Test: Just how good is your French grammar?

A new French survey has found that the spelling and grammar skills of the French are on the slide, with men particularly worse than women. Try out the test that circulated online in France on Thursday.

Test: Just how good is your French grammar?
The “Voltaire Barometre” was published on Thursday, revealing that the level of French people's grammar has been deteriorating over the past few years.
It noted that the decline was constant in terms of people's social class and their age, but that men performed worse than their female counterparts overall.
Researchers suggested this could be because French women read more than men, particularly thanks to the popularity of “literature that is very feminine”, they told Le Parisien newspaper.
The survey saw 85,000 French people of all ages tested to spot a series of common spelling and grammar mistakes, with the results then compared to 5,000 tests that were carried out in 2010.
Ten of the most common mistakes have been purposely included in this love letter below, published by French newspaper L'Express… how many can you spot? (Answers below).
Good luck
The letter in its correct form (explanations below):
Ma chérie,
J'ai adoré te voir hier.
Notre première rencontre s'est déroulée il y a trois semaines. Depuis ce jour, les rêves que j'ai vu défiler sont identiques, les pensées que j'ai eues se répètent: ton visage les illumine. Quel ravissement! Les idées d'amour sont venues de bon matin. Je cherchais des passions enrichissantes, et tu es apparue! Entends-tu les oiseaux du bonheur? Je suis venu pour les voir. Je sais, on n'y comprend plus rien, mais c'est cela, la passion!
Si tu es accord, je viendrai. Je te le garantis, je ferai mon possible à l'avenir pour combler tes attentes. 
Ton dévoué admirateur… 
1: J'ai adoré [past participle]
2: Notre première rencontre s'est [personal pronoun]
3: les rêves que j'ai vu défiler [Past participle doesn't need to agree before an infinitive]
4: les pensées que j'ai eues [past participle must agree]
5: Les idées d'amour sont venues [verbs taking être in past tense must agree]
6: des passions enrichissantes [Qualifying adjectives must agree]
7: Je suis venu pour les voir [Verb should be infinitive]
8: Je sais, on n'y comprend [needs the negation before the y]
9: Si tu es d'accord, je viendrai [Use future tense after beginning a sentence with si in present tense]
10: Je te le garantis, je ferai [No s needed for future indicative tense] 
1-4 mistakes: You are a French novice, back to class
5-8 mistakes: Well done, you're probably on par with the typical French speaker
9-10 mistakes: Are you French? If not, you could have fooled us. Well done!

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.