Faux amis (pronounced fo.z‿a.mi).

The classic definition of a false friend is; a pair of words in different languages or dialects, that look similar and may be related but that differ significantly in meaning.

I always encourage my students to recognise the fact that they already have a large knowledge of French vocabulary. Think of all the French words commonly used today in English; avant-garde, carte blanche  and cliché to name but a few! Then add in most words with the suffixes -ation/information – l’information, -tion/acceleration/l’accélération, ssion/passion – la passion, – able/capable-capable, isme/racism-le racisme etc., and you have quite a repertoire of French vocabulary.

However, watch out, it does not mean that this works all the time! 

While many words look and sound alike in both languages and often mean the same thing, there are always of course, exceptions to this rule. 

Faux amis – false friends: These words can easily trick you into saying something embarrassing! They sound similar but mean totally different things!

I am afraid that there is no other way around it, you must learn to recognise them and when to use them.

Here a few useful and fun ones to keep you out of trouble!

actually – en fait, en réalité
actuellement – now, at present

affair – une aventure, une liaison (amoureuse)
une affaire – business, matter

to assist – aider
assister – to attend

bra – un soutien-gorge
un bras – arm

car – une voiture
un car – coach, bus

chair – une chaise
la chair – flesh

coach – un autocar, un car
un coach – trainer, coach

coin – une pièce, une pièce de monnaie
un coin – corner

to demand – exiger
demander – to ask

eventually – finalement, pour finir
éventuellement – possibly, potentially

formidable – redoutable, impressionnant
formidable – astounding, terrific

grave – une tombe
grave – serious

to injure – blesser, se blesser
injurier – to insult

library – une bibliothèque
une librairie – bookshop 

memory – un souvenir, des souvenirs
la mémoire – memory, recollection

money – l’argent
la monnaie – change, currency

to pass an exam – réussir un examen, être reçu(e) à un examen
passer un examen – to take an exam

race – une course (de chevaux, voitures, etc.)
race – breed

store – un magasin
un store – blind, awning

to survey – mener une enquête, faire un sondage, interroger
surveiller – to supervise, to watch, to monitor

tentative – timide, indécis(e), hésitant(e)
une tentative – attempt, try

Contact me for some fun and easy ways to learn French, and most imporantly to make friends with “false friends” in French!

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