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Raciel Hernández
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Spanish false friends to avoid at all costs!

But what is a cognate? Well, a cognate is a word that is not only written practically the same, but also has the same meaning as in another language. For instance, ‘terrible’ and terrible, ‘minute’ and minuto, ‘idea’ and idea, ‘sofa’ and sofá, etc.
Now, false cognates are words that have quite similar spelling and pronunciation from one language to the other, but whose meanings are completely different. Not by coincidence they are also known as falsos amigos or false friends. Just like a mischievous enemy can lead us to funny misunderstandings.
There are a lot of false cognates shared by Spanish and English, and chances are that you have been using them without even knowing. But don’t worry! I’ve got your back. Read on to find out which false friends you should avoid no matter what to avoid finding yourself in awkward situations.
Embarazado/a 
What you think you are saying: Embarrassed
What you are really saying: Pregnant
What you should be saying: Avergonzado/a, apenado/a
Sopa
What you think you are saying: Soap
What you are really saying: Soup
What you should be saying: Jabón
 
Carpeta
What you think you are saying: Carpet
What you are really saying: Folder, file
What you should be saying: Alfombra
 
Bizarro/a
What you think you are saying: Bizarre
What you are really saying: Bold, courageous; although today this is being used by some Spanish-speakers as a synonym of ‘weird, strange’
What you should be saying: Extraño/a, raro/a
 
Actualmente
What you think you are saying: Actually
What you are really saying: Currently
What you should be saying: En realidad, de hecho
 
Delito
What you think you are saying: Delight
What you are really saying: Offense, crime
What you should be saying: Deleite, placer
 
Terrorífico/a
What you think you are saying: Terrific
What you are really saying: Frightening, horrific
What you should be saying: Increíble, estupendo/a, bárbaro/a
 
Sensible
What you think you are saying: Sensible
What you are really saying: Sensitive
What you should be saying: Sensato
 
Cuestión
What you think you are saying: Question, synonym of ‘inquiry’
What you are really saying: Issue, problem, matter, key subject
What you should be saying: Pregunta, interrogante
 
Eventualmente
What you think you are saying: Eventually
What you are really saying: Possibly
What you should be saying: Finalmente, al final
 
Éxito
What you think you are saying: Exit
What you are really saying: Success
What you should be saying: Salida
 
Realizar
What you think you are saying: To realize, to become aware of something
What you are really saying: To make, to do, to carry out
What you should be saying: Darse cuenta (de algo), percatarse (de algo)
 
Fábrica
What you think you are saying: Fabric
What you are really saying: Factory, (manufacturing) plant
What you should be saying: Tela, tejido
 
Excitado/a
What you think you are saying: Excited
What you are really saying: Aroused
What you should be saying: Emocionado/a
 
Chocar
What you think you are saying: To choke
What you are really saying: To shock; to crash into something
What you should be saying: Ahogar(se), extrangular
 
Suceso
What you think you are saying: Success
What you are really saying: Event, happening
What you should be saying: Éxito
 
Molestar
What you think you are saying: To harass, to molest (sexually)
What you are really saying: To annoy, to disturb
What you should be saying: Abusar (sexualmente) de alguien, acosar
 
Introducir
What you think you are saying: To introduce (someone to someone else)
What you are really saying: To put in/into something, to insert
What you should be saying: Presentar (a alguien)
 
Recordar
What you think you are saying: To record
What you are really saying: To remember
What you should be saying: Grabar
 
Contestar
What you think you are saying: To contest
What you are really saying: To answer (back), to reply
What you should be saying: Protestar (contra algo), refutar, impugnar
 
Actual
What you think you are saying: Actual
What you are really saying: Current, present
What you should be saying: Real
Largo
What you think you are saying: Large
What you are really saying: Long
What you should be saying: Grande; numeroso/a; amplio/a
 
Preservativo
What you think you are saying: Preservative
What you are really saying: This word is most commenly used as a synonym for ‘prophylactic’ or ‘condom’
What you should be saying: Conservante
 
Right from the beginning, we detect the notable differences between seemingly related words. However, there lies the beauty of understanding cognates: they will let you get a good grasp of the many nuances that Spanish contains.

May 5, 2020 3:25 PM
Comments · 2
Es muy útil para mi.Muchas gracias!
May 5, 2020
Great information, thanks for sharing.
May 5, 2020
Raciel Hernández
Language Skills
English, Spanish
Learning Language
English