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More Faux Amis: Strategies to Avoiding Confusion Between Seemingly Similar French and English Words

By Audrey Alleyne

French nouns and other parts of speech that sound like their English counterparts, but have different meanings, can cause confusion. Students of French should study these tricky words with extra care.

Faux Amis

If you should read the sentence “Il a sensiblement grandi”, it would make little sense, if you think the adverb means the same as its English equivalent. The adjective “sensible” which means “sensitive” would also present a similar predicament. What is really meant in that sentence is “it is obvious that he has grown up”

Here are some more of those troublesome words shared by French and English. They are called ‘faux amis’ (false friends.). They are listed first with the English word, then the French false friend, then the French meaning for the false friend, then you’ll see its French equivalent for the most common meaning in English. For example the word “agony” in English means anguish and suffering at any time, including before death. In French the equivalent word “agonie” cannot be used so loosely; that word in French pertains only to the last struggle before death. The words are grouped according to nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs from a to e:

Nouns

English / faux amis / French meaning for faux amis / French equivalent for English word

appointments / appointments (n.m.pl.) / salary / rendez-vous

audience / audience (n.f.) / plenary session, court hearing / les spectateurs , l’auditoire (n.m.)

box / box (n.m.) / a horse box or a car compartment / boîte

bureau / bureau (n.m.) / desk, study / commode

cabinet / cabinet (n.m.) / small room / placard

cargo / cargo (n.m.) / cargo boat / charge

defiance / défiance (n. f.) / suspicion, distrust / défi

dot / dot (n.f.) / dowry / point

engagement / engagement (n.m.) / commitment / fiançailles, rendez-vous

Verbs

English / faux amis / French meaning for faux amis / French equivalent for English word

avert / avertir (v. t.) / warn / éviter

agree / agréer (v.i.) / accept / être d’accord

attend / attendre / to wait for / assister à

assist / assister à / to attend / aider

bless / blesser / to wound, to hurt, to offend / bénir

cry / crier / cry out, yell, shout / pleurer

demand / demander / to ask / exiger

err / error / to wander / se tromper

Adjectives

English / faux amis / French meaning for faux amis / French equivalent for English word

actual / actuel / current, present / vrai

affluent / affluent / affluent (referring to a course of water) / riche

Adverbs

English / faux amis / French meaning for faux amis / French equivalent for English word

actually / actuellement / currently, presently / véritablement

eventually / éventuellement / possibly, hypothetically / imprévisiblement

Here is another article on faux amis