Avoid vocabulary mistakes about false cognates in french

avoid vocabulary mistakes about false cognates in french

False cognates, also known as “faux amis“, are words that are similar in French and in English but ultimately, they have completely different meanings. When learning french, you need to keep an eye out for them because they cause confusion and misunderstanding in a conversation or a written text.

Different types of false cognates

There are three types of false cognates that you need to know:

  • Words that look alike but have no common root, these words look similar in both French and English but don’t share an etymological origin.
    •  There are quite a few examples of this but the most common words in both English and French are: coin (in French this means corner), pain (this is the French word for bread), chair (translates to flesh), and chat (cat in French).
  • For words that have a common root but have different meanings, English and French share Latin roots, which is why you have quite a few examples of words that share the same root. Over the years, these words have taken different meanings from their original Latin root.
    • Crier and to cry have the same root but different meanings, in French means to shout. Another example is, monnaie shares roots with money but in French, this means currency or even loose change. The last example is rester, which is to stay instead of the verb to rest.
  • Words that share a common root and have partially similar definitions. These words are right in between the “faux amis” and “vrais amis” they share at least one definition in French and in English, but they also have one that the other language doesn’t have.
    • Parfum is a word that refers to a fragrance in both English and French but in the latter, you can also use it as flavor.

Tips for avoiding faux amis

There are quite a few tips to avoid confusion with cognates, for example, you could pay attention to word endings and their pronunciation, and these can vary from one language to another.

One of the most useful tips to avoid common mistakes with “faux amis” is to look at the context of the sentence the word is in, if it doesn’t make sense, you shouldn’t use that word.

You can look up lists and resources online that can help you recognize false cognates in French, we’ll give you a short list of the cognates that are more commonly mistaken.

Now you can avoid misunderstandings in your conversations

False cognates or “faux amis” can be a major source of confusion for French language learners. Remember that you can improve your vocabulary and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings caused by false cognates if you keep an eye out for them. We hope that this lesson, makes you feel ready to venture out and practice your French with your family and friends as you put your new knowledge to the test.

Learn more French vocabulary

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