False Friends

¡Hola a tod@s!

Last week we took a look at cognates in English and Spanish, that is, words with that have the same origin and a similar meaning.

Sometimes, words with the same origin go down separate paths in Spanish and English, or words with different roots resemble each other purely by coincidence! Confusing? Well, yes, a little. These words are false cognates, or more commonly known as false friends (falsos amigos). These are words that look or sound the same in English and Spanish, but have different meanings.

Take the example of the Spanish word ‘embarazada’ (pregnant), which sounds an awful lot like the English word ‘embarrassed’. Many English speakers learning Spanish have been caught out by this false friend. One good thing is, if you make the mistake of saying ‘estoy embarazada’ (I’m pregnant) instead of ‘tengo vergüenza’ (I’m embarrassed), you tend to learn the real meaning of this false friend pretty quickly, and it’s unlikely that you’ll make the same mistake again!

Remember that mistakes are made to be learned from, so don’t let it discourage you. In order to help you recognise some of those tricky false friends, and avoid any ‘vergüenza’, we’ve compiled a list of some false friends for you to check out below.

Spanish wordEnglish translationsEnglish wordSpanish translation
ActualReal, present dayActualReal
ActualmenteAt the moment, at present, currentlyActuallyDe hecho, realmente, en realidad
AdvertirTo warn, to notifyTo advertiseAnunciar, hacer publicidad
AsistirTo attend, to be present atTo assistAyudar
Una casualidadA coincidenceA casualtyUn/a víctima
Una carpetaA folderA carpetUna alfombra
Una cartaA letter (e.g. for posting)A card (e.g. credit card)Una tarjeta
El codoElbowA codeUn código
Estar constipado/aTo have a coldTo be constipatedEstar estreñido/a
Un desiertoA desertA dessertUn postre
Estar embarazadaTo be pregnantTo be embarrassedTener vergüenza / Estar avergonzado/a
Un éxitoA successAn exitLa salida
EnvolverTo wrapTo involveInvolucrar, implicar
Un/a extranjero/aA foreignerA strangerUn/a desconocido/a
IntroducirTo insert (an object)To introducePresentar
LargoLongLargeGrande
Una libreríaA bookshopA libraryUna biblioteca
Mayor (adj)Bigger, olderMayor (noun)Un/a alcalde
Un nudoA knotTo be nudeEstar desnudo/a
El panBreadA pan (for cooking)Un sartén
Una paradaA stop (e.g. bus stop)A paradeUn desfile
Un parienteA relativeA parentUn padre
PretenderTo aim, to expectTo pretendFingir
RealizarTo carry out (a task)To realiseDarse cuenta
RecordarTo rememberTo recordGrabar
SoportarTo tolerate, to put up withTo supportApoyar
TrasladarseTo move (e.g. country)To translateTraducir

Feel free to comment your thoughts below, and add any more false friends you can think of.

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Un abrazo,

Hannah @ ELC

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