Special concerns for tutoring in French

by Sara Hasson, class of '01

Common Mistakes students make:

Imparfait vs. Passé Composé:
Of course one of the biggest mistakes students make is in terms of this confusing subject. Just try to remind them of the rules and ask them about the context of their sentence. Also many times students think that if they want to express the idea of “was doing something” they have to use etre and then the verb (i.e.) je suis parler. Obviously, this should be in the imparfait, but many students don’t understand that the imparfait expresses this idea.

Passive Voice:
the biggest problem here is that students forget that it requires agreement between the subject and the past participle (i.e.) Les paroles sont parlées. (because paroles is feminine and plural). Students also confuse this rule because they think that only certain verbs can use etre, when in reality every verb can be used with etre because the verb is, in a sense becoming an adjective. For example, a student may write, le livre a écrit, when really they want to say le livre est écrit, even though the verb écrire is conjugate with avoir in the past.

Students often want a rule to tell them which verbs are followed by a pronoun, and since there isn’t one, you just have to tell them to look it up These are the most common verbs that students forget to follow with a preposition:

Aider à
S'amuser à
S'interesser à

Continuer à
S'habituer à

Commencer à
Reussir à

Décider de
Empecher de
S'occuper de

Essayer de
Demander de

Permettre de
Refuser de

Demander à qn. de faire

Permettre à qn. de faire

Promettre à qn. de faire

This topic is always difficult and often students just throw in a lui or le wherever they think they need to. Just remember to tell them that if the verb they are using is followed by à, then they will replace the object with lui or leur. If they verb they are using does not require the preposition à, then they will use le, la, les.

Demonstrative pronouns:
The idea of “it” in French is expressed differently and students often don’t know the differences.

If the “it” refers back to an idea already expressed then we say,

Ce + etre + adjective+ à + infinitive

If the “it” which doesn’t refer to a previous idea then,

Il + etre + adjective + de +infinitive