French Language Blog

Sorry For Le Temps: Lessons From Mistakes Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Grammar

There are many fautes (mistakes) that francophones make in French that are useful. The complicated conjugations also hide how easy things are. Cependant (however), there’s another easy French lesson that is often overlooked!

When francophones speak English, they make fautes that show how they are thinking in French and directly translating their thoughts into English. This always happens when you speak a foreign langauge, but what’s important is how these silly mistakes can be free lessons!

Ces fautes are a look into how the speaker organizes their ideas in their native language!

Voici quelques exemples :

I proposed to him… – Je lui ai proposé…
Faute: Proposer – To offer
Proposer is a false friend that means “to offer” in French.

I’m learning you French – Je t’apprends le français
Faute: apprendre – To teach
Apprendre can mean both to teach and to learn in French.

I am agree – Je suis d’accord
Faute: Être d’accord – To agree
“I agree” in French uses an adjectif rather than just being a verb.

Mail address – adresse mail
Faute: Mail – Email
Mail in French means Email, so your adresse mail is your Email address.

What’s Happen? – Qu’est-ce qui se passe ?
Faute: Present – Present progressive
The present progressive (ing verbs) isn’t used very often in French. Le présent simple is used instead.

Can you explain me? – Est-ce que vous pouvez m’expliquer ?
Faute: M’expliquer – Explain to me
The verb expliquer doesn’t need une préposition in French, but in English it does.

Ces fautes sometimes show up when high profile French politicians speak to the press, often resulting in all of France feeling embarrassed.

Here are some famous examples from former president Sarkozy:

“[We want] to make some money with you for us.” – Nous voulons faire de l’argent avec vous pour nous.
A direct translation of la phrase française (the French sentence).

“Sorry for the time.” – Désolé pour le temps.
Le temps means both time and weather in French.

Sometimes ces fautes are a bit harder to understand. The famous phrase said by Jean-Pierre Raffarin is a perfect example:

“Win, the ‘yes’ needs the ‘no’ to win, against the ‘no’.”

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. Wen-Xuan:

    Ohla c’est complètement vrai lol