HOW many times have you gone completely blank when searching for a word in French?
There are many words that can trip up someone learning French as they look or sound like English words and there is also the temptation; if in doubt say it with a French accent.
I have friends who have committed howlers when it comes to getting things wrong and I will admit I too have made errors, so I now keep a little book featuring some of the words that are known as 'faux amis'.
One word that I have seen confuse unsuspecting British drivers is on a signpost to a place of historical interest near my home, which is accessed by a hill. The signpost says Interdit aux cars.
I have seen British cars stop abruptly and search for a parking place in the hilly village. But a car in France is a coach and a motorcar is une voiture.
I will share my list with you and I am sure there are people who will want to add to it. The words are just not words that can confuse when read but those that can confuse when heard.
The first word is the English with its French translation, followed by the French and its English translation:
Actually: En fait, à vrai dire, vraiment
Actuellement: At present, now, nowadays, at the moment, in this day and age.
Agenda: Ordre du jour
Un agenda: A diary
Une amende: A fine, a penalty
Attend (something): Assister à
Attendre: To wait
To assist (someone): Aider
A car: Une voiture
Un car: Coach or bus (car can also mean because or for)
To chat: Bavarder
Un chat: A cat
Courier: Coursier (from courser - to chase)
Courrier: Mail, post , letters
To delay: Retarder
Un délai: Extension, time limit or waiting period
To demand: Exiger de
Demander: To ask
A desk: Un bureau (in an office)
Un pupitre (in a school)
La réception (in a hotel)
Le comptoir (at an airport)
Engin: A device
Evidently (as in obviously): De toute évidence, manifestement, visiblement
Evidedemment: Naturally, of course
Forcibly: De/par la force
Forcément: Obviously as in inevitably, not necessarily
Gentle: Doux, Douce
Gentil: Nice, kind
To harass: Harceler
Un haras: A stud farm
Justly: Justement, avec justesse
Justement: As a matter of fact, funnily enough. (Said alone - exactly! precisely!)
A mare (female horse): Une jument
Une mare: A pond
Une messe: A church mass
Mice: Des souris
Maïs (pronounced mice): Maize, corn
Occasion: Occasion (for an event - événement)
Occasion: On occasions, sometimes, (also second hand bargain)
Pain: La douleur, la souffrance
Du pain: Some bread
Une peine (pronounced pain): Sorrow, sadness, effort, punishment
Parking: Car Park
To pass an exam: Réussir un examen,
Passer un examen: To sit an exam
A preservative: Un conservateur
Un préservatif: A condom (also as an adjective preventive, protective)
To see: Voir
Si: If, yes
On stage: Sur scene
Un stage: Work experience, training course
To support: Soutenir
Supporter: To stand
Sympathique: Nice or kind
A verger: Un bedeau
Un verger: An orchard
What are some of your own favourite 'faux amis' and if you have a tale to tell of being caught out then please leave a comment below.