The French term “faux amis” ou “faux-amis” was popularized by the work of Maxime Kœssler and Jules Derocquigny, “Les faux amis ou les entrails du vocabulaire anglais”, published in 1928 by Vuibert editions . The equivalent English expression is false friends.
False friends are words that appear similar in French and in English, but have a different meaning.
We are going to see a list of twenty false friends in French to watch out !
What is a false friend in French ?
Despite having same or similar spellings, words in English and French can sometimes be different parts of speech. Although we use a lot of English words in French, French and English have hundreds of cognates. It means that words look and/or are pronounced alike in the two languages including :
true (similar meanings)
false (different meanings)
semi-false (some similar and some different meanings).
So beware of the tricky false friends. If used wrongly, these words can be quite embarrassing in job interview, at work and in everyday situations ! And the same goes with funny French idioms with colours.
False friends in French to remember : 10 examples with nouns
(FR) (une) Tentative = an attempt
(EN) Tentative = provisoire ou hésitant
Top False Friends in French with verbs
(FR) Achever = to finish, complete
(EN) to Achieve = réussir à, parvenir à quelque chose (but)
(FR) Attendre = wait
(EN) to Attend = assister à, participer à
(FR) Avoir envie de = want something
(EN) to Envy = jalouser
(FR) Délivrer = to set free, to relieve
(EN) to Deliver = livrer, distribuer
(FR) Prévenir = to warn
(EN) to Prevent = empêcher, éviter
(FR) Rester = to stay
(EN) to rest = se reposer
(FR) Supplier = to implore
(EN) to Supply = fourni
(FR) Surveiller = to watch or monitor
(EN) to Survey = examiner, questionner
(FR) Supporter = to put up with
(EN) to Support = soutenir quelqu’un ou quelque chose
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