'Je Suis Fini': Don't Make This Mistake in French

Never say 'je suis fini' unless you're dying or all washed up

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To say Je suis fini in French is a serious mistake and one to be avoided. 

This mistake is caused in part by the fact that in the English translation "finished" is an adjective, while in French it's the past participle of a verb. So when you want to say "I am finished," it seems logical to translate that as "Je suis fini." Unfortunately, this is quite a dramatic thing to say in French and it means "I am dead," "I'm finished!" "I'm done for!" "I'm ruined!" or "I'm all washed up!"

Imagine the look on your French girlfriend's face if you say, "Je suis fini!" She'll think you're about to expire! Or she'll burst out laughing at your mistake. Either way, not so good.

Never use être fini and ne pas être fini when referring to people, unless you have something pretty earth-shattering to announce or you're maliciously insulting someone.

To avoid this scenario, think of the English as "I have finished" instead, and this will remind you that you need to use the passé composé in French and that the auxiliary verb for finir is avoir, not être. Thus, avoir fini is the correct choice.

Even better, use the colloquial avoir terminé, especially when referring to the completion of a task or activity. For instance, if a waiter asks if he or she can take your plate, the correct (and polite) expression is: “Oui, merci, j’ai terminé.” 

The Wrong Way and the Right Ways

In brief, these are your options:

Avoid using finir with être: 

  • Être fini > to be done for, washed up, finished with, ruined, kaput, dead, or dying. 

Choose verbs with avoir:

  • Avoir fini > to be done, to be finished
  • Avoir terminé > to be finished, to be done

Examples of 'Je Suis Fini'

  • Si je dois les rembourser, je suis fini. > If I have to refund their money, I'm done.

Examples of 'J'ai Fini'

  •  J'ai donné mon évaluation, et j'ai fini. > I gave my assessment, and I'm done.
  • Je l'ai fini hier soir. > I finished it last night.
  • Je l'ai fini pour ton bien. > I finished it for your own good.
  • Grâce à toi, je l'ai fini. > Thanks to you, I finished it.

Examples of 'J'ai Terminé'

  • Je vous appelle quand j'ai terminé. I'll call you when I'm done.
  • Donc je l'ai terminé au bout de quelques jours. > So I finished it in a couple days.
  • J'ai presque terminé. > I'm nearly finished.
  • Ça suffit, j'ai terminé. > That's all; I'm done.
  • J'ai adoré ce livre. Je l'ai terminée hier soir. > I loved this book. I finished it last night. 
  • Je suis bien soulagé d'en avoir terminé avec cette affaire. > I'm so relieved to have seen the end of this business.
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ThoughtCo. "'Je Suis Fini': Don't Make This Mistake in French." ThoughtCo, Apr. 8, 2018, thoughtco.com/je-suis-fini-french-mistake-1369470. ThoughtCo. (2018, April 8). 'Je Suis Fini': Don't Make This Mistake in French. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/je-suis-fini-french-mistake-1369470 ThoughtCo. "'Je Suis Fini': Don't Make This Mistake in French." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/je-suis-fini-french-mistake-1369470 (accessed May 24, 2018).