32 English French false cognates to be aware of

Updated: Sep 13


Learning English French cognates could be a great language learning strategy to quickly upscale your vocabulary. However, you should know that not all of them are true. Les faux amis, literally translated as false friends or fake friends, can be misleading, even deceptive, and you have to watch out for them. Don't take granted words like blesser, bras, sale, or préservatif!





1. What are false cognates or les faux-amis?


Les faux-amis are words that look alike in French and English but convey different meanings. They can be deceptive and if you want to avoid embarrassing situations, it's then important for you to identify them.

By learning them, you will not fall into the mistake of taking a preservative as un préservatif (a condom), like in Emily in Paris TV series (season 1). You will not also be talking about sales when French people are referring to something dirty (sale).


 

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2. Common English French false cognates list


Here is a list of 32 common English French fake friends. In the table below, you have the English word with its translation in French (first column) and the French fake cognate with its meaning in English (2nd column).


Once you will finish learning them, scroll down to take our test and check your knowledge.

English word

French word

1

Actually = en fait

Actuellement = now, at present

2

An affair = une liaison, une aventure

Une affaire = a business, a deal, a matter

3

To assist = aider

Assister = to attend

4

To attend = assister à

Attendre = to wait

5

To bless = bénir

Blesser = to injure, to hurt

6

A bra = un soutien-gorge

Un bras = an arm

7

A chair = une chaise

La chair = flesh

8

A character = un personnage

Le caractère = personality, nature

9

A class = un cours

Une classe = a classroom

10

A coin = une pièce

Un coin = a corner

11

Comprehensive = complet, exhaustif

Compréhensif (ve) = understanding

12

To demand = exiger

Demander = to ask

13

To be engaged = être fiancé (e)

Être engagé (e) = To be committed

14

An evidence = une preuve

Une évidence = an obviouness

15

A figure = un chiffre

La figure : face

16

A grave = une tombe

Grave = serious

17

A habit = une habitude

Un habit = a cloth

18

To injure = blesser

Injurier = to insult

19

A journey = un voyage

Une journée = a day, day time

20

A lecture = une conférence

La lecture = reading

21

Library = la bibliothèque

La librairie = book store/shop

22

Location = un lieu, un endroit, une position géographique

La location = the rent, rental

23

Main = principal

La main = hand

24

A medicine = un médicament

La médecine = medical science

25

Money = l'argent

La monnaie = change, currency

26

Pain = la douleur

Le pain = bread

27

A party = une fête, une soirée

Une partie = a part, a section

28

To pass an exam: réussir un examen

Passer un examen = to take an exam

29

To pretend = faire semblant

Prétendre = to claim, to say

30

A preservative = un conservateur

Un préservatif = a condom

31

To rest = se reposer

Rester = to stay, to remain

32

Sale = les soldes, une vente

Sale = dirty

3. Quiz: How much do you know about English and French fake friends?


Click on START to take the test and discover how much you know about French English false fiends. Your answers will be corrected after each exercise. Happy learning.