Faux Amis: 5 ‘False Friends’ in French Vocabulary

Les “faux amis” (= “false friends” or false cognates) are words that sound or look kind of the same in French and in English… but they don’t actually share the same meaning!

This can lead to some mistakes, so let’s look at a few of these “faux amis” to help you prevent any embarrassing mix-ups!

Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson

  • Beginner: Discover these 5 “faux-amis.”
  • Intermediate: Learn them and avoid misunderstanding
  • Advanced: Learn the alternatives words and examples

Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher.
Welcome to Comme une Française!

I’m here to help you speak everyday modern French with confidence.

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1) Compréhensif

Compréhensif doesn’t mean “comprehensive” !
The English word “comprehensive” is “complet” in French.

On the other hand, compréhensif (or its feminine compréhensive) means “understanding and sympathetic.”

Sa mère a été très compréhensive avec lui.
= “His mom was very understanding with him.”

And compréhensible means “understandable.”

Il a eu une réaction compréhensible.
= “He had an understandable reaction”

2) Éventuellement

Éventuellement means “possibly.”
Finalement means “eventually.”
This is one of the classic French mistakes!

On peut arriver mardi éventuellement, si on se dépêche.
= “We can possible arrive on Tuesday, if we hurry”

Finalement, je suis arrivé.
= “Eventually, I got here.”

You can also use en fin de compte (= “at the end of the count”, literally) for “eventually.”

3) La location

This can be a problem when renting a house or a car in France.
Une location is “a rental.”
For “a location” (“a place”) in English, we say in French un lieu or un endroit.

Je suis intéressée par la location de cet appartement.
= I’m interested in renting this apartment.

Je suis au bon endroit pour la visite de la ville ?
= “Am I in the right location for the town visit?”

If you want a more precise answer, you can ask for la situation (“situation”) or la localisation.

4) Sensible

In French, sensible means “sensitive.”
If you mean the English adjective “sensible,” you can use raisonnable.

C’est une idée raisonnable.
= “That’s a sensible idea.”

C’est un garçon sensible.
= “He’s a sensitive boy.”

5) Commander

In most everyday uses, commander doesn’t mean “to command.” Instead, it most often means “to order,” as in:

Je vais commander des pizzas.
= “I’m going to order some pizzas.”

More often, “to command” is actually ordonner or donner un ordre (= “giving an order.”) For instance:

Le général ordonne à ses troupes de partir.
The general commands his troops to leave.

Recap: What did you learn today?

5 “faux amis” to watch out for:

  • Compréhensif = understanding (and not complet = comprehensive)
  • Éventuellement = possibility (and not finalement = eventually)
  • une location = a rental (and not un lieu = a location.)
  • sensible = sensitive (and not raisonnable = “sensible”)
  • commander = to order (and ordonner = to command), most times in everyday French.

If you want to learn more about difficult vocabulary in French, you can check out this short playlist of videos on classic embarrassing mistakes that I put together for you.

A tout de suite.
See you in the next lesson!

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Allez, salut 🙂

Join the conversation!

  • Je ne sous le mot confection. En anglais britannique, cela signifie une sorte de nourriture sucrée. En français, cela signifie quelque chose sur la création de vêtements, je pense?

  • “discover” is a faut ami in English. In English, discover means to explore and find. The French word, “decouvrer” would be translated in English as “Learn more” or “find out more”. So if there were a French hotel site, the home page might use the word “decourvrir” to mean learn more. We would not translate it as “discover” in English. We use discover for “discovering a cure for a disease” or “discovering a new planet”. Hope that helps.

  • Ca c’est tres utile. Ou je trouve un probleme c’est le mot proposer. Toujours des entreprises me “propose” quelque chose.

  • Demander / Exiger …

    I remember hearing a story once of a diplomatic
    communication written in French which was sent
    from Paris to Washington DC in which the verb
    demander was used as the French were requesting
    something from the Americans (I think this was in
    wartime). This, apparently, was mis-translated as
    “demanding” something, and was not well received
    in DC. Someone there had obviously not been doing
    their French homework !! 😀

    Great lesson Géraldine ~ you get the “little grey cells”
    working, as ever 🙂

  • Salut Géraldine
    Je comprends pas pourquoi “le diable” est un faux ami.
    Le diable a la même signification en anglais et en français. On peut dire d’un enfant méchant , “Tu es un petit diable” en anglais ou français. ce n’est pas un faux ami comme “une location”.

  • Bonjour Géraldine merci pour cet leçon. J’ai un problème avec demander (ask in English) j’ai l’impression d’être un peu énergique.
    Bonne journée

  • Bonjur Géraldine. Le leçon aujourd’hui est arrivé en le temps parfait. J‘ai un cours cet après-midi et un part des devoirs est trouver et apporter à classe un liste de faux-amis. J’ai une liste mais tu as me donné deux plus. Je vais être sûr de mentioner ton site web et partager le lien avec mes comrades de classe. Tu est la meilleur !

  • Et bien sur, il y a toujours le préservatif . . . combien d’étudiants de langue ai-je rencontré qui aiment leur confiture sans préservatif . . . eh ben . . . moi aussi!! 😮

  • Merci pour la vidéo. Ces mots prêtent à confusion, il est donc très utile de regarder votre vidéo et d’apprendre la vraie signification.

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