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⚠ What are the most embarrassing false friends (false cognates) between French and English?

Hello French learners,

If you don't want to learn French the hard way, with some really awkward moments 😢, it's URGENT to read this article!

You will learn, for example, why you should not say:

➡ "Je sens mauvais" but "Je me sens mal"

➡ "Je suis chaud(e)" but "J'ai chaud"

➡ "Je voudrais mon repas sans préservatifs" but "Je voudrais mon repas sans conservateurs"

➡ "Permettez-moi de vous introduire", but "Permettez-moi de vous présenter".

Here is a list of words that sound the same in English and French but have very different meanings. Those words are called "false friends".

Let's start with the most embarrassing ones (with the Warning sign ⚠), you must absolutely not confuse!

After mastering these false friends, you can also expand your French vocabulary by exploring other related topics such as The hardest Tongue Twisters in French, French love vocabulary, city-related French words, and French farm vocabulary. Dive into these lessons and continue your journey towards French fluency!

The most embarrassing ones[edit | edit source]

"Introduire" and "Introduce"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Naturally, English speakers would think it means "to introduce" which actually means "to penetrate" or "to insert".

So next time you meet French people and want to tell them to "introduce each other”, the verb you’re looking for is “se présenter”.

Do not say "permettez-moi de vous introduire"!, but "Permettez-moi de vous présenter".

Any native french speaker would just interpret it in the usual sense, especially if you finished it with a person, e.g. "permettez-moi de vous introduire mon frère" but people might start to laugh when they hear that.

"Bras" and "Bras"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png "Le bras" refers to "an arm" while "bras" in English is translated by "soutien-gorge".

"to chat" and "chatte"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png The verb "to chat" means in English "have a light conversation" and is translated "Bavarder" in French. "Chat" pronounced with a hard T at the end is the slang for a woman’s private parts (chatte in French). So be careful with that word!

Comment (Reddit): Chatte c'est d'abord la femelle du chat. Ça désigne aussi le sexe de la femme, mais à nouveau le contexte fait tout.

"A little bit" and "Une petite bite"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Do not translate "A little bit" by "Une petite bite" because "bite" is a very familiar word for penis.

Use "Un petit peu" ou "un peu" instead.

  • Example: "Es tu fatigué ? Oui, un petit peu..."

"Slip" and "Slip"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png "slip" in French translates into "men’s briefs". "have a slip" is translated "glisser" in French.

"Luxuriouse" and "luxurieux"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Even though “luxe” means luxury, if you want to say “luxurious” don’t try to say “luxurieux” because it means “lustful”. If you want to say “you lived in a luxurious hotel” your French guests might start thinking you spent the last days at a swingers club.

Comment (Reddit): Luxure est un mot recherché pour lust (c'est celui qui est utilisé pour nommer le péché capital par exemple)

"Preservative" and "Préservatif "[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png In French if you’re asking for "a préservatif" you are asking for a condom and not a preservative!

Do not say: "je voudrais mon repas sans préservatifs s'il vous plaît", say "Je voudrais un repas sans CONSERVATEURS" instead.

"I am hot" and "Je suis chaud(e)"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Do not translate "I am hot" by "Je suis chaud" ou "Je suis chaude" mais par "j'ai chaud".

Comment: "j'ai chaud" has aswell an sexual involvement because in French there is "être en chaleur".

"Je suis chaud(e)" means "I'm horny" or "I'm ready/ok to do it" as in "Tu es prêt pour demain? - Ouais je suis chaud !" ("Are you ready for tomorrow? - Yeah I'm ready (to do it) !")

"I feel bad" and "Je sens mauvais"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Do not say "Je sens mauvais" for "I feel bad".

"Je sens mauvais" means "I smell bad".

Say "Je me sens mal" instead.

"Excité" and "Excited"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png If you are very excited to do something, don't say: "Je suis très excité(e)", because "excité" in French can mean "aroused" depending on the context.

You would rather say "Je suis très content(e)".

Note: "Excité" may have the meaning of "aroused", but it's not the only one. When a parent say her five-year-old daughter is "excitée à l'approche de Noël", it has no sexual involvement. Yes, we have to be careful about ambiguous contexts or in the presence of teasing teenagers. We will not say however "Je suis très excité de faire ça" because it is badly formed but "Je suis très excité(e) (or impatient(e)) à l'idée de faire ça".

"Traînée" and "Trainee"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png The word "trainee" sounds very similar to the French word "traînée". Trainee is translated "Stagiaire" in French while "traînée" means "a woman of an promiscuous nature".

  • "Je suis une trainée" means "I am a bitch" and not "I am a trainee".

"l’air con" and "Air Con"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png "avoir l’air con" means in French "to look stupid" while "Air Con" is the abbreviation for "Air Conditioning".

  • "Il a l'air con" means "he looks stupid" (and not he has Air Con).

"sur la verge" and "on the verge"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png "sur la verge" means in French "on the penis" while "on the verge" means "être sur le point de" in French.

"Baiser" and "Kiss"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Do not confuse the kiss for a F***

"Beau cul" and "Beaucoup"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Do not mispronounce "Beaucoup", else you could compliment someone's behind!

"Il suce" and "it sucks"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png It sucks cannot be translated as Il suce (he licks)

"Cochonne" and "pig"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Don't translate : "I eat like a pig" by "je mange comme une cochonne". Because Cochonne means someone who loves sex.

