When translating directly from one language to another just won't work.
I am about to share with you a collection of five common translation mistakes from English to French that will tell you more about the mechanics, and sometimes the philosophy, of the language.
1. When telling your age
Translate: "I am twenty years old"
"Je suis vingt ans" ❌
"J'ai vingt ans" ✅
The verb "avoir" (to have) is used to give the age. In French, we are not our age, we HAVE our age. To be or to have our age ? Which do you agree the most with ?
2. When telling how you are doing
Translate: "I am good, and you? "
"Je suis bien, et toi? " ❌
"Je vais bien, et toi? " ✅
The verb "aller" (to go) is used to tell how you are doing. "Je suis bien" exists but it translates to "I'm feeling comfortable".
3. When telling you feel hot or cold
Translate: "I am hot/cold"
"Je suis chaud/froid! " ❌
"J'ai chaud/froid" ✅
The verb "avoir" (to have) is used to tell how hot or cold you are feeling. "Je suis chaud.e!" exists but it translates to "I'm up for it!" or "I'm down!".
-Tu veux venir au cinéma avec nous? (do you want to come to the movies with us?)
-Je suis chaud! (I'm down!)
4. When you are hungry
Translate: "I am hungry"
"Je suis faim" ❌
"J'ai faim" ✅
The verb "avoir" (to have) is used to say you are hungry. The French are not the hunger, they HAVE the hunger.
5. When telling somebody's profession, nationality or religion
Translate: "She is an actress"
"Elle est une actrice" ❌
"Elle est actrice" ✅
There is no article (une) after subject pronouns (je, tu, il, elle, etc).
An alternate way to say "she is an actress" would be "c'est une actrice", the descriptive way "c'est" literally translates as "it is" and is used with an article and yes we use "it is" to describe people, strange n'est-ce pas? C'est is used over "il/elle est" when adding adjectives to the description. Example: "c'est une actrice célèbre" (she is a famous actress).
6. When you visit someone
Translate: "I am going to visit my sister"
"Je vais visiter ma sœur" ❌
"Je vais rendre visite à ma sœur" ✅
Oh là là ! This mistake might get you some smiles since "visiter" is followed by locations.
You can "visiter une ville" (visit a city) but "visiter ma sœur" sounds wrong since "visiter" brings up an exploration image. Instead, use the formula "rendre visite à" which literally translates as "to give a visit to". But to really make it easier, just use the verb "voir" (to see): "je vais voir ma sœur" is simply a more commonly used way.