12 Funniest False Friends in English - BELS Malta

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Take note of these 12 common false friends in English!

Are you developing your vocabulary in English? Remember that not all words that look and sound familiar to your language have the same meaning. These are called false friends – so they look and sound the same, but the meaning is entirely different. So, watch out for these hilarious false friends in Spanish, French, German, and Italian.

Spanish-English False Friends

1. Embarazada vs. Embarrassing

In English, the word ‘embarrassing‘ is a synonym for humiliating. Spare yourself the humiliation with this one – in Spanish, the word ‘Embarazo‘ means pregnancy, while ‘Embarazada‘  means pregnant.

2. Constipado vs. Constipated

Even though the Spanish are quite open people, they don’t usually speak up about their bowels. In English, ‘to be constipated’ means to have blocked bowels, while a ‘constipado‘ is a common cold in Spanish.

3. Emocionado vs. Emotional

In English, ‘getting emotional‘ means when you are moved to tears in a heartwarming or upsetting situation. ‘Emocionado‘ can mean both excited and moved in Spanish, which is tricky, as it doesn’t translate to ’emotional’ in all contexts. While you can get ‘emocionado‘ on a roller coaster, you wouldn’t get ’emotional’ on a roller coaster!

French-English False Friends

4. Douche vs. Douche

If you call someone a ‘douche‘ in English, you mean they’re obnoxious. In French, ‘douche‘ means shower.

5. Sale vs. Sale

In English ‘sales‘ refer to the seasonal discounts on products. If you see something that is ‘sale‘ in French, it doesn’t mean it’s sold at a discount, but that it’s dirty.

6. Jolie vs. Jolly

If you call someone ‘jolly‘ in English you’re complementing their happy and uplifting attitude. In French, ‘jolie‘ is still a compliment, but it means pretty.

German-English False Friends

7. Das Gift vs. Gift

In English, giving someone a ‘gift’ is when you give them a present, like on their birthday. ‘Das Gift’ in German means poison/toxic! Not the best present for someone’s birthday.

8. Winken vs. Wink

Everyone can ‘winken‘ but not everyone can wink. In English, a ‘wink‘ is a cheeky or flirty gesture that some people can do by closing one eye. In German, ‘winken‘ just means wave.

9. Die Art vs. Art

If you see ‘die art’ near a strange word, it’s not what you’re thinking. In German ‘die art’ means type/kind/sort and has nothing to do with art as a form of expression.

Italian-English False Friends

10. Annoiare vs. To Annoy

These two are quite the opposite! If somebody is ‘annoying‘ you, they are irritating you, like a mosquito buzzing around your head when you are trying to sleep. And if you use the word ‘annoiare‘ it means you’re bored.

11. Baldo vs. Bald

A ‘bald‘ person is someone who lost all their hair. While calling someone ‘bald‘ in English can be offensive, in Italian ‘boldo‘ is courageous.

12. Caldo vs. Cold

When you’re ‘cold‘ in English, you’re shivering and need to put on more clothes or switch on the heating. This is another case of direct opposites – in Italian, ‘caldo‘ actually means hot.

Do you need to elevate your English Vocabulary? Practice with a native teacher.

When learning English alone, it’s easy to make mistakes as the ones above, without noticing. That’s why having a teacher to support you is necessary to take your language to the next level. Contact us now to learn more about personalised individual lessons, at our schools or online.

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