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French English False Cognates - Faux amis

Common false cognates in French and English


French and English have hundreds of cognates (words which look and/or are pronounced alike in the two languages), including true (similar meanings), false (different meanings), and semi-false (some similar and some different meanings). My alphabetized list of hundreds of false cognates can be a bit unwieldy, so here is an abridged version of the most common false cognates in French and English.

Actuellement vs Actually

Actuellement means "at the present time" and should be translated as currently or right now. Je travaille actuellement - I am currently working. A related word is actuel, which means present or current: le problème actuel - the current/present problem.

Actually means "in fact" and should be translated as en fait or à vrai dire. Actually, I don't know him - En fait, je ne le connais pas. Actual means real or true, and depending on the context can be translated as réel, véritable, positif, or concret: The actual value - la valeur réelle.

Assister vs Assist

Assister à nearly always means to attend something: J'ai assisté à la conférence - I attended (went to) the conference.

To assist means to help or aid someone or something: I assisted the woman into the building - J'ai aidé la dame à entrer dans l'immeuble.

Attendre vs Attend

Attendre à means to wait for: Nous avons attendu pendant deux heures - We waited for two hours. To attend is translated by assister (see above): I attended the conference - J'ai assisté à la conférence.

Avertissement vs Advertisement

Un avertissement is a warning or caution, from the verb avertir - to warn.

An advertisement is une publicité, une réclame, or un spot publicitaire.

Blesser vs Bless

Blesser means to wound, injure, or offend, while to bless means bénir.

Bras vs Bras

Le bras refers to an arm; bras in English is the plural of bra - un soutien-gorge.

Caractère vs Character

Caractère refers only to the character or temperament of a person or thing: Cette maison a du caractère - This house has character.

Character can mean both nature/temperament as well as a person in a play: Education develops character - L'éducation développe le caractère. Romeo is a famous character - Romeo est un personnage célebre.

Cent vs Cent

Cent is the French word for a hundred, while cent in English can be figuratively translated by un sou. Literally, it is one hundredth of a dollar.

Chair vs Chair

La chair means flesh. A chair can refer to une chaise, un fauteuil (armchair), or un siège (seat).

Chance vs Chance

La chance means luck, while chance in English refers to un hasard, une possibilité, or une occasion. To say "I didn't have a chance to..." see Occasion vs Occasion, below.

Christian vs Christian

Christian is a masculine French name while Christian in English can be an adjective or a noun: (un) chrétien.

Coin vs Coin

Le coin refers to a corner in every sense of the English word. It can also be used figuratively to mean from the area: l'épicier du coin - the local grocer, Vous êtes du coin ? - Are you from around here?

A coin is a piece of metal used as money - une pièce de monnaie.

Collège vs College

Le collège and le lycée both refer to high school: Mon collège a 1 000 élèves - My high school has 1,000 students.

College is translated by université: This college's tuition is very expensive - Les frais de scolarité à cette université sont très élevés.

More French-English false cognates:
Page 1: Actuellement/Actually to Collège/College
Page 2: Commander/Command to Expérience/Experience
Page 3: Finalement/Finally to Occasion
Page 4: Parti/Partie/Party to Zone
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