As a French teacher, I often see the same mistakes in students’ writing. Here are the 5 most common ones, and how to avoid them!
We’ll show you some techniques to make sure you don’t make those spelling mistakes anymore:
- Adverb with one or two “m”?
- The verb “appeler” (to call), with one or two “p” and one or two “l”?
- Aucun vs Aucuns (none)?
- Verbs: -é vs -er?
- How to conjugate the verb “envoyer” (to send) correctly?
Of course, when you speak or when you use the spell checker of your dear word processing software, you won’t really have to ask yourself this question.
But on French exam day or if you want to be able to write quickly and correctly, it’s a good thing to know these rules.
And don’t worry, many French people get it wrong! So, by the end of this article you will be able to write French better than many French people 💪👍
This article was inspired by Bernard Fripiat, author of “L’orthographe, 99 trucs pour en rire et la retenir” (Spelling, 99 tricks for laughing and remembering) and the article in Le Parisien newspaper.
1. One “m” or two “m” to French adverbs?
You know that many adverbs end in “-ment”. But some of them have to be written with two “m” and some with only one.
Ok, but how do I know then?
It’s very simple, all adverbs take only one “m” except (and yes, a grammar rule without an “except” is not a real French grammar rule), except when you hear the sound [A] before the -ment.
Attention, the sound [A], not the letter “a”! And yes, another peculiarity of the French language, but an “e” can be pronounced “a“.
But yes, you know, like in the word “femme“. Well, it’s the same with some adverbs:
“Fréquemment” (Frequently → you hear the sound [A], so two “m “s.
Or, “évidemment” (obviously) and “constamment” (constantly).
But “remarquablement” (remarkably), “vraiment” (really) or “confusément” (confusingly).
Okay? Always only one “m” to the French adverbs, except when you hear the [A] sound just before the [M] sound.
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2. The verb “appeler” (to call)
Number of “p” :
Very simple, always two “p “s!
– Is that sure? There is no “except…”?
– Sure! Always two “p”! … It is with the “l” that it becomes funny 🙂
Number of “l”:
Again, it’s the phonetics that will help you.
a) When you hear goat:
→ you put two “l”.
- in the present tense: il appelle (he is calling)
- in the future tense: elle appellera (she will call)
b) When you hear the cow:
→ you put one “l”.
- in the infinitive: appeler (to call)
- in the imperfect tense: elle appelait (she was calling)
3. Aucun vs aucuns
There is an “except”… And yes, it’s French anyway.
So, none of them ever take an “s”, except… Except when it’s followed by a noun that doesn’t have a singular.
– Does that mean there are nouns that don’t exist in the singular???
– Oops, didn’t I tell you?
For example, in the financial field, “les frais” (fees) or “les gages” (pledges) are always in the plural. So we say :
- aucuns frais (no fees)
- aucuns gages (no pledges)
The little peculiarity of “aucun” that will make you laugh, is that it is in the feminine. You can use “aucun” or “aucune“.
Aucun homme n’est entré ni aucune femme. (No man entered and no woman).
– No, don’t hit me, please!
4. Verbs with -é or -er ?
It’s very easy, really! The question only arises for verbs of the 1st group, i.e. verbs in -er, like “chanter” (to sing), “manger” (to eat), “regarder” (to look), “envoyer” (to send)…
The question of “-é” arises with the past participle. Ok, ok, we’re not going to do a grammar lesson, but just give a technique to know if you put an “e” with accent -é or “er“.
Imagine this sentence:
“Voulez-vous me donner un café ?” (Will you get me a coffee?)
And all of a sudden, you are seized with a huge doubt, do I write “donné” or “donner“???
Use another verb instead of “donner“, for example, the verb “faire” (to do):
“Voulez-vous me faire un café ?” (Would you make me a coffee?)
Does this sentence sound right? So that means I’m using the verb in the infinitive, so “donner” with -er.
“Est-ce qu’il a donné le café au client ?” (Did he give the coffee to the customer?)
“Est-ce qu’il a faire le café au client ?”… Noooo, not possible… “Est-ce qu’il a faire… ?“, even reality TV contestants don’t say that! So, we use the past participle “donné“.
– And the “except”?
– There isn’t one!
– Wow 🙂
5. How to conjugate the “envoyer” (send) correctly?
Strangely enough, the most difficult thing about this verb is to conjugate it well in the present tense, in the forms “je”, “tu” and “il/elle”.
But there’s no trick to it! I assure you, it is a classic 1st group verb.
Reminder: 1st group verb = verb in -er (chanter, manger, regarder…)
- Yes, but it’s the “y” and then we say “un envoi“, “deux envois“, so for the verb, we don’t know anymore…
- Ok, the “y” is no longer there with the forms “je”, “tu” and “il/elle”, and instead it’s an “i”, but for the ending, it’s ULTRA simple: “-e”, “-es”, “-e”.
So, no need to write: “je te fais parvenir” instead of “je t’envoie“, because now you know how to write it 🙂
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the French grammar rules, don’t worry. Just take it one step at a time and focus on mastering one rule at a time.
With a little practice, you’ll be writing like a pro in no time!
And if you need some extra help, be sure to check out our other blog posts or contact us for more information. We’re always happy to help!
Are there any particular French grammar mistakes that give you trouble? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to help you out.
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