Today's post is about a typical French mistake:
Every day I listen to my students telling me, "it's obligatory to..." or "we have the possibility to..." I will admit that in English, grammatically this is not wrong. But we never say it and if you want to speak English more clearly and naturally, you have to stop saying it too.
Why say a huge long sentence when you can just say "You have to..." or "We can..."?
In French you very often say things like, "It's possible to..." or "It's necessary to..." with it as the subject. In English, you can be more personal and use you. In this case you doesn't mean the person you are talking to, but it refers to everyone or anyone. For example: You can get a cup of coffee at the machine (NOT It's possible to get a cup of coffee at the machine.)
So here is my conversion table:
For many of you, the reason you use these sentences is because you are translating from French into English in your heads. To make yourself improve, listen to yourself. The next time you say "It's obligatory to arrive at the office before 9" , stop. And now correct yourself. "You have to arrive at the office before 9." It doesn't matter if you are repeating the same sentence. The more you correct yourself, the more it becomes automatic.
So this week you have to listen to what you are saying, you can correct yourself and one day you'll find you are speaking much more naturally without thinking.
My blog has changed! If you're looking for my English-practice exercises, they're all still here, just look in the archives.
Catherine: blogging about learning, language, culture, France and more...