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False Friends in Spanish


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Do you understand the idea in language of False Friends? They are words that look similar in both English and Spanish, but have a DIFFERENT meaning.

Example: "sensible" in Spanish doesn't mean "sensible" in English, it means "sensitive"

Or "actualmente" looks like "actually" but no, it means "nowadays, right now"

Confusing, right? That's why they're called False Friends, because they seem to help you out but then leave you saying the wrong thing.

The most dangerous one in a pharmacy is "constipado"! And I'm not going to explain that one, language lovers, you have to check it out yourselves. :wink:

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I didn't know that this is the name for it, but yes, I saw some such words:P.

I do have the same with my native language being close to Serbian, which I'm learning right now. A lot of words are even completely the same sometimes, but mean something different...

Anyway, for that reasons, even when I'm mostly sure in the meaning, I still ask or check in dictionary. I didn't before, and it got me in few funny situations. For example for me it seemed that when people were actually saying that they are "displaying" (items in craft show) they were actually saying that they are "lying" about something...it was funny when I understood my mistake:).

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These words are awful, especially in Spanish considering how many true cognates there are when compared to English.  A couple that I know would be fabricas (factories) and maleta (suitcase).  Cognates help me out a lot, so finding false friends pretty much ruins my day haha

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  • 10 months later...

Yes Constipado = Congested  , but if you know the root of the word and know that it is from Latin,

and also Constipated is from Latin.

But English is a strange language to compare to others, it didn't even have common rules for writing a word until very recently in a language point of view.

English is constructed of all the languages it has encountered and all the people and countries it has had dealing with in the past 800-1000 years.

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The one I find most amusing is constipado which means flu in Spanish but in English it would most likely be assumed to be constipation which is a bit more comedic since it deals with bowels and those tend to make for the most understandable jokes between nations and nationalities.

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Asistencia seems like it would be something about assistance or helping, but instead is attendance. Asistir is to attend and assist is ayudar.  It was confusing for a long time, but it's now the one word that I commonly mix up in English.  I'll often say "how was the assistance?" when asking about attendance.

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NEVER confuse the word embarrassment with the word embarazada. Why? Because embarazada means to be pregnant! If you want to express your embarrassment, use the word avergonzado. If you're a woman and tell your friends that you're embarazada instead of avergonzado, you might give them a shock or extremely confuse them. I'm not sure what the reaction will be if you're a man and you say that, but you'll probably end up confusing a lot of Spanish-speakers, too. Either way, don't make this mistake, to ensure that you don't get embarrassed a second time!

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You should also be careful with the word "excited", because in Spanish it usually means "sexually aroused". It can also be used to refer to a child who's having bursts of activity (maybe after eating too much sugar), but that meaning is not very frequent.

I've seen many funny misunderstandings with this one :)

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