English-French False Friends: Beware of These Tricky Linguistic Pitfalls!

English and French, two prominent languages with rich histories, share a close relationship, especially in their vocabulary. However, despite their apparent familiarity, there is a linguistic caveat that learners must be aware of: the existence of English-French false friends.

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What are English-French False Friends?

False friends, also known as “faux amis” in French are words that seem identical or very similar in both languages but have distinct meanings. These deceptive words can trip up language learners, causing them to use the wrong word in conversation, leading to confusion and sometimes humorous misunderstandings.

Why should we be careful with English-French False Friends?

The presence of false friends can lead to embarrassing mistakes for language learners. Let’s take a look at some examples of how these linguistic traps can cause confusion.

Let’s consider two examples. In English, “sensible” means practical or reasonable, whereas in French, “sensible” means sensitive or emotionally aware. So, complimenting someone as “sensible” in French might be misunderstood as calling them emotional or overly sensitive.

“Attend” is another tricky word. For English speakers, it means to be present at an event. However, “attendre” in French means to wait. Imagine inviting someone to a party and telling them, “I hope you can wait“.

A pictur of the French flag

18 English-French False Friends from A-Z

Now that we’ve told you the risks that French-English false friends involve, let’s delve into a comprehensive list of 20 English-French false friends from A to Z:

1.   Actuellement (French) vs. Actually (English)

French: Actuellement (currently, at the moment)

English: Actually (in reality, in fact)

Example: J’étudie actuellement la médecine. (I’m studying medicine at the moment.)

2.   Blessé (French) vs. Bless (English)

French: Blessé (injured)

English: Bless (to confer divine favour or to wish well-being)

Example: Il s’est blessé en jouant au football. (He got injured while playing football.)

3.   Chef (French) vs. Chef (English)

French: Chef (chief, boss)

English: Chef (a skilled cook)

Example: Le chef de l’entreprise est très compétent. (The boss of the company is very competent.)

4.   Déception (French) vs. Deception (English)

French: Déception (disappointment)

English: Deception (the act of misleading or tricking someone)

Example: Sa déception était évidente après avoir découvert la vérité. (His disappointment was evident after discovering the truth.)

5.   Éventuellement (French) vs. Eventually (English)

French: Éventuellement (possibly, potentially)

English: Eventually (at some point in the future)

Example: Éventuellement, je pourrais envisager de déménager à l’étranger. (Possibly, I could consider moving abroad.)

6.   Fabrique (French) vs. Fabric (English)

French: Fabrique (factory)

English: Fabric (woven material)

Example: Cette fabrique produit des textiles de haute qualité. (This factory produces high-quality textiles.)

7.   Grave (French) vs. Grave (English)

French: Grave (serious, severe)

English: Grave (a burial site)

Example: C’est une maladie grave qui nécessite un traitement immédiat. (It’s a serious illness that requires immediate treatment.)

8. Journal (French) vs. Journal (English)

French: Journal (newspaper)

English: Journal (can mean a newspaper or a daily record of events)

Example: Je lis mon journal tous les matins. (I read my newspaper every morning.)

9. Kiosque (French) vs. Kiosk (English)

French: Kiosque (newsstand)

English: Kiosk (a small open-fronted hut or booth)

Example: J’achète souvent des magazines au kiosque près de chez moi. (I often buy magazines at the newsstand near my house.)

10. Location (French) vs. Location (English)

French: Location (to rent or hire)

English: Location (place, position)

Example: Nous avons trouvé une belle location en bord de mer pour les vacances. (We found a beautiful rental by the sea for our vacation.)

11. Monnaie (French) vs. Money (English)

French: Monnaie (change – coins)

English: Money (refers to the broader concept of wealth and currency)

Example: J’ai besoin de monnaie pour acheter une boisson au distributeur. (I need some change to buy a drink from the vending machine.)

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12. Notice (French) vs. Notice (English)

French: Notice (an instruction manual or a written announcement)

English: Notice (to become aware of something)

Example: Avez-vous lu la notice avant de monter l’étagère? (Did you read the instruction manual before assembling the shelf?

13. Préservatif (French) vs. Preservative (English)

French: Préservatif (condom)

English: Preservative (substance used to prevent decay or spoilage)

Example: Assurez-vous d’utiliser un préservatif pour une protection efficace. (Make sure to use a condom for effective protection.)

14. Quittance (French) vs. Quit (English)

French: Quittance (receipt, discharge)

English: Quit (to leave or resign)

Example: Après avoir remboursé le prêt, il a reçu une quittance de la banque. (After repaying the loan, he received a receipt from the bank.)

15. Sensible (French) vs. Sensible (English)

French: Sensible (practical)

English: Sensible (sensitive)

Example: Il est sensible aux besoins des autres. (He is sensitive to the needs of others.)

16. Tissu (French) vs. Tissue (English)

French: Tissu (fabric, cloth)

English: Tissue (thin, woven fabric or a group of cells forming a structure)

Example: Ce tissu est doux et agréable au toucher. (This fabric is soft and pleasant to the touch.)

17. Usage (French) vs. Usage (English)

French: Usage (habit, custom)

English: Usage (the way something is done, e.g., French etiquette)

Example: Les usages varient selon les différentes cultures. (Customs vary according to different cultures.)

18. Tentative (French) vs. Tentative (English)

French: Tentative (attempt, try)

English: Tentative (provisional or uncertain)

Example: Il a fait plusieurs tentatives avant de réussir l’examen. (He made several attempts before passing the exam.)

Learning a new language can be an exciting and rewarding experience, especially when languages like English and French share so many similarities. However, English-French false friends can pose linguistic challenges, leading to amusing and sometimes awkward misunderstandings.

By being aware of these deceptive French-English false friends, language learners can navigate the intricacies of both languages more effectively and communicate with greater clarity and accuracy. So, embrace the linguistic adventure and watch out for these trickers as you embark on your language-learning journey!

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