Faux Amis II: 5 MORE ‘False Friends’ in French Vocabulary

When you don’t know a word when speaking French, you can try winging it. That’s great! But “les faux amis” can lead you to make mistakes.

As we’ve seen in a previous lesson (Faux Amis: 5 ‘False Friends’ in French Vocabulary), the French “faux amis/ “false friends” / “false cognates” are words that look like an English word… but have a different meaning! Oops!

Today, I’ll explain five more of these faux amis.
Let’s dive in.

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

  • Beginner: Discover 5 false cognates (“faux amis”) in French
  • Intermediate: Learn these faux amis and be able to avoid misunderstandings in spoken French
  • Advanced: Learn alternative French vocabulary words you can use instead, with examples

Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher.
Welcome to Comme une Française!
I’m here to help you get better at speaking and understanding everyday French — anytime, anywhere.

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1) Actuellement

Actuellement means “now”, “right now” or “currently.”
It looks like the English word: actually (which really translates to en fait, in French. We pronounce the “t” at the end.)

For example:
La machine est en panne actuellement.
= “This machine is out of order right now.”

En fait, je suis allée au cinéma.
= “Actually, I went to the cinema.”

En fait (= Actually) sounds like Au fait (= By the way). They’re both very common in real, everyday French conversations. Like:
Au fait, tu as acheté le pain ? (= By the way, did you buy some bread?)

2) Excité

Excité means “aroused.” This is an embarrassing mistake in French!

To translate the English word “excited,” you can say passionné or enthousiaste.
You can also say “I’m excited” by using the French idiomatic expression J’ai hâte de [faire quelque chose] (= I’m looking forward to [doing something], I can’t wait to [do something])

For example:
J’ai hâte d’aller voir ce concert !
(= “I’m looking forward to going to this show. / I’m excited about going to the show.”)

3) Chat

Un chat is “a (male) cat” in French.
A female cat is une chatte, but don’t use that word: it also means “female private parts.” It’s another embarrassing mistake!

For example:
J’ai un chat et c’est le plus mignon du monde. Elle s’appelle Moustache.
(= I have a cat and it’s the cutest in the world. Her name is Whiskers.)

The English word “a chat” (as in, an informal discussion) would be une conversation, or une discussion in French.

The French translation for “to chit-chat” (for small talk) could be:

  • échanger des banalités (= literally to exchange trivialities),
  • parler de la pluie et du beau temps (= “talking about the weather” – that’s how to make small talk in French!),
  • faire connaissance (= “to meet, to get to know more about each other”)

4) L’envie

Une envie means “a desire,” like “a want” or “a craving.”
It’s often used as the verb avoir envie (= “to want”, but in an almost impersonal way – not really a goal, but a small involuntary craving.)

For example:
J’ai envie d’une glace.
(= I want an ice cream / I feel like having an ice cream, right now.)

Envy” in English would be la jalousie in French. We do sometimes (very rarely) use the word l’envie as “envy”, but only in very specific situations.

Je suis jalouse de Michel, il a une glace.
(= I’m jealous of Michel / I envy Michel, he has an ice cream.)

L’envie is also the name of a famous French song, written by Jean-Jacque Goldman and sung by the famous (in France) rock star “Johnny Halliday”: L’envie

5) Un raisin

Un raisin is “a grape.

It’s not always un raisin sec (= literally “a dried grape” = a raisin.)

For example, you can say:
J’adore le raisin, sauf les raisins secs.
= “I love grapes, except for raisins.”

What did you learn today?

– 5 false friends to be careful about: actuellement, excité, un chat, l’envie, un raisin
– The real English translation of these French words
– The French word you should use in place of these English words, to express what you really mean

If you want to learn more about common mistakes in French and how to look out for them, check out this short playlist: Confusing French Vocabulary

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!

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Allez, salut 🙂

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • Bonjour Géraldine
    Merci pour cet leçon. Est-ce que possible de utilise j’ai attends de et aussi j’ai hâte de pour le même = I can’t wait??
    Bonne journée
    Anne

    • Hi Anne
      Your question set me thinking, so here’s a
      possible solution :
      Leçon is feminine (la leçon) which therefore
      gives us cette leçon.
      I had to look up “I can’t wait”, and I’ve come
      up with this :
      If you Google “linguée English into French”
      and type in whatever you’re looking for, ie
      “I can’t wait”, it will give you a selection of
      possible translations. Here’s one that will
      perhaps answer your question :
      I can’t wait to start my own radio station =
      Je ne peux pas attendre pour créer ma
      propre station de radio.
      Give it a try and see what you think.
      All the best Anne 🙂
      John

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