'False friends' -Faux Amis
Hey everyone! Bonjour a tout le monde!
You may have noticed that there are some words in two languages which are spelt almost the same way... those are called false friends.
Some of them are listed below-
Edit: Some more of those-
coin | coin (currency) | (around) here -(Thanks WitchofTime!)
demander | to demand (negative expression) | to ask (polite expression) -(Thanks again WitchofTime!)
pain | pain | bread -(Thanks CentricDuero and LeMaitre!)
la glace | glass | ice -(Thanks easuu!)
définitivement | definetly | forever -(Thanks BastouXII!)
la robe | robe (bathrobe) | dress -(Thanks katsushii!)
sensible | sensible | sensitive -(Thanks KevinAlexMathews!)
travailler | to travel | to work -(Thanks ryokouasakura!)
raisin | raisin | grapes -(Thanks owl120!)
entre | enter | between -(Thanks greenfreek!)
maintenant | maintenance | now -(Thanks espi731!)
journée | journey | day -(Thanks trivialproducts!)
publicité | publicity | advertising -(Thank you CenticDuero!)
journal | journal | newspaper -(Thanks grlFR7th!)
déception | deception | disappointment -(Thanks TomHilton1!)
Please help me by adding more of the 'false friends', thanks!
Fallen into actuellement trap embarrassingly often and blesser did look strange too when I first came across it.
At first also travailler was confusing because I kept associating it with travel (and rumoredly I was not the only one).
Years ago when I was writing to my French penpal, I used "actuellement" and thought it meant "actually". In one of her letters, she was asking me, "Qu'est-ce que vous mangez actuellement?" It was confusing for me at first, till I figured out that it meant "now".
In Polish, there is a word: "aktualnie" which means "now". When I was learning English, meaning of the word "actually" was strange for me ;). I understand you, but from the other side ;).
I'll remember not to say "bless you" when I'm in France. I don't want to wish pain on anyone, unless the pain is actually bread.
My favorite Spanish "false friend" is embarazada. No, it's not embarrassed, though you can be if you use it in this context. It means pregnant.
I know, that word!! when i learned the false friends of spanish, embarazada was one of my favourites with pecados and pescados.
That one does take the cake, but another one that always gets me when my students get it confused is "dolor" (pain) for "dollar." At least once a semester I have to point out to someone that if they have "100 dolores," they have a serious medical issue. : )
In French I used to say, when something was very expensive, that it costed X douleurs instead of dollars (which is the French word for pain, or dolor in Spanish). It works in Canada because our currency is also called dollar.
I have two: Coin, which does not mean currency and refers to "around here." For example, one could say "Les gens du coin" to mean "the local people." Demander can also be sorta considered a false cognate. The verb "to demand" in English has a negative connotation that isn't present with the French verb, which is better translated "to ask." For those curious, "exiger" is a good translation of the English verb "to demand."
I didn't know that these could be called false friends, I've always thought that they were called false cognates. Por supuesto mi cognado falso (amigo falso) es embarazada, como siempre :D
embarazada is my favourite one in Spanish! But the source from where i learned them said false friends, i think they've just given it a bit 'morden' touch... :P
They aren't always false cognates. If you look at the history of them, the meanings in English and French, (or English and Spanish) can be related, and often in older English writing can take on the same meaning as the French form. Looking up the history actually helps me to remember the difference. But they can get you into trouble, either way.
I once learned it is wrong to learn what are false friends. Because so you focus on false translations. Just focus on proper translations. :-) So I wan't look at your list ;-)
yes, that's true, but if one doesn't know the meaning of any of the false friends then he should be aware of them, or he will be really embarrassed! I thought of blesser... :P
I have met some of these false friends often, and they constantly try to lead me astray. Thank you!
Great list, thanks.
Should la robe | robe | dress be considered for the list? When I think of robe, I think of a bathrobe.
Funny that 'college' has two (well, several) meanings in different English dialects/cultures, too. For example, in U.S.A. 'college' can mean 'university,' but in the U.K. 'college' means high school (I think so; according to Google, it can mean: 'a private secondary school'). So, now I have to keep in mind three levels of education (college, high school, middle school) when I think of 'college!'
high school (tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades) is high school only in UK, college is the university in both usa and uk.
i think la robe would be good, let me add it!
College in the UK is Sixth form college 16-18 years. America calls Universities Colleges.
Oh sorry, i didn't know that. But 16- 18 is like high school in usa, isn't it? In india, first to fifth grades are in the 'primary' block, sixth to eighth are in the 'middle' block and ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth are in the senior block.
High school is 15-18 in the USA (9th to 12th grade). :) Middle school is 11-14 (6th to 8th grade).
