Twenty French False Friends

Avoiding common mistakes in French

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.

In many cases, despite having the same or similar spellings, the words in English and French can even be different parts of speech. 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)
  • semi-false (some similar and some different meanings). 

So beware of the tricky faux amis. If used wrongly, these words can be quite embarrassing in job interview, at work and in everyday situations !

Here is a first list of 20 common French false friends that I often get during my French classes in Paris.

Let’s play and see how many you already knew 🙂

man reading book in french library

(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) (être) Blessé = injured, wounded
(EN) Blessed = béni, bienheureux

(FR) (un) Coin = corner
(EN) Coins = pièces de monnaie

(FR) (une) Déception = disappointment
(EN) Deception = une tromperie

(FR) (avoir) Envie (de) = want something
(EN) Envy = to be jealous

(FR) Finalement = eventually
(EN) Finally = enfin

(FR) (des) Fournitures = supplies
(EN) Furniture = des meubles

(FR) (une) Grappe = a bunch, cluster
(EN) Grape = du raisin

(FR) (un) Habit = clothes, dress
(EN) Habit = une habitude

(FR) (une) Injure = to insult
(EN) to Injure = blesser, nuire

(FR) (une) Journée = a day
(EN) Journey = (un) voyage

(FR) (une) Location = a rental
(EN) Location = un lieu

(FR) (la) Monnaie = currency in coin, change
(EN) Money = de l’argent

(FR) Prévenir = to warn
(EN) To prevent = empêcher, éviter

(FR) (une) Réunion = (work) meeting
(EN) reunion = regroupement, retrouvailles

(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) Support = soutenir quelqu’un ou quelque chose

(FR) (une) Tentative = an attempt
(EN)  Tentative = provisoire ou hésitant

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *