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‘Malgré que’ and other language mistakes even French people make

Native French speakers do make errors. Malgré que vous soyez Américains ou Britanniques, do not make them too

Avoid making common grammar mistakes in French Pic: Lamai Prasitsuwan / Shutterstock

Perhaps you have been in France for some time and have mastered much of the grammar, vocabulary and even linguistic exceptions of the French language. Congratulations.  

But now that you have entered the world of French proficiency, do not fall into the trap of copying some ‘new’ expressions you may hear over the radio, TV shows or read in books and online, as they may not be correct. 

Some are grammatically wrong but have somehow managed to enter into daily conversational French.  

The Connexion helps you avoid some of the common grammar mistakes French people make by listing them below. 

Malgré que

This is the most obvious and painful to the ears. It is still commonly used by French people both in speaking and writing even though many would not admit to it. 
The reason behind the mistake is not clear.

It was first used in the short-novel ‘Carmen’ by writer and historian Prosper Merimée in 1847, according to the Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales, a French organisation which publishes linguistic data and information online.

French people use malgré que to mean bien que, alors que, dans le même temps, as an alternative way to say ‘while’. Malgré que is often employed to separate, distinguish or draw a clear distinction between the first part of the sentence and what follows.

However, l'Académie Française, the French council looking to uphold the French language and its rules, said the substitution in meaning between malgré que and bien que is to be avoided. Likewise, it cannot be substituted by the French quoique (although, even though.)

Satirical site Le Gorafi, similar to The Daily Mash or The Onion, ran a fake study about French people and their grammar mistakes under the joke headline (to emphasis) the point:

‘70% des Français ne maitriseraient pas la langue française malgré qu’ils sont allés à l’école’ (70% of French people do not master the French language despite having gone to school.)

The correct form is malgré le fait que.

You may also see the word malgrés written in French. Note that is a common mistake, the word malgré is irregular and does not take an ‘s’ when plural.

Qu’ils/elles croivent

No, the plural form of croire (to believe) does not take the letter -v between the letter -o and -i. The correct form is qu’ils/elles croient.
Il ne faudrait pas qu’ils croivent que les gens s’en moquent.’ is wrong
Il ne faudrait pas qu’ils croient que les gens s’en moquent’ is correct.
(They shouldn’t think that people don’t care)

Le Gorafi also ran a satirical article on the decision from the Académie Francaise to ‘validate’ the expression. 


Some French people confuse j’avais (the imperfect form of to have) with j’aurais (the conditional tense form of to have.) 

The mistake is famous for appearing in ‘War of the Buttons’, a 1962-French movie directed by Yves Robert.

The mistake appears in a scene where children are seen lined-up hiding behind a wall before one shouts: Si j’aurais su, je serais pas venu (If I had known, I would not have come) when the correct French is si j’avais su, je ne serais pas venu.

Sentence at 0’07:

Au coiffeur / chez le coiffeur

People go chez le coiffeur and not au coiffeur.

‘Je reviens dans une heure, je vais me faire couper les cheveux au coiffeur’. Wrong.

‘Je reviens dans une heure, je vais me faire couper les cheveux chez le coiffeur. Correct. (I will be back in an hour. I am going to get my hair done at the hairdressers / barbers)

Excessive accumulation of first person

This is a technical point perhaps more difficult to spot for English-speaking natives as it is not a grammar error per se. 

French people can tend to overuse words, expressions and phrasing at the start of sentences that could have been shortened with a single -je (I.)

Sentences often start by : ‘Moi, je pense que…’ (I, myself think that…), “Pour ma part, je dirais que’ (On my own, I would think that…) ‘En ce qui me concerne, je…”, (As far as I’m concerned, I…), ‘Personnellement, moi-même, je…’ (Personally, myself, I…)

Try it yourself by adding as many formulas as you can, like below :

Pour ma part, en ce qui me concerne, moi, je pense personnellement que….

The above sentence only means : “I… [waiting to insert an idea.]”

Too many similar words

Similar to the above, we have expressions including the annoying grammar mistakes which accumulate words with similar meaning. In short, the speaker is being verbose, unnecessarily repeating words with the same meaning.

The one I cannot wrap my head around is ‘au jour d’aujourd’hui’ (‘As of today’ but technically translated as ‘today’s day’), an expression often used as a sentence-starter as in: “Au jour d’aujourd’hui, elle ne s’est toujours pas exprimée sur le sujet". (As of today/As of right now, she has not expressed herself on the subject.)

I learned while writing this article that ‘incéssamment sous peu’ is among these expressions, which is one that I use fairly frequently. The expression uses incéssamment and sous peu, which both translate to shortly.

A common mistake is the classic monter en haut and descendre en bas when taking the stairs (Je monte en haut de l'escalier / I’m walking up the stairs); monter on its own means going up and descendre means going down, hence they do not need the addition of haut and bas.

One can argue that descendre en bas is possible, playing on an alternative meaning of bas since it also refers in French to stockings or tights, but this is only in very limited circumstances, and is rather picky.. 


I have tried to come up with the most painful sentence I think any French person could read by combining most of the mistakes mentioned above. 

“Pour ma part, en ce qui me concerne, si j’aurais su que je monte en haut malgré qu’au jour d’aujourd’hui, ils croivent que je suis malade et que je sors d’au coiffeur, je pense que, personnellement, je l’aurais fait moi-même, incessamment sous peu.” 

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