False Friends

  • False Friends



English is a language that can liberate, amaze and confuse in equal measures. You will always encounter false friends (also known as false cognates) in any language you are learning.


What is a false friend?

Linguistically, a false friend has nothing to do with an actual friend / person.
False friends are confusing words that appear or sound identical or similar to words in your own language, yet have different meanings or senses in the language you are learning.


Some fun examples

Spanish and Italian have some amusing ones; Spanish burro ‘donkey’ and Italian burro ‘butter’!

English vs Spanish; If you are a Spanish speaker, you might think the word ‘embarrassed’ means ‘pregnant!’

English vs Italian; If you are an Italian speaker, you might think the word ‘factory’ means ‘farm!’

English vs French; There may be some confusing with the word bras in English and French. In French, bras means arm but in English it is an item of female underwear.

English vs Portugese: A Portugese speaker might think ‘push’ is ‘puxe’, which actually means ‘to pull’ in Portugese!

English vs Polish; ‘No’ in Polish means ‘yes’!

Confused? I know I am…

Let’s see if you meet any false friends in our confusing verbs quiz below:


Confusing Verbs Quiz

1. Has your boutique hotel ever won / earned an award for something?

2. Hello Mr Carter. I love those shoes you’re wearing / carrying.

3. Our hotel manager and our F&B director met / knew at a party last year.

4. Can you help me or are you watching / looking at the news on TV?

5. Did you bring / take me anything back from Mexico City?

6. She looks / looks like her mother. They have the same eyes.

7. Maria looked for / found a new job at a different hotel. She starts next week.

8. Our head chef isn’t very good at saying / telling jokes.

9. It’s going to rain later madam. I recommend you bring / take an umbrella with you on the excursion.

10. Would you lend / borrow a lot of money from a work colleague?

11. The guests arrived at the airport late, so they missed / lost their connection.


How did you do?  Check your answers below!

It is important to be aware of false friends when learning any language and to remember that it is one of many fun aspects of learning a language.  Good luck.




The answers

1. won
2. wearing
3. met
4. watching
5. bring
6. looks like
7. found
8. telling
9. take
10. borrow
11. missed