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Learning Article : False Friends in French: Watch out for these Words

 

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False Friends in French: Watch out for these Words

"False friends" or "faux amis" are words that look alike but mean, at best, vaguely related things or, at worst, entirely different ones. I will now give you a list to use very carefully, or avoid entirely, when translating in French. They are all false friends. I've written English and French spellings when words look alike ...

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Let me tell you now which word you should use to correctly translate those English words.

- acheive : obtenir, atteindre, réussir
- actually : en fait, à vrai dire
- advertisement : une publicité
- agenda : un ordre du jour
- ancient : antique, très vieux
- argument : une dispute
- bail : une caution
- but : mais
- cap : une casquette (hat) , un bouchon (bottle cap)
- chandelier : un lustre
- coin : une pièce de monnaie
- conductor : un chef d'orchestre
- confectioner : un confiseur de bonbons
- crayon : un crayon de couleur
- delayed : retardé
- envy : envier, convoiter
- fabric : un tissus
- fortunate : chanceux, choyé
- furniture : un meuble, le mobilier
- glass : un verre
- habit : une habitude
- if : si
- injure : blesser
- issue : un problème
- journey : un voyage, un trajet
- lecture : une conférence, sermoner
- library : une bibliothèque
- location : un emplacement
- note (as in bank note) : un billet de banque
- piece : un morceau
- part : une partie
- plume : un bouquet (a handful), une trainée (of smoke)
- prevent : empêcher
- proper : corect, formel, approprié
- replace : remplacer, changer
- sensible : sage, raisonnable
- store : un magasin, entreposer
- tissue : un mouchoir

Great article! I was thinking about the same thing lately. False friends are confusing even they have related meanings, kinda :) 

cent/ cent (hundred)

rose/ rose (pink)

simple/ simple(single)

blank/ blanc (white)

poser/ poser (to ask) 

computer/ compter (to count).... it goes on and on like that :)

Between some of the words are even more confusing for me, because my native language has lots of words derived from French (with their exact meanings), so when I was learning English I had a hard time because of that.

For example;

tr           fr          en

adisyon/ addition/ addition ----adisyon means bill in Turkish so I had to remind myself it doesnt mean                                           bill in English, and now I have to remind myself it means bill in French                                           :) same for;

ajanda/ agenda/ agenda

 

Well, some words have several meanings, like "cent" in French mean both 100 and ¢ (as in the small unit of dollars). So "Cent cents" = 100¢ or 1 dollar. The same is true for "rose" (It both mean pink and the flower so "une rose rose" = a pink rose) and "simple". I did not include that kind of words because they are false friends only in one of their meanings.

 

You are right about "poser" and "blank", they are words I totally forgot about!

 

N'oubliez pas 'Roman'! 

 

And plate/plat. Plate = une assiette. Plat = a dish (content or container) or flat

 

You can add "mammal" to that list.  I thought I was describing bats - mammals that fly - to my friend. Nope. I was raving about flying lady parts.

 

Lol, Diane! Yes, it's "mamifère" in French! :-D

 

Tres bon article, merci!

 

I thought of another false friend: "laid". The French word means ugly. We use it al the time in Quebec (not so much in France where they prefer the word "moche"). When I teach this French word, I usually say "if you are LAID, you don't get LAID" (If you are ugly, you don't get laid). The French word is pronounced "lèh" in the masculine form. "laide, said "lèd" (or like the metal "lead") would be the female counterpart.

 

Another false friend I heard today : famous/fameux. Fameux means  "great" or "known for" (so it's a bit like infamous, but it doesn't have to be negative all the time). We often use in the negative : ce restaurant n'est pas fameux (this restaurant is not great).

You better say "célèbre" or "connu" to translate famous. Ex : Ce restaurant est très connu. (this restarant is very famous) As-tu goûté à sa fameuse tarte ? (Did you try it's signature pie/praised + well known pie?)

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