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False friends


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All languages have false friends - words which look like they mean one thing, but actually don't. Some of the most common ones which cause problems are:

"Sensible" = sensitive. "Sage" = sensible.

"Actuellement" = currently. "En fait" = actually.

"Réunion" = meeting. "Retrouvailles" = reunion.

"Librairie" = book shop. "Bibliothèque" = library.

There are many more. Can anyone add to the list?

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I always like/ remember célibataire because it doesn't actually mean celibate, but instead means single. I'm having a hard time coming up with others off the top of my head, but that probably just means I need to hit the books again :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

There are so many false friends between English and French due to the history of borrowings between the two languages.

One that still confuses me from time to time is "assister" which most of the time means "to attend, to go to" in English. And of course "attendre" is not to attend but "to wait"

And with the new movie adaptation of Les Misérables: "misérable" in French means "destitute, shabby" and not "sad, depressed" like it does on English.

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  • 2 months later...
Scribendi: World-Class Editing and Proofreading

Here are a few more that I remember or have learned:

"Crayon" = pencil. "Crayon de couleur" = crayon.

"Entrée" = appetizer. "Plat principal" = entrée (main course).

"Pièce" = room. "Morceau" = piece.

"Raisin" = grape. "Raisin sec" = raisin.

"Blesser" = to hurt. "Bénir" = to bless.

"Collège" = high school. "Université" = college.

"Librairie" = bookstore. "Bibliothèque" = library.

These false cognates can really be confusing to the beginning learner. Although a lot of the words have similar meanings and spellings in both English and French, there are several that are tricky because they don't mean what the English learner thinks they mean.

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  • 7 years later...

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