5 Faux Amis to Watch Out For Posted by Elizabeth Schmermund on Apr 20, 2015 in Grammar
Les faux amis, or false friends, are words or phrases that look the same or very similar in one language, but differ greatly in meaning. These are also known, more technically, as false cognates.
Les faux amis can be tricky for many levels of French learners and are made even trickier by the fact that English and French share so many roots (and words). Many of these roots and words in English and French share similar meanings, so it can certainly be difficult to recognize the cases where they do not, in fact, mean the same thing. For example, une librarie is a bookstore and not, in fact, a library (which would be une bibliothèque).
Here are five common faux amis (in all the examples below, the French word comes first, followed by the English word):
This is, perhaps, the most common faux ami. Actuellement means “currently,” and the adjective actuel means “current”. If you want to say “actually,” you could use en fait instead.
In fact, preténdre CAN mean “pretend,” but this is not its common meaning. Rather, preténdre means to claim or assert something. For example, il prétend jouer au piano means “he claims to play piano.” If you want to say “pretend” in French, use faire semblant instead.
In French, attendre means to “wait,” although it unfortunately sounds very much like the English word “attend.” If you would like to say that you are attending a conference, for example, you would use the verb assister. For example: Elle assiste à une conference aujourd’hui.
In French, monnaie refers strictly to change or loose coins. It does not mean the more general concept of money. Rather, “money” in French would be l’argent.
Demander is the common verb used for “to ask.” It does not mean “demand,” which carries more force with it. If you want to say “demand” in French, use the verb exiger. You can also use it as an adjective: Elle est très exigeante means “she is very demanding.”
Can you think of any other faux amis?
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The word “preservative”, I think.
@Katherine Yes, Deny and Katherine, préservatif is a faux ami native English speakers should look out for!
Éventuellement / Eventually
As a French native speaker, the sentence “Eventually he died” sounds funny to me.
Sensible / Sensitive
Perceptible / Sensible
“Rester,” to stay or remain, not the same as the English “rest,” to relax or sleep. For example, the French title of the song “stand By Me” is “Reste avec moi.”