20 False Cognates Misleading in French

A teacher holding a black board with French and English written with arrows going in opposite directions in front of the camera, with her students in the background

When learning a new language, it is a very human reflex to cling to words that already sound familiar in our own language. Because of common grounds our languages are very likely to contain similar words but our history and cultural references attached different meanings to it. These words are called faux-amis (literally “false friends”) in French and false cognates in English. It is no breaking news, but we thought it was worth sharing a list of the most common misleading faux-amis while learning French.

French Expression English Faux-ami Accurate English Meaning
Actuel / Actuellement Actual / Actually Current / Currently/Presently
Assister à To assist To attend
Attendre To attend To wait
Agenda Agenda Calendar / Schedule / Planner
Blessé Blessed Injured
Caméra Camera Filmmaking camera
Cave Cave Cellar
Coin Corner Coin
Décevoir / Déception Deceive / Deception Disappoint / Disappointment
Demander To demand To ask
Éventuellement Eventually Possibly
Fabrique Fabric Factory
Journée Journey Day
Librairie Library Bookstore
Location Location Rental
Passer un examen Pass an exam Take an exam
Préservatif Preservative Condom
Raisin Raisin Grape
Sensible Sensible Sensitive
Tissu Tissue Cloth

 

Now go ahead and try to make those false friends your most reliable ones. You see what I did there? 🤭

And if you suspect you’re misusing a few more faux-amis because people are looking at you funny, let us know below and we’ll clarify together. 😉


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