French mnemonics

When I came back to seriously working on my French after many years of neglecting, I found there were some words and phrases I could not get correct without checking every time, and so I started to try making mnemonics for myself to get acceptably consistent.

Of course there are some I was taught that still stick in my mind.

And there are one or two I am trying out to see if it improves my students’ accuracy, especially when it comes to tenses.

Here’s my top five for starters.

je m’appelle

I couldn’t get my head around the spelling of this so made up a rhyme:

When you spell
qui s’appelle
It’s got two Ps
and it’s got two Ls

(My students now always spell it with two Ps and two Ls, but still manage a dazzling array of different combinations of other letters, spaces and apostrophes, so we are not out of the woods yet. Gemappllle!)


Never sure of the spelling of this one, especially the n and the g. You just have to remember you can’t get to 20 without having some vin.

There’s an R in futuRe

Almost universally we teach the futur proche these days instead of the real future tense, and students need to use the correct form of aller along with the infinitive: je vais faire mes devoirs or je vais jouer au foot. There are many ways of getting it wrong but a common one is to use a conjugated form of the verb: je vais joue. So I tell them you can’t have futuRe without R – you need the form of the verb with an R at the end. A little complicated by RE verbs, but if they’re far enough through to be using those as well, they can probably cope.

Where wears a hat

Ou and où get mixed up. They are or and where. But which witch is which? I was taught that the longer word (in English) has the accent but where wears the hat is quite nice too.

I prefer wears a hat too

Je préfère needs accents either side of the F that form a hat. This gets messy when students have both je préfère and ma couleur préférée in their Wortschatz.

Have you got any awesome mnemonics? Feel free to add them in the comments.


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