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I have this French teacher and, during one lesson, I corrected her and I was wrong. Then I was arrogant and incorrect and she became angry at me. She ended her rant by saying that I should phrase it more politely (e.g. 'I think there's a mistake' -> 'Why is it?' Or 'What about?').

Later, we were doing "être" perfect tense verbs (Mrs Vandertramp1) and she excluded (rester). Someone said 'What about rester?' and she said yes and corrected it on the board. I then put my hand up and said 'What about passer?'; she said 'I haven't heard of that'.

I then said I saw it on a website and she shouted angrily 'Are you correcting me again?', went on again about how she had a French GCSE and she lived in France for a year and then ended with 'You can trust your website if you want.'.

Now I've looked it up and checked with my dad and they both agree it's to do with a direct/indirect object. I want to clear this up because there is a part of me that always wants to be right and I was (to an extent). It's difficult to diffuse the situation after what happened.

How can I show her that I had learnt from the first time and as a result asked more politely this time and keep her open-minded?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Tinkeringbell, NVZ, AllTheKingsHorses, JAD, Tycho's Nose Nov 27 '17 at 11:49

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    Clarification: are you asking how you should correct your teacher in a class, or after this happened, you want to come to her 1v1 and correct her? – Vylix Nov 27 '17 at 2:46
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    Clarification: Did you apologize after being "arrogant and wrong"? – Kevin Nov 27 '17 at 6:48
  • The question in the title does not match the body. Do you want to politely get back on an earlier discussion or keep arguing with them in class? – JAD Nov 27 '17 at 8:52
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there is a part of me that always wants to be right

I would say to just let it go. Even if you do prove to her that you were correct, she won't think positively of you for it. There is really no benefit for being seen as having been correct in this situation.

I want to show her that I had learnt from the first time and as a result asked more politely this time

She doesn't agree with you on this point. Just be more polite from here on out.

I also want her to keep an open mind.

That isn't really something you can demand of someone, especially of someone in a position of authority.

You will soon (relatively soon anyway) no longer be in this class and this person will no longer be a part of your life. There is no point in pursuing this battle.

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I was a teacher for a while so I can see the point of view of your teacher. Personally I would not have acted as she did but I can understand why someone would.

After your 'rude' approach of correcting her your teacher clearly has you marked in her head as 'one of those students'. Any further correction of yours will be perceived as an attack on her or an interruption of the class, and not as a valid input to the topic. It does not matter if you are correct or not.

After your next French class, you should go to her and first of all apologize for the interruptions of her class and that you did not mean to undermine neither her authority nor her knowledge of the french language in any way. Explain that you are genuinely interested in learning the language and that you merely were trying to find out if something you learned on the internet is true ("passer").

She will hopefully realize that she misunderstood your intentions and see that you are actually one of the good students who takes her class seriously. This changes everything!

Ask her how you can improve your question in french, so that it doesn't come across as rude. The next time you have a similar question you are now able to ask it in a formal way that will not offend her since you can phrase it politely. She will also remember your 1-on-1 talk and see it as a constructive input to the topic, therefore answering it normally without going into defense-mode.

PS: I think you were both right and wrong about 'passer'. There are different meanings of the verb passer, some of them conjugate to je suis passé .. and others to j'ai passé ... This does not affect my answer though :)

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In general, someone in a position of authority usually goes to "defend mode" when you attempt to correct them. Telling them that "It's wrong" or "There must be a mistake" is a big NO-NO!

By telling them that they are wrong, you will be viewed as attempting to undermine their authority and position yourself above them. This is especially true when you do this in public, and especially in front of their subordinates.


A solution to this is to phrase your correction to a genuine question. Let them answer, and you'll gain insight of how open they are to corrections. Drop the question as soon as you notice that they won't likely be open to correction.

You've done right by asking

What about passer?

but the your past interaction might have affected how she respond to your question. As soon as you heard

I haven't heard about that.

you should've tried to drop the question completely.

This is an alternative I frequently use to drop the question, but subtly hint that I have my source:

Oh, I think I've read that somewhere before, but seems I remembered it wrong.


I hope you can fix your relationship with your teacher. All of us need correction and reminder every time, but let's be careful with how we phrase our correction, because people rarely want to be proven that they are wrong.

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    Frankly, I'm baffled with this(and the other similar one) answer. It's not about authority, but about educational process. If a mistake is not corrected, then every student learns wrong, and that reflects poorly on the teacher. Most lecturers I've known are grateful whenever their mistakes are pointed out and fixed expediently. Even if this teacher prefers authority over truth, that is not a "big NO-NO" in general. – Alice Nov 27 '17 at 10:44
  • @Alice I agree that the teacher should've be more open to correction, but you can be tactful when mentioning that you notice something wrong. Directly saying it's wrong is NO! – Vylix Nov 27 '17 at 10:52
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    I guess this may be culture dependent. No teacher I've worked with ever took issue at me or anyone else saying directly something is wrong. Even when it actually isn't wrong, they would resolve misunderstanding, rather than use authority to silence questioning. After all, that's their job. – Alice Nov 27 '17 at 13:20
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After your next class, ask Her anything (related to the class), any human feels happy when giving something to another, actualy they feel superior. Making Her think that She knows things that You don't would restore Her authority on You, and re-establish the correct relationship order (sorry if badly phrased). In French this is called "caresser dans le sens du poil..."

  • FWIW: caresser dans le sens du poil -> cozying up – OldPadawan Nov 27 '17 at 10:41