Faux Amis


The good thing about learning French/English is that the two languages share hundreds of words, especially in modern language with shared words like 'weekend' and 'film' which make it easier for French or English speakers to quickly expand their vocabulary in the other language (or if in doubt to use a little guesswork!) However, the only problem posed by this large number of cognates is that just sometimes they are false and they catch us out! To help you out, we have put together a list of the ones which cause the most common confusion.

Actuellement ≠ Actually:

Actuellement = at present or currently. Actuellement elle est en vacances/She is on holiday at the moment. Connais-tu la valeur actuelle de l'euro ?/Do you know the current value of the euro?


Actually = 'in fact' – en fait or en réalité. Actually, I don't know him/En fait, je ne le connais pas.


('Actual' means real or true, while 'actuel' means current or present.)

So: The actual value = la valeur réelle/ La valeur actuelle = the current value


Location ≠ Location


Location (in French) = renting, hire, rental


Location (in English) = emplacement




Inconvénient = disadvantage or harm: Il faut considérer les inconvénients suite à son départ/Il n'y a pas d'inconvénient à venir plut tôt.


Inconvenient = inopportun or peu pratique

Déception ≠ Deception

Une déception = a disappointment


A deception = une tromperie or duperie.


Compréhensif ≠ Comprehensive


Compréhensif = understanding: Un ami compréhensif/An understanding friend


Comprehensive = complet: A comprehensive list/Une liste complète

Opportunité ≠ Opportunity

Opportunité = 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 = favourable circumstances for a particular action or event =
une occasion: It's an opportunity to improve my English/C'est une occasion de me perfectionner en anglais.

Attendre ≠ Attend

Attendre = to wait for: Ils ont attendu pendant trois heures/They waited for three hours


To attend = assister: He attended the meeting = Il a assisté à la réunion.

Preservative ≠ Préservatif – anglophones beware of this one!


Préservatif = condom


Preservative = conservateur

Rester ≠ Rest

Rester = to stay or remain: Je suis restée chez moi/I stayed at home.


To rest = se reposer: Ils ne se reposent jamais/They never rest.


Bras ≠ Bras – this could be a particularly embarrassing confusion!

Le bras = arm


Bras in English is the plural of bra = un soutien-gorge

Accommoder ≠ Accommodate


Accommoder = adapter/préparer = prepare or adapt: Ce chef accommode très bien les poissons/Le président accommode son discours à la situation actuelle.


Accommodate = loger

Chance ≠ Chance

La chance = luck


Chance = un hasard, une possibilité or une occasion. In French, 'the chance to do something' = 'l'occasion de...'

Réunion ≠ Reunion

Une réunion = a meeting, collection/gathering or reunion. Le juge demande la réunion des pièces du dossier/Ce soir, il y a une réunion du personnel.


A reunion = a gathering of a group of people who have been separated for an extended period of time (e.g., class/college/family reunion).

Sympathique ≠ Sympathetic

Sympathique/sympa = nice, likeable, kind, friendly


Sympathetic = compatissant

Réaliser ≠ Realize

Réaliser = fulfill (a dream or aspiration) or achieve.


To realize = se rendre compte de, prendre conscience de, or comprendre.

Commander ≠ Command
Commander = To order (request) a meal or services/goods, as well as to command (make an order).

Command = commander, ordonner, or exiger, but cannot be used to describe 'ordering' in a restaurant.

Type ≠ Type

Un type = guy or bloke (informal). In normal speech, it also means type or kind. Quel type de moto ?/What kind of motorbike? Finally, it can be mean epitome: Robert est le type même de l'intellectuel distrait.
A type = un type, un genre, une espèce, une sorte, une marque, etc.


Contempler ≠ Contemplate


Contempler = gaze at/contemplate (ie. look at)


Contemplate = envisager, réfléchir à, songer à

Blesser ≠ Bless

Blesser = to wound, injure, or offend

BUT contrastingly,

To bless = bénir.


Demander ≠ Demand

Demander = to ask for


To demand = exiger


Assister ≠ Assist

Assister à = to attend something


To assist = to help or aid someone or something.

Éventuellement ≠ Eventually

Éventuellement = possibly, if need be, or even. Tu peux éventuellement rester chez moi/You can even stay at mine/You can stay at mine if need be.

Eventually indicates something which will occur at a later time = finalement or tôt ou tard: He will eventually do it/Il le fera finalement/tôt ou tard.

Collège ≠ College

Le collège = high school

College = either
université or lycée

Raisin ≠ Raisin

Un raisin = grape


A raisin = un raisin sec.


Photographe ≠ Photograph


Photographe = photographer


Photograph = photographie

Gentil ≠ Gentle

Gentil = nice or kind
Gentle = doux, aimable, modéré, or léger.

Ignorer ≠ Ignore

Ignorer = 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 ≠ Library

Une librairie = bookshop


Library = bibliothèque.


Recouvrir ≠ Recover


Recouvrir = to cover


Recover = se rétablir


Avertissement ≠ Advertisement

Un avertissement = a warning (from the verb avertir - to warn)


An advertisement or advert = une publicité, un spot publicitaire or une réclame

Quitter ≠ Quit

Quitter = both to leave and to quit (leave something for good).


Quit = quit (leave something for good) or arrêter de (to stop doing something.) I need to quit smoking/Je dois arrêter de fumer.

Unique ≠ Unique

Unique (in French) = only: (fille unique, fils unique) and also unique or one of a kind.


Unique (in English) = unique, inimitable, exceptionnel.


Monnaie ≠ Money

La monnaie = currency, coin(age), or change


Money = argent (general term)

Expérience ≠ Experience

Expérience = both experience and experiment: Elle a fait une expérience/She did an experiment – Il a eu une expérience intéressante/He had an interesting experience.
Experience = noun or verb describing past event. The noun experience = expérience, but the verb has various translations: She experienced a strange sensation /Elle a expérimenté une étrange sensation – He experienced some difficulties/Il a rencontré des difficultés.

Occasion ≠ Occasion

Occasion refers to an occasion, opportunity, circumstance, or second-hand item: Une chemise d'occasion = a second-hand or used shirt. Avoir l'occasion de = 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 = un événement

Zone ≠ Zone

Une zone = a zone or an area, but it can also refer to a slum.


A zone = une zone (area)


Tentative ≠ Tentative


Tentative (French) = an attempt


Tentative (English) = timide


Déranger ≠ Derange

Déranger = to bother, disturb, or disrupt. Excusez-moi de vous déranger... - I'm sorry to bother you.... It also means to derange (mentally)


To derange is used solely in the context of mental health.

Sale ≠ Sale

Sale = dirty. (Although the verb saler = to salt.)


A sale = une vente or un solde.

Gratuité Gratuity

Gratuité = anything given for free: Le gouvernement garantit la gratuité de l'enseignement primaire/The government guarantees free primary education.


A gratuity = un pourboire

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