Dating a French Man: The Pain of French Grammar

Many people were shocked to find out that I mainly spoke in French with my French boyfriend. It was the language that we ‘met in’ and we always found it difficult to speak in English together, so French it was. It was definitely a good way to practice my French, until he decided to break the rules of French grammar….

We were sitting in a pub in London and I had introduced him to the typically British (and Australian) ‘Sunday  Roast’ but the waitress forgot to bring out my sauce.

So as we’re sitting in this pub and I’m waiting, Matthieu tells me “Elle va l’amener” (She’s going to bring it).

Now this post might be difficult for people who don’t study French, but I’ll try to explain why he confused me. Here Matthieu used the verb ‘amener’ meaning ‘to bring’. However in French you only use this verb when you are talking about bringing a person or an animal somewhere. They have a separate verb ‘apporter’ which you use for objects.

So even though in English we can say ‘to bring’ for everything – dogs, cats, flowers, people – in French you have to differentiate between if you are bringing a person/animal or an inanimate object (there’s another two additional verbs which tell you if you are going to bring this object/person and leave it there or stay with it… yeah,, doesn’t learning French sound like fun? *sarcasm*)

Do you have ANY idea how long that took to get into my head? So now that I was really confused I asked him why he chose to use the verb ‘amener’ when referring to the sauce, when amener was only used for people/animals and I was pretty sure the sauce was not a person…

He thought about it for a few seconds and said “You’re probably right (I’m grammatically incorrect) but… it’s doesn’t shock me”

– Hang on. Are you telling me I’ve spent the last few years of my life trying to figure out the four ways I can say “to bring” in French, and figuring out which one to use plus with it’s correct conjugation, and now you’re throwing me off with your misleading grammar?!?

You can’t just break the rules whenever you feel like it!

Poor Charlie Brown… He understands the pain of French grammar too!

Then again I’m sure I’ve made a grammatical error or two in English, despite 13+ years of English education and a Journalism degree… I still mix up ‘effect’ and ‘affect’ and what the hell is the semi-colon really for?

But if someone says ‘writ’ instead of ‘wrote’ or ‘me boyfriend’ instead of ‘my boyfriend’ I feel like punching them… So who decides what the ‘acceptable’ grammatical mistakes are? Which grammar errors are okay as long as you’re not writing an essay, and what others are considered ‘lower class’… and who decided which was was which in the first place?

CONFUSING!!

I still pride myself on having finally learned all the different ways to say ‘to bring’ in French, mainly due to this great blog post about it. As a non-native French speaker I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take the risk of ‘breaking’ the rules in French… but I can mix up ‘effect’ and ‘affect’ as much as I like! 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Dating a French Man: The Pain of French Grammar

  1. Haha. People who date Frenchmen always end up with funny stories. I say just go with the flow! (Though I understand your frustration in trying to learn the correct way to say things). I recently have a revelation about why the French use “Si” after a negative question, and now I can’t help but smile every time I hear it! Such a grammar nerd…

    • Did you know that you don’t say ‘si’ in French-speaking Canada? 🙂 I finally got the hang of saying ‘si’ in French, then I met a French Canadian who replied with ‘oui’ to a negative question. My mind was BLOWN! haha

  2. Well as a French person I wouldn’t be shocked by what he said. It’s casual speech, perhaps to avoid in an essay but it doesn’t feel ‘wrong’ no matter how ‘wrong’ it grammatically may be!

  3. When speaking French, there are mistakes which are unforgivable and mistakes that are so commonly made that they are not considered as mistakes anymore.
    Malgré que has recently become acceptable but it used to be mistake. I still cringe each time I hear or read it.
    The sentence your boyfriend said would be acceptable. However, I don’t think you could use apporter for a person.
    When speaking English, what always gets me confused is bring and take.

    • Thank you for your comment 🙂 I never thought about the difference between ‘to bring’ and ‘to take’, I would probably say its a synonym but I suppose for foreigners there’s probably some examples that make it confusing? The two words that I think are really hard to tell the difference in in English are ‘to speak’ and ‘to talk’ because you can say ‘I’ll speak to him and I’ll talk to him’ but you can only say ‘I speak English’ and can’t say ‘I talk English’. I’m sorry to say I can’t figure out what the rule is, except for that annoying ‘when you’re a native speaker you just know’ rule 🙂

      • That’s what I keep telling my students: don’t try to understand why it is so, that’s just the way it is and you have to accept it 🙂

      • Mind you, my husband is a native speaker but I still teach him English (I have a better understanding of the English grammar than he does)

  4. I don’t feel shocked to what he said, it’s just slang. Indeed, i wouldn’t use ‘apporter’ for a person, either ‘malgré que’, that one makes my ear bleed 😉
    I can notice in the comments that you, english speakers, use “there’s” with plural behind it and this is really opposite of what i learnt 😉

    • haha well, fair enough – maybe we all do it, just to annoy each other! 😉 My housemate is Russian and he gets really annoyed when we don’t say things ‘properly’ and go against English grammar rules.

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