French Grammar Guide for non-francophones

COMMON ANGLICISMS TO AVOID

Questions about Common Anglicisms

 

Q: Why is it J'ai faim and NOT Je suis faim.

Some expressions that use the verb "be" in English require the verb "have" (avoir) in French. For example, while English uses expressions like I am hungry, I am thirsty and I am afraid (all with the verb be), these use the verb avoir in French, i.e.: J'ai faim, j'ai soif and j'ai peur. We find this same pattern when indicating a person's age. For example, while you would say I am 14 years old in English, this would be expressed as J'ai 14 ans in French.

Q: Why is it ma soeur joue du piano and NOT ma soeur joue le piano?

When you mean "play an instrument", use jouer de; when you mean "play a game/sport", use jouer à.

Q: Why is it j'ai 14 ans and NOT je suis 14 ans?

Some expressions that use the verb "be" in English require the verb "have" (avoir) in French. For example, while English uses expressions like I am hungry, I am thirsty and I am afraid (all with the verb be), these use the verb avoir in French, i.e.: J'ai faim, j'ai soif and j'ai peur. We find this same pattern when indicating a person's age. For example, while you would say I am 14 years old in English, this would be expressed as J'ai 14 ans in French.

Q: Can I write J'ai marché à l'école?

You can write J'ai marché à l'école, but it does NOT mean "I walked to school". Rather, it means "I walked around at school". The correct translation of "I walked to school" is Je suis allé à l'école à pied. In French, it is common to use a general verb of movement, followed by an expression indicating the manner of movement. This same pattern is found with other verbs of motion such as courir and nager.

Q: Why is it j'ai posé une question and NOT j'ai demandé une question?

The French verb demander means "to request" or "to ask for". If you write j'ai demandé une question, it means "I requested a question"!

 
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