12 French Words That Are False Friends
  • 3-minute read
  • 16th October 2022

12 French Words That Are False Friends

The English and the French have always had a complicated relationship, and unfortunately, the same is true for their vocabulary. So, if you’re learning English, beware of faux amis (false friends) that might sneak up and betray your trust.

Faux amis are words that seem like cognates, but they aren’t. Cognates are words in different languages that sound similar and mean the same thing because they come from the same root word. These words can help you remember vocabulary when learning a new language. For example, the French word for the English word “telephone” is téléphone.

French false cognates, or faux amis, will trick you into thinking that a French word has a similar meaning to an English word, but it doesn’t. Read on to learn some French faux amis to watch out for.

Grape/Grappe

In English, grapes are a specific type of fruit, but in French, grappe means “bunch” and can be used for any fruit, like a bunch of bananas.

Raisin/Raisin and Prune/Prune

While a raisin is a dried grape in English, in French, raisin just means “grape.” Similarly, while a prune in English is a dried plum, prune in French just means “plum.”

Coin/Coin

A coin in English refers to money, but in French, coin means “corner.”

Money/Monnaie

Money in English refers to funds in general, but monnaie in French means “loose change.”

Library/Librairie

A library in English is a place to borrow books, but in French, a librairie is a bookstore. So, if you’re in France and take a book from a librairie, make sure you pay for it!

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Journey/Journée

In English, a journey is a trip or some sort of travel. But in French, journée means “day.”

Envy/Envie

While in English, envy means jealousy, in French, envie means “to want.” These meanings can be connected in certain senses, so it’s a particularly tricky one to watch out for.

Deception/Déception

Deception in English refers to being tricked or lied to, while déception in French means being disappointed. These meanings are similar and can sometimes be used for the same thing – but not always.

Bra/Bras and Brassiere/Brasserie

In English, bra is short for brassiere, and they both refer to a female undergarment. But in French, bras means “arm,” as in the limb between your shoulder and hand, and a brasserie is a casual eatery or brewery.

Jolly/Joli

Jolly means happy or joyful in English, but joli in French means “pretty,” referring only to the appearance of someone or something.

These are just a few of the many faux amis the English and French languages have to contend with. If you’re learning English, these false friends can throw you off, but have no fear! Our expert editors can ensure you’re always using the correct words in your writing, and they’ll check your work for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and more! Try our service out for free today.

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