Languages › French French English False Cognates - Faux Amis Common false cognates in French and English Share Flipboard Email Print 'Avertissement' is the French word for 'warning', not 'Advertisement'. Bill Smith/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 French Vocabulary Pronunciation & Conversation Grammar Resources For Teachers By ThoughtCo Updated May 23, 2018 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). A list of hundreds of false cognates can be a bit unwieldy, so here is an abridged list of the most common false cognates in French and English. 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 caractèreRomeo 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 grocerVous 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. Commander vs Command Commander is a semi-false cognate. It means to make an order (command) as well as to order (request) a meal or goods/services. Une commande is translated by order in English. Command can be translated by commander, ordonner, or exiger. It is also a noun: un ordre or un commandement. Con vs Con Con is a vulgar word that literally refers to female genitalia. It usually means an idiot, or is used as an adjective in the sense of bloody or damned. Con can be a noun - la frime, une escroquerie, or a verb - duper, escroquer. Pros and cons - le pour et le contre Crayon vs Crayon Un crayon is a pencil, while a crayon is as un crayon de couleur. The French language uses this expression for both crayon and colored pencil. Déception vs Deception Une déception is a disappointment or let-down, while a deception is une tromperie or duperie. Demander vs Demand Demander means to ask for: Il m'a demandé de chercher son pull - He asked me to look for his sweater Note that the French noun une demande does correspond to the English noun demand. To demand is usually translated by exiger: He demanded that I look for his sweater - Il a exigé que je cherche son pull Déranger vs Derange Déranger can mean to derange (the mind), as well as to bother, disturb, or disrupt. Excusez-moi de vous déranger... - I'm sorry for bothering you.... To derange is used only when talking about mental health (usually as an adjective: deranged = dérangé). Douche vs Douche Une douche is a shower, while douche in English refers to a method of cleaning a body cavity with air or water: lavage interne. Entrée vs Entrée Une entrée is an hors-d'oeuvre or appetizer, while an entrée refers to the main course of a meal: le plat principal. Envie vs Envy Avoir envie de means to want or to feel like something: Je n'ai pas envie de travailler - I don't want to work / I don't feel like working The verb envier, however, does mean to envy. Envy means to be jealous or desirous of something belonging to another. The French verb is envier: I envy John's courage - J'envie le courage à Jean Éventuellement vs Eventually Éventuellement means possibly, if need be, or even: Vous pouvez éventuellement prendre ma voiture - You can even take my car / You can take my car if need be. Eventually indicates that an action will occur at a later time; it can be translated by finalement, à la longue, or tôt ou tard: I will eventually do it - Je le ferai finalement / tôt ou tard Expérience vs Experience Expérience is a semi-false cognate, because it means both experience and experiment: J'ai fait une expérience - I did an experimentJ'ai eu une expérience intéressante - I had an interesting experience Experience can be a noun or verb refering to something that happened. Only the noun translates into expérience: Experience shows that ... - L'expérience démontre que... He experienced some difficulties - Il a rencontré des difficultés Finalement vs Finally Finalement means eventually or in the end, while finally is enfin or en dernier lieu. Football vs Football Le football, or le foot, refers to soccer (in American English). In the US, football = le football américain. Formidable vs Formidable Formidable is an interesting word because it means great or terrific; almost the opposite of the English. Ce film est formidable ! - This is a great movie! Formidable in English means dreadful or fearsome: The opposition is formidable - L'opposition est redoutable/effrayante Gentil vs Gentle Gentil usually means nice or kind: Il a un gentil mot pour chacun - He has a kind word for everyone It can also mean good, as in: il a été gentil - he was a good boy Gentle can also mean kind but in the more physical sense of soft or not rough. It can be translated by doux, aimable, modéré, or léger: He is gentle with his hands - Il a la main douceA gentle breeze - une brise légère Gratuité vs Gratuity Gratuité refers to anything that is given for free: la gratuité de l'éducation - free education while a gratuity is un pourboire or une gratification. Gros vs Gross Gros means big, fat, heavy, or serious: un gros problème - a big/serious problem Gross means grossier, fruste, or (informally) dégueullasse. Ignorer vs Ignore Ignorer is a semi-false cognate. It nearly always means to be ignorant or unaware of something: j'ignore tout de cette affaire - I know nothing about this business To ignore means to deliberately not pay attention to someone or something. The usual translations are ne tenir aucun compte de, ne pas relever, and ne pas prêter attention à. Librairie vs Library Une librairie refers to a bookstore, while library in French is une bibliothèque. Monnaie vs Money La monnaie can refer to currency, coin(age), or change, and money is the general term for argent. Napkin vs Napkin Un napkin refers to a sanitary napkin. A napkin is correctly translated by une serviette. Occasion vs Occasion Occasion refers to a(n) occasion, circumstance, opportunity, or second-hand purchase. Une chemise d'occasion - a second-hand or used shirt. Avoir l'occasion de means to have a/the chance to: Je n'avais pas l'occasion de lui parler - I didn't have a chance to talk to him. An occasion is une occasion, un événement, or un motif. Opportunité vs Opportunity Opportunité refers to timeliness or appropriateness: Nous discutons de l'opportunité d'aller à la plage - We're discussing the appropriateness of going to the beach (under the circumstances). Opportunity leans toward favorable circumstances for a particular action or event and is translated by une occasion: It's an opportunity to improve your French - C'est une occasion de te perfectionner en français. Parti/Partie vs Party Un parti can refer to several different things: a political party, an option or course of action (prendre un parti - to make a decision), or a match (i.e., He's a good match for you). It is also the past participle of partir (to leave). Une partie can mean a part (e.g., une partie du film - a part of the film), a field or subject, a game (e.g., une partie de cartes - a game of cards), or a party in a trial. A party usually refers to une fête, soirée, or réception; un correspondant (on the phone), or un groupe/une équipe. Pièce vs Piece Une pièce is a semi-false cognate. It means piece only in the sense of broken pieces. Otherwise, it indicates a room, sheet of paper, coin, or play. Piece is a part of something - un morceau or une tranche. Professeur vs Professor Un professeur refers to a high school, college, or university teacher or instructor, while a professor is un professeur titulaire d'une chaire. Publicité vs Publicity Publicité is a semi-false cognate. In addition to publicity, une publicité can mean advertising in general, as well as a commercial or advertisement. Publicity is translated by de la publicité. Quitter vs Quit Quitter is a semi-false cognate: it means both to leave and to quit (i.e., leave something for good). When quit means to leave something for good, it is translated by quitter. When it means to quit (stop) doing something, it is translated by arrêter de: I need to quit smoking - Je dois arrêter de fumer. Raisin vs Raisin Un raisin is a grape; a raisin is un raisin sec. Rater vs Rate Rater means to misfire, miss, mess up, or fail, while rate is the noun proportion or taux or the verb évaluer or considérer. Réaliser vs Realize Réaliser means to fulfill (a dream or aspiration) or achieve. To realize means se rendre compte de, prendre conscience de, or comprendre. Rester vs Rest Rester is a semi-false cognate. It usually means to stay or remain: Je suis restée à la maison - I stayed at the house When it is used idiomatically, it is translated by rest: He refused to let the matter rest - Il refusait d'en rester là The verb to rest in the sense of getting some rest is translated by se reposer: Elle ne se repose jamais - She never rests Réunion vs Reunion Une réunion can mean collection, gathering, raising (of money), or reunion. A reunion is une réunion, but note that it usually refers to a meeting of a group that has been separated for an extended period of time (e.g., class reunion, family reunion). Robe vs Robe Une robe is a dress, frock, or gown, while a robe is un peignoir. Sale vs Sale Sale is an adjective - dirty. Saler means to salt. A sale is une vente or un solde. Sympathique vs Sympathetic Sympathique (often shortened to sympa) means nice, likeable, friendly, kindly. Sympathetic can be translated by compatissant or de sympathie. Type vs Type Un type is informal for a guy or bloke. In the normal register, it can mean type, kind, or epitome. Quel type de moto ? - What kind of motorbike?Le type de l'égoïsme - The epitome of selfishness. Type means un type, un genre, une espèce, une sorte, une marque, etc. Unique vs Unique The French word unique means only when it precedes a noun (unique fille - only girl) and unique or one of a kind when it follows. In English, unique means unique, inimitable, or exceptionnel. Zone vs Zone Une zone usually means a zone or an area, but it can also refer to a slum. A zone is une zone.