Mal vs mauvais (Differences and some exercises)

mal vs mauvais

Like bon and bien, mal and mauvais are also confused by French language learners as they both have similar meanings. In this blog you will learn some tips on how and when to use them. 

Mal (Badly/Poorly/Not well)

Mal is usually an adverb. It describes actions and answers the question "how".

For example:

Il cuisine mal. (He cooks poorly.)

J'ai mal dormi. (I slept poorly.)


Mal is used with some expressions such as "avoir mal à" (to have an ache/a pain)

For example:

Tu as mal à la tête? (Do you have a headache? )

J'ai mal au bras. (I have a pain in my arm.) 

*Mal is invariable, meaning that it doesn't change.


Mauvais (bad)

Mauvais (adjective) describes someone or something. It agrees with the noun.

For example:

Il est un mauvais cuisinier. (He is a bad cook.)

C'est une mauvaise habitude. (That's a bad habit.)


Mauvais (masculine form) is also used with some expressions:

For example:

Il fait mauvais. (The weather is bad.)

Ça sent mauvais. (That smells bad.)


Practice!  (Check your answers below)

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of "mal" or "mauvais".

1) Tu m'as ____ compris.

2) Ça te fait ___ ?

3) Ce n'est pas une ______ idée. 

4) Ce café est _____.

5) L'officier a ___ prononcé mon nom. 


Answer key

1) Mal

2) Mal

3) Mauvaise

4) Mauvais

5) Mal


Check out my book Don't mix them up to learn the differences between the most confusing French word pairs


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