Things not to say in French to save yourself from embarassment.
Think before you speak. We run our sentences on a mental treadmill before saying them out loud to avoid awkward situations. “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it”, but with a new language these little foolish mishaps are easy to come by.
Sometimes in the process of learning a language, we may say something with the right intention and right words only to imply something totally different in the spoken language. French has these pitfalls for new learners as well. After all, French and English are not just the same language with different accents! A novice in French immersion is bound to have a faux amis with words. Coming from the Francophones at French District, here are a few funny ones that can be avoided!
We give you our top French sentences to keep away from, unless of course the situation calls for comic relief! So, what not to say in French…
1. I am so full (Je suis tellement pleine!)
Don’t be surprised if you see some funny or angry faces at a dinner table when you say this. Although this directly translates to “I am so full”, the French speakers think you are saying “I am so pregnant”.
2. I am done (Je suis fini)
Well, to your ears this is “I am done” but unfortunately, to the Francophone’s ears it is “I am dead”.
3. Could you please take me to the Eiffel Tower? (Pouvez-vous me prendre à la Tour Eiffel?)
You can hear this being said around the Eiffel Tower by newbies since they think they are asking “Could you please take me to the Eiffel Tower?”. Think again, because what you are really asking is “Could you have sex with me at the Eiffel Tower?” The correct way to ask for a ride would be “Pouvez-vous m’amener à la Tour Eiffel?”.
4. That’s so exciting (C’est excitant!)
So, you played football or saw a great show and shouted this out thinking “That’s so exciting”. Well in reality you just shouted out “I am so aroused”. Don’t curb your enthusiasm. Just use “C’est super” or “C’est genial” instead.
5. I can’t take it anymore (Je ne peux plus le prendre)
You want to say “I can’t take it anymore” with reference to a problem. However, what you are actually saying is “I can no longer take him along“.
6. Let me introduce you to Mr. Durand (Laissez-moi vous introduire Mr. Durand)
Now, didn’t you want to say “Let me introduce you to Mr. Durand“? We heard, “Let me put Mr. Durand inside you“. You need to use “Je vous présente Mr. Durand” to avoid that gaffe. So much for PG-13!
7. To be a pain in the ass (Etre une douleur dans les fesses)
Unfortunately your well aimed “To be a pain in the ass” ended up meaning “To be a foot-breaker” to us. The correct use is “Etre casse-pied“.
8. Speaking of the devil (En parlant du diable)
You meant to say “Speaking of the devil” but don’t blame us for looking at you with a weird expression since we heard it as “Speaking of the wolf”. The correct phrase is “En parlant du loup”.
9. Goose bumps (Des bosses d’oie)
Your wanting to say “Goose bumps” made us think “Having hen skin“. The term for goose bumps is “la chair de poule“.
10. Give a hard time (Donner un mauvais moment)
You thought you were saying “Give a hard time“. But to us, the above words mean “Giving someone a wire to twist” : “donner du fil à retordre”.
The list of wrong’s can go on. But this is just for laughs. Just beware next time you want to scream out “You suck” in French as “Tu suces”. You could really offend someone there since you are telling them “You suck d*&*#”! 😉