40 French And English Words That Would Throw You Off Unless You’re In The Know

by Sylviane Nuccio on February 28, 2014

in French Language

You might be surprised at the amount of words that spell exactly the same in French and English. How many? Try over 500.

Yep, that’s a lot of words that spell exactly or almost the same in both French and English, but here is the trick – many of those words don’t mean the same thing at all in French as they do in English.

Unfortunately, at times they are mixed up by English speakers who speaker or French speakers trying to speak the other language.

I’ve heard some of them make those mistakes at times, and when they did, it meant big confusion, or down right laughs on the part of the hearer.

Here are 40 of such trap words that could throw you off, so you’d better know their meaning, just in case you’d be tempted to use them in same context in French as you would in English. As you will see, some spell slightly differently and many spell exactly the same.

1) Introduce/Introduire

I’ve hear so many bilingual people making this fatal mistake trying to the use the French word “introduire” as in let me introduce myself.

Well, please, do not use the word “introduire” to talk about “introducing yourself” in French, as it means to get in or insert. Do you know how many times I’ve heard Americans speaking French saying “let me insert myself?” Ouch, if you are a man  saying this to a woman, do you see how embarrassing this could be?

If you want to say let’ me introduce myself in French you need to say “laissez-moi me presenter.” This is the correct way to say it.

2) Assume/Assume

To Assume in French is taking responsibility. In English is to guess or suppose. I assume you understand what I’m saying. In French you would use this word to say something like “he handles his responsibility – il assume ses responsabilites.

3) Affair/Affaire

While in English an affair is sleeping with someone that’s not your spouse, in French “une affaire” is an enterprise/business. Not to be mistaken. “Il a une affaire” means he owns a business.

4) Adventure/Aventure

While adventure in English means to go on an adventurous journey, in French it means to have an affair with a lover. “Il a eu une aventure.” He has an affair.

5) Excited/exciter

I’m excited to see you in English means I’m so happy to see you. However, I’m excited (exciter) in French mean I’m sexually aroused or restless. Not to be mixed up.

6) Route/Route

While route in English means more the course of traveling, in French it’s the translation for the word “road.” On the road would be “sur la route” in French.

7) Adept/Adept

While an adept in English is an expert, in French it’s a follower, a fan or an enthusiast.

8) Chat/Chat

Do you want to have a chat with me? Well, don’t say that in French as chat means cat in French. Nothing to do with having a discussion.

9) Coin/Coin

Coin in French means a corner, not money in the form of silver or other metal. I’ll be waiting for you at the corner/Je t’attendrais au coin.

10) Combine/Combine

As you know, to combine in English means to unite or put together, but in French it means a scheme or trick. “Ils ont combine une affaire” means they put up a scheme together.

11) Brave/Brave

Courageous in English, but the word means good in French. “C’est un brave homme” means he’s a good man.

12) Camera/Camera

Camera in French is referred only to a video or movie camera that is use for motion picture. The English camera is “appareil photo” in French

13) Film/Film

Film refers more to the negative of picture in English, but in French it refers to a movie. “Je vais voir un film” I’m going to see a movie.

14) Cave/Cave

In English cave is a natural underground enclosure while in French it’s a cellar known to usually preserve wine. Basically every house in France has a cave.

15) Fond/Fond

To be fond of, to like very much or to love in English, but it means the bottom of a recipient in French. At the bottom of the box. “Au fond de la boite.”

16) Formidable/Formidable

Formidable in English means fearsome or dreadful. In French it means great, fantastic, or wonderful.

17) Hazard/Hazard

While hazard means a danger in English, in means “by chance” in French. “Je l’ai rencontre par hazard.” I met her/him by chance.

18) Advertisement/Avertissement

Do not assume that this very similar looking word is the same in English and French, because they’re very different, indeed. Advertisement is publicity in English, while avertissement means caution or warning in French.

19) Balance/Balance

Une balance is a scale to measure weight in French while it means a state of stability in English.

20) Bond/Bond

While in English this word means something that fasten or unite, in French it’s a leap or a jump. “J’ai fais un bond” can also means “I jumped out of fear.”

21) Comment/Comment

As we all now a comment in English is a statement either in written or verbal form, while in French it’s the translation of the word “how.” Comment allez-vous? How are you doing?

22) Con/Con

While a con in English is a dishonest person/a swindler, in French it’s a bad word for “idiot.” Very common bad word in France.

23) Crane/Crane

A construction machine for lifting in English, and the skull of your head in French.

24) Figure/Figure

Which has to do with numbers or the shape of the body in English, but it means your face in French. “Elle a la figure rouge.” Her face is red.

25) Main/Main

Main means principal in English, but it’s the word for hand in French.

26) Match/Match

A match to give you fire or two people who go well together in English, but in French is the translation of the word “game” in sport. “Un match de football” is a soccer game.

27) Sale/Sale

Not what you would think. In French it means dirty. “Mes mains sont sales.” My hands are dirty.

28) Special/Special

In English someone special means someone dear, but in French someone special means someone strange.

29) Son/Son

Son in French is the pronoun “his” and “hers”

30) Allure/Allure

Means to tempt or entice in English and means speed in French. “Il va a toute allure” means he’s speeding, he’s going very fast.

31) Assistance/Assistance

While it means help and aid in English it means audience in French. “Il y a plus de femmes que d’hommes dans l’assistance.” There’re more women than men in the audience.

32) Journey/Journee

An adventure, a voyage in English, but the course of a day in French. “Nous avons passes un bonne journee.” We had a good day.

33) Caution/Caution

A warning to be careful in English, but a bail or security deposit in French.

34) Cent/Cent

A penny in English, but the number on hundred in French. “Il y a cent ans.” One hundred years ago.

35) Chair/Chair

The object where you sit on, in English, but it means flesh in France. “La chair et les os.” Flesh and bones.

36) Chance/Chance

Something that happens unpredictably or even taking risks in English, but it mean luck in French. “J’ai de la chance.” I’m luckly.

37) Language/Langage

Human speech in English, but in French it means “a mode of expression” rather outside of speech. Speech in French as the English term “language” is “langue.” In French you wouldn’t say, “quelle langage parlez-vous,” but “quelle langue parlez-vous.” What language do you speak?

38) Lecture/Lecture

A speech in English, but refers to reading in French.

39) Librairy/Librairie

Librairie in French is a book store. What is library in English is a bibliotheque in French

40) Location/Location

In French location refers to something that is available for rent, such as a house or a car. Nothing to do with the English meaning.

That’s it…

Ok, I thing that’s all for now. Believe it or not I could have add many more, but I think that a good start, don’t you think?

You turn now! Do you know other such words? If not, what do you think?

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