Faux-amis anglais français / false friends english french

False friends English / French

Some words may sound similar in English and in French, but they don’t always mean the same thing… On the contrary! Watch out for false friends.

Did you hear people talking about affaires at work ?

Sorry to disappoint you, but there is nothing interesting… Don’t confuse “affaires” (business) and affair ! If the first means business, the second is translated in French by “une aventure”.

If a friend says : « J’ai passé mon examen du permis de conduire aujourd’hui »…

Don’t congratulate him straight away : he only takes the exam ! Ask him first if he has got the results and passed his exam (“réussir l’examen”)!

You can demander something, but you will not have necessarily an answer.

There is a difference between asking and demanding : if you need an answer, you will have to “exiger une réponse” (demand). Otherwise, you can simply “demander” (ask).

« Tu as prévu d’assister à la réunion ou tu restes te reposer ? »

Don’t rush! Read the question again! It’s not about a reunion (“retrouvailles”), or assisting to prepare something (“aider”), but a choice between attending to a meeting (“assister à une réunion”) or staying (“rester”) to rest (“se reposer”).

Your friend says she has a sister at the collège ?

The sister hasn’t finished school at all! “Le collège” and the college don’t correspond to the same age. The sister is between 11 and 14 years old, she’s at “le collège” (middle school). She is not more than 18, and she is not at the college (“l’université”) !

« Le car sera là à 8h demain, ne le loupe pas. »

If you were expecting just a few passengers, that won’t be the case! “Un car” is another name for a bus: it’s a large format, unlike a car (“une voiture”).

Why is wine kept in the cave?

“La cave (the cellar) is a place in the basement of a house or flat. It’s generally cooler there, which means the wine keeps better! Caves (“grottes”) can also be cold, but I wouldn’t recommend storing your wine there if you don’t want to run into a bear…

« Je suis super contente, j’ai trouvé tous les livres que je cherchais à la librairie donc je les ai tous achetés. »

Don’t worry, this person didn’t steal any books. The books weren’t found in the library (“la bibliothèque”), but in “la librairie” (the bookshop)!

To resume :

  • une affaire (a business) ≠ an affair (une aventure, une liaison)
  • passer un examen (to take an exam) ≠ to pass an exam (réussir un examen)
  • demander quelque chose (ask for something) ≠ to demand (exiger)
  • une réunion (a meeting) ≠ a reunion (des retrouvailles)
  • assister à quelque chose (to attend to something) ≠ to assist (aider)
  • rester (to stay) ≠ to rest (se reposer)
  • le collège (the middle school) ≠ the college (l’université)
  • un car (a bus) ≠ a car (une voiture)
  • la cave (the basement) ≠ a cave (une grotte)
  • la librairie (the bookshop) ≠ a library (la bibliothèque)


Discover false friends in video too!