eiffel est située au sud de Paris”.

Don't get fooled again!

"The most COMMON MISTAKES of French Learners!"

3 thoughts on “Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #1 Vocabulary”

  1. Pingback: Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #2 Grammar – It's French Juice!

  2. Pingback: Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #3 Grammar (Again!) – It's French Juice!

  3. Pingback: Learn French: The Most Common Mistakes! #4 Pronunciation – It's French Juice!

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