Beware of false friends!

February 13, 2019 10:30 am

We all have had to face some “false friends” when it comes to learning a new language,  words that are often confused with a word in another language with a different meaning because the two words look or sound similar (and, sometimes, even exactly the same).

False friends exist for a number of reasons. For example, in some cases, the two words have similar origins but their meanings have deviated over time. In other cases, the words have completely different origins but, because pronunciations and spellings shift gradually, they have both ended up looking or sounding similar.

As you will see from looking at the table below, it is very easy to make some (even very embarrassing!) mistakes. It is, therefore, essential to take care when learning new vocabulary.

FALSE FRIENDWHAT IT LOOKS LIKEWHAT IT IS
GERMAN
Der Chefchefboss/manager
Das Gymnasium/Gymgymgrammar school
Die Fabrikfabricfactory
spendento spendto donate
winkento winkto wave
bekommento becometo receive/get
Die Kautioncautionsecurity deposit (for an apartment) or juridicial bail
Das Giftgiftpoison/toxin
Der Brandbrandfire
Die Aktionactionretail store with a sale / political demonstration
SPANISH
roparopeclothes
libreríalibrarybook shop
chocarchoketo strike / collide
codocodeelbow
enviarenvyto send
groseríagrocerygrossness
introducirintroduceto insert
nudonudeknot
sucesosuccessevent
recordarrecordto remember
ITALIAN
abusareabuseto take advantage of
affrontareaffrontto face
codacodetail, queue
estateestatesummer
fatalefatalinevitable
giocojokegame
ginnasiogymgrammar school
guardareguardlook at
marronemaroonbrown
stampastamppress/print
DUTCH
bevelbevelorder, command
bondbondassociation, federation
brinkbrinkvillage square
dampdampvapor
filefiletraffic jam
feefeefairy
longlonglung
minderminderless, fewer
offeroffersacrifice
poppopdoll
FRENCH
 car car because (formal)
 chair chair flesh
 excité excited aroused
 grappe grape bunch
 location location rental
 money money loose change
 pain pain bread
 sale sale dirty
 sensible sensible sensitive
 slip slip underpants / men’s briefs

 

 

Sources:

https://www.heardutchhere.net/FalseFriends.html

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/false-friend

https://www.lingoda.com/en/blog/false-friends

http://mentalfloss.com/article/57195/50-spanish-english-false-friend-words

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/its-important-to-know-your-false-friends-in-english-and-french/4383604.html

https://www.fluentu.com/blog/german/false-friends-english-german/

https://www.reference.tjtaylor.net/false-friends/

 


Written by Marta Guillén Martínez – Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). She holds a Degree in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Alicante, Spain and she did her European Voluntary Service on communication and european youth mobility in Milan, Italy. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, English and Italian.

 

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