May 17, 2024

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Top 25 French English false friends: Watch out!

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Navigating between French and English can be tricky, especially with false friends—words that look similar but have different meanings. Our guide to the top 25 French-English false friends will help you avoid common mistakes and improve your language skills. Learn the correct meanings and usage of these deceptive words to enhance your bilingual communication and prevent misunderstandings.

French English false-friends, or faux-amis as we call it in French, are words that seem to mean the same thing but that actually have different meanings. No other choice than learning those by heart!


This is a common mistake that French people make when speaking English: “Actually”, meaning in fact, would be translated as “en fait”, while “actuellement” means “currently”.


An affair” is “une liaison” and “une affaire” in French is less naughty than you think it is as it means “a matter”.


While “a blanket” means “une couverture“, “une blanquette” is a typical French meal with veal. So if you ask for a “blanquette” in a French hotel, get ready to eat!!!


A bra” means “un soutien-gorge”. “Un bras” (don’t pronounce the final “s”, that is mute) means “an arm”.


Both are means of transport but both can’t carry the same number of people: “a car” is “une voiture” but “un car” is “a bus”.


A cave” is translated as “une grotte” in French and “une cave” is “a cellar”. So if you see that the apartment you want to rent has “une cave”, no worries 🙂


A coin” is “une pièce” while “un coin” is “a corner”.


College” in English means “university” (“une université”, in French), but “un collège” in French is also a school but not the same one. It means “Junior High School“.


If you read this page, you know that my dream is to “get engaged” (“se fiancer”). “Etre engagé” in French means something else : “Being hired” or “being committed”… The meanings are actually closed!!! 🙂


That is a tricky one! “Eventually” would be translated in French as “finalement” while “éventuellement” means “possibly, maybe”.


That is the exact same word, but the English version means “un chiffre” and the French one (“une figure”) means “a shape” or “a face”.


A grave” means “une tombe” and “grave” means “serious”. Nowadays, we also use it to strongly agree with somebody, but it is familiar.


While “a journey” means “un voyage”, “une journée” means “a day”. The journey can last une journée! 🙂


Here again, same word : While “a lecture” is “une conférence”, “une lecture” is “a reading”.


A library” is where you can rent books : “une bibliothèque”. But “une librairie” in French is where you can buy books : “a bookstore”!


Main” in English is an adjective, that can be translated as “principal”. “Une main” in French is a noun and means “a hand”.


Both words have completely different meanings, as one feels good but the other feels bad! “Pain” means “la douleur” while “le pain” means “bread”.


A party” means “une fête”, but “une partie” means “a part”.


“A resume” is translated in French as “un curriculum vitae” or most commonly “un CV” whereas “un résumé” is a “sum-up”.


That is a funny one! “A sale” means “une vente” or “les soldes” (“on sale”), but “sale” means “dirty” in French.


A store” is translated as “un magasin” while “un store” means “window blinds”. So a store s’ store is “un magasin de stores” 🙂

To Demand/Demander

To demand” means “exiger” in French. But “demander” means “to ask”. Be careful, “demander quelque chose” (“Ask something”) is different from “to demand something”.

To Pass an exam/Passer un examen

Both have absolutely different meaning, so be careful “to pass an exam” means “réussir un examen” but “passer un examen” means “to take an exam”.

To Rest/Rester

To rest” is translated as “se reposer” in French. “Rester” means “to stay”.

To Slip/Slip

To slip” is “glisser” and “un slip” means “briefs”. So please make sure your slip doesn’t slip!!!

Let me know in the comments if you know any other French English false friends!