"J'ai envie de toi" and "I want you"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Do not translate "I want you" by "J'ai envie de toi" because it means "I want to sleep with you"

"Je suis plein(e)" and "I'm full"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png Don't translate "I am full" by "Je suis plein(e)", because it means "I am pregnant".

"J'ai jouis" and "I enjoyed"[edit | edit source]

Attention polyglot club wiki.png don't translate "I really enjoyed it" par "J'ai bien jouis" because it means "I had a good orgasm".

"Brasserie" and "Brassiere"[edit | edit source]

No connection with lingerie. Une brasserie is either a brewery, or a bar that serves meals.

Others[edit | edit source]

After having explained the most annoying false friends, let's continue with some more gentle ones:

"Apologie" and "Apology"[edit | edit source]

"Une apologie" in French is "a speech to convince someone of the correctness of something". It's not translated by "An apology" (say you are sorry). Il a fait l'aplologie du capitalisme = He made the defense of capitalism.

Actually "apologie" and "apology" have opposite meanings.

"Blesser" and "Bless"[edit | edit source]

"Blesser" and "Bless" also have quite opposite meaning. “blessez-vous” does not mean "Bless you" but "hurt yourself".

"Chair" and "Chair"[edit | edit source]

"chair" in French means "flesh" while "chair" is translated by "chaise" in French. Don't say at a party "Je cherche une chair" but "Je cherche une chaise".

"Actuellement" and "Actually"[edit | edit source]

"Actuellement, je travaille à Paris" is not translated by "Actually I work in Paris" but by "Currently, I work in Paris".

  • Actuellement means "Currently"
  • Actually means "in fact" and should be translated as "en fait".

"Éventuellement" and "eventually"[edit | edit source]

  • "Éventuellement" means "possibly".
  • "Eventually" can be translated as "finalement" (finally).

"Compréhensif" and "comprehensive"[edit | edit source]

"Compréhensif" means "understanding" while "comprehensive" can be translated as "complet" (detailed).

"Assister" and "to assist"[edit | edit source]

"J'ai assité à un concert" is not translated by "I assisted a concert" but by "I attended a concert".

  • "Assister" means "to attend something".
  • "To assist" means "to help".

"Attendre" and "Attend"[edit | edit source]

Attendre means to wait for. Attend is translated to "assister à" in French.

"Attendre" and "Attend"[edit | edit source]

"Je dois attendre mon ami" is not translated by "I must attend my friend" but by "I must wait for my friend".

  • "Attendre" means "to wait for".
  • "To attend" is translated by "to assist"

"Caractère" and "Character"[edit | edit source]

"Caractère" in French refers only to the temperament of a person:

  • Cette maison a du caractère - This house has character.

"Character" in English means both nature/temperament as well as a person in a play.

  • Avoir un bon caractère: To be of a good nature

"In this movie the main character is..." is not translated by "Dans ce film, le caractères principal est...” but by "Dans ce film, le personnage principal est...".

"Cent" and "Cent"[edit | edit source]

"Cent" in French means "a hundred", while "cent" in English can be translated by "un centime".

"Chance" and "Chance"[edit | edit source]

"La chance" in French means "luck", while "chance" in English is translated by "un hasard" in French.

  • "I didn't have a chance to..." is translated by "Je n'ai pas eu l'occasion de.."
  • "Je n'ai pas eu la chance de..." is translated by "I did not have the luck to..."

"Coin" and "Coin"[edit | edit source]

In French, "Le coin" refers to "a corner". It can also mean "around here". from the area:

  • Etes-vous du coin ? : Are you from around here?

In English "A coin" is a a small, round piece of metal that is used as money. In French it's translated by : "une pièce de monnaie".

"Collège" and "College"[edit | edit source]

Those ones are really easy to confuse. "Collège" means Middle School or High School, while College is translated by "Université".


  • Combien y-a-t il d'élèves dans ton collège ? : How many students are there in your high school?
  • Je voudrais continuer mes études jusqu'à l'université : I would like to continue my studies up to university

"piles" and "Pill"[edit | edit source]

After a brutal headache, you decide to go to the nearest pharmacy to buy pills. French people will think you are asking for “piles”, or batteries. To avoid this confusion (and to make sure you find a cure for your headache), you would better ask for Aspirine.

"Sensible" and "Sensible"[edit | edit source]

It's not identical words. "Sensible" means "sensitive" in French and you should not use that word when describing your qualities during a job interview. You would rather use the word "raisonnable".

"Blanquette" and "Blanket"[edit | edit source]

Don't ask your neighbour to lend you a “blanquette” but “une couverture”. Else your neighbour might turn up with a cooked meal made of veal stew (Blanquette de veau) which will not keep you warm at night.

"prejudice" and "préjudice"[edit | edit source]

  • prejudice = préjugé
  • préjudice = loss, damage, wrong

"to have money" and "Avoir de la monnaie"[edit | edit source]

"Avoir de la monnaie" means "to have change" (as in loose coins). It doesn't mean--as the word monnaie might suggest--"to have money". That would be "avoir de l'argent".

"Change" and "Change"[edit | edit source]

"Change", in the context of money, refers to currency exchange, not change (as in loose coins).

  • Example: Le taux de change euro/dollar continue à fluctuer considérablement. On the other hand, the equivalent of "a change" (in a generic sense), would be un changement.

"concourse" and "concours"[edit | edit source]

"Un concours" means "a contest", not "a concourse".

"Bouton" and "Button"[edit | edit source]

Bouton does indeed mean button, but you might be confused to hear French teenagers complaining about their boutons since it also means a pimple.

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