‘Cognates’ are words that sound similar in different languages. Some of those, along with sounding similar, also have the same meaning, which really helps your foreign language learning process. But when they mean something completely different in the new language you’re learning, they become ‘false friends’.
- Constipated (English): a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels.
- Constipado (Spanish): congested (by a cold)
Don’t be surprised if you hear: ‘I’m so constipated I can’t breathe!’
Instead of: ‘I’m so congested I can’t breathe!’
- Molest (English): assault or abuse (a person, especially a woman or child) sexually.
- Molestar (Spanish): to bother someone
If you’re playing jokes to someone, you could hear: ‘Stop molesting me!’
Instead of: ‘Stop bothering me!’
- Carpet (English): a floor covering made from thick woven fabric.
- Carpeta (Spanish): folder
If you’re a teacher you might hear:
Find this and many other hilarious examples here!
Instead of: ‘Seriously, Miss! I forgot my homework in my folder’
- Expect (English): regard (something) as likely to happen
- Aspettare (Italian): to wait for
You might hear: ‘I expected the store to open for half an hour but it didn’t!’
Instead of: ‘I waited for the store to open for half an hour but it didn’t!’
- Actually (English): as the truth or facts of a situation.
- Attualmente (Italian): present, current, at the moment
Commonly said: ‘My cousins are actually visiting me’
Instead of: ‘My cousins are currently visiting me’
- Factory (English): a building or group of buildings where goods are manufactured or assembled chiefly by machine.
- Fattoria (Italian): farm
So it’s possible to hear:
When they mean: ‘Another busy day at the farm’
- Ankle (English): the joint connecting the foot with the leg.
- Enkel (German): grandchild
- Onkel (German): uncle
If you hear: ‘My ankles are very cute, I love them so much!’
They probably mean: ‘My grandchildren are very cute, I love them so much!’
- Gift (English): a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.
- Gift (German): poison
A German interpretation of Romeo and Juliet could have been:
Original image in Toonpool
Instead of: ‘I’ll drink that poison if you drink it’
I’m sure you must know a lot of English false friends in your mother tongue… Share them with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!