Oh! High school means ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades here in USA! Also, middle school generally means 7th and 8th grades here (sometimes also sixth). Eep, semantics! I'm still learning Englishisms everyday, anyway, when it's my native language... :)
High school is tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades or 'standards' (we use standards instead of grades) in india. middle school is sixth, seventh and eighth and then primary which consists of first to fifth standards.
There's one more : pain. It doesn't sound like the English word 'pain', but for a person who doesn't know French at all, they would think it means 'pain'. :)
Hi I am currently learning Spanish and so far it is good. And I also tried to learn French but it is so hard for me to understand its pronunciation. And tips?
For pronunciation you can see some of my other posts-
And for more tips on French, you can see this discussion-
Also, remember any consonant or the vowel 'e' which comes at the last of a word is generally not pronounced
hmm.. travailler? a lot of people in my class seemed to think it meant to travel instead of to work
Till now, I was like la bague is a bag. xD False friends in Romance languages are slippery. You've to watch out...or face the consequences.
It reminds me of a funny thing that then Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien (Native French speaker who spoke so bad both languages people joked he spoke two second languages and no native one :-)) said after visiting the Vatican and meeting the Pope : "Well, I went to see the Pope and I kissed his bag (meaning bague = ring)..." I don't know if he really said it or not, but it's still funny!
Thanks for the list. I too confuse some words like "maintenant" which I almost always think of "maintenance" in English while it actually means "now".
False cognates like this tend to unravel when you look at the etymology of them. "Main" is a word for 'Hand' and "Tenant" is from 'tenir' which is 'to hold', so it is something like saying "the time currently at hand'. You can even use that in English without much of a strain, eg "at hand, we have several issues to deal with". The closest equivalent in everyday English is probably 'the matter at hand', which generally means 'the current issue', the thing that is being dealt with right now, and if you step back and squint at the meaning, maintenance is the act of dealing with something right now, the act of dealing with what is in hand; it is even subtly reflected in other phrases, when you have lots of maintenance to do, when you want to tell others you are busy right now, you might say "I've got a lot on my hands"
Both the English and French words obviously share the same root, but somehow the respective understanding of what it means culturally diverged hundreds of years ago. I find these kinds of words fascinating,.because the French usage of the word is something very straightforward and everyday, while the English usage is very specific and immovable, yet both uses have perfectly logical explanations. You can't really say one makes any more sense than the other, and you start to realise that you can use a word every single day and not really have to be cognisant of its full meaning and origin. To everyone else, they see a false friend, but to me I just see it as one word that happens to mean something different to different people...
I wouldn't even call 'reunion' a false cognate. A meeting is a reunion and a reunion is a meeting, the languages just differ very slightly about how rare and significant the occurrence of a reunion actually is...
Loved every bit of your explanation! I too tend to analyze words and break them into pieces which helps me learn them better and in my opinion, deeper.
Very good! And yes many words have different but almost the same meanings... and reunion is the best example for that!
I'm not sure if this is a "false friend". I always say "k" which is short for "ok". However it sounds just like "que" in Spanish, which means "what". This has lead to some strange conversations where the person asks me to do something, then I say "k", and they think I said "que" so they repeat what they said!
Poisson is French for fish. It is confusing with the English poison. (Just add an extra s). Thought is meant poison until i learned the food skill.
Actually, "poison" in French is... poison! Just pronounced with a French accent. So be careful what you order in a Sea food restaurant! ;-)
Thanks-I have heard conversations in Epcot in the section of France and i caught the word poisson- i thought it meant that they had poison!
True, and the reason for this is that "journey" actually comes from "journée" (at least according to the OED). It just lost the meanings of "day" and "a day's travel" between the Middle Ages and today.
This is great, and since we are all learning, I thought you might like to know actual only has one "l" en anglais.
Another false friend is journal. It means newspaper. but it is spelled the same way as journal in english
Yes, but journal is the same in French, you only have to specify which kind : journal intime (personal or private journal / diary), journal de voyage (travel log/journal), journal de bord (logbook).
We also use "journal" for periodicals sometimes in English: The Wall Street Journal, academic journals, etc.
One I just learned about while reading French-language TripAdvisor reviews: déception, which translates as disappointment (not deception).
décade | decade | 10-day period (10 years is décennie)
billion | billion | trillion (French alternates groups of numbers between -lion and -liard endings, so a billion is un milliard in French, a quadrillion would be un billard and so on and so forth)
"Coin" can be used to mean "around here" (i.e. les gens du coin), but its primary meaning is "corner". As in the corner of a room, or a street corner.