In a previous post we provided a list of “Say’s” and “Don’t say’s” of typical French language mistakes that are the result of translating directly and literally from English to French.
These common errors are what differentiate a French native speaker from a foreign French speaker. In this post, we continue with a second list of some of these useful verbs and expressions (published in French Accent Magazine n°28). As it was the case last time, we carefully chose those we hear most often which make a difference to the French native’s ear.
Here is a tricky one! When you wish to express that something feels good, we cannot use the reflexive verb se sentir. We use instead the verb faire followed with du bien.
Taking a nap feels good = Faire la sieste fait du bien.
That feels good = Ça fait du bien.
When you wish to tell someone how you feel, then you can use the verb se sentir:
I feel good = Je me sens bien.
I feel sad = Je me sens triste.
If you wish to express your feeling about a situation you’ve seen or experienced, then you will mostly hear avoir l’impression (to have the impression that) or penser (to think).
1.- I have the feeling that Jill will leave tomorrow = Je pense que Jill partira demain.
In this example, it’s a feeling which comes from analyzing the situation – perhaps Jill is looking into train schedules. It’s a thought more than a feeling.
2.- I have a feeling that you don’t like this picture = J’ai l’impression que tu n’aimes pas cette photo.
In this example, it’s a feeling triggered from an image – perhaps the person who was looking at the picture made a face.
2) Looks good/looks bad
Another one which cannot be literally translated; in this situation, the French will use the phrase avoir l’air.
This picture looks good on this wall = Cette photo a l’air bien sur ce mur.
The film doesn’t looks interesting = Le film n’a pas l’air intéressant.
Note that the verb regarder is used when you are looking at something.
3) To attend something
This is a typical false friend. Depending on the situation, the verb “to attend” in French is assister or aller. Let me remind you that the verb attendre in French means to wait.
I attended La Sorbonne for one year in 1985 = Je suis allé à la Sorbonne pendant un an en 1996.
The Manager attended the staff meeting = Le directeur a assisté à la réunion des employés.
In these 2 examples, the first one expresses a place a person has been to for a certain period of time, therefore the French will automatically use aller. The second one informs us that the Manager attended a punctual event which calls for a more specific verb such as assister.
Another big false friend – it is an easy mistake to make.
Actuellement means “currently” (next point on this list) and “actually” is translated into the following small phrase:
En fait (make sure you pronounce the ‘t’).
Actually, I was not born in Lyon, I was raised there but I was born in Paris = En fait, je ne suis pas né à Lyon, j’ai grandi là-bas mais je suis né à Paris.
If you’ve read point number 4, at this point you already know that actuellement means “currently”.