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FALSE-COGNATES

In the light of what has just been said about cognates in the previous section, can you make sense of the following sentences? (please note thatthese sentences have been made up for the purpose of that exercise. The content might sound a bit strange but it's all proper French and should still make sense!)

  1. Les Gallois sont un peuple courageux: ils n'ont pas peur des bêtes féroces telles que les chats sauvages, les faucons ou les guêpes!

(Here is some vocabulary to help you: sont = are, ils n'ont pas = they do not have, telles que= such as, ou=or)

Click here to see a translation

  1. Il y a actuellement dans cette pièce cent élèves qui assistent à la lecture d'une nouvelle de Guy de Maupassant.

(Here is some vocabulary to help you : Il y a = there is/are, dans cette = in this, qui= who)

Click here for some help

In the previous section, we have mentioned cognates, which are words that usually look very much the same in French and in English and share the same- or very close - meaning. Just by relying on these, you can already gain an idea of the topic of the text and sometimes understand some of its ideas (this was the case, for instance, in the first sentence above). However, you should be aware of the existence of false-cognates (also referred to as 'false friends'). These are defined as words that look the same in French and English and, yet, have a completely different meaning (well illustrated by the second sentence above). As previously mentioned, there are also partial cognates, i.e. words that share only a partial common meaning. For instance, the French word trombone will translate into English as 'trombone' when it refers to the music instrument, but as 'paper clip' when it refers to the stationary item (it all makes sense when you think that the latter has the shape of the former).

Unfortunately, there are quite a lot of false friends, and the only way to deal with them is to learn them by heart (or at least to become so familiar with them that when you see them in a text you know you must be careful). Here is a list of the most common ones, but be aware that there are more of them, so always be prepared to renegotiate the meaning of a word you take for granted.

A good idea would be to keep updating a list of false-friends as you come across them in your readings. Why not start now with the following passage?

1

Translate:

Actuellement, les journées sont courtes car nous sommes en janvier et il faut s'attendre à un hiver rude avec beaucoup de neige et de glace. Je vous conseille donc de rester à la maison, de porter des habits chauds et d'en profiter pour faire un peu de lecture (commencez donc par aller à la librairie ou dans un grand magasin pour acheter des romans ou des nouvelles). C'est agréable de se reposer un peu mais nous avons tous hâte au printemps, n'est-ce pas ?(click here to listen to this paragraph)

At the moment, days are short because we are in January and one must expect a harsh winter with a lot of snow and ice. I therefore advise you to stay at home, wear warm clothes and take advantage of it to do a little bit of reading (so start by going to the bookshop or a supermarket to buy some novels or some short stories). It is nice to rest a little but we are all looking forward to the Spring, aren't we? Vérifier votre réponse
[D]

In the table below, you will find 4 columns:

  • The first column contains French words
  • The second column contains their English translations
  • The third column contains the English words which you must not mistake for the equivalent to the French words in column 1
  • The fourth column contains the French translations of the English words in column 3.

Please note: an asterisk (*) in column 3 indicates that this word is also a possible English translation of the French word in column 1, depending on the context it is used in (you should therefore be careful when translating).

French English English French
accommoder to prepare to accommodate loger
achever to complete to achieve accomplir, réussir
actuel current, present actual réel
actuellement now, at the moment actually en fait
l'affluence the rush, crowds affluence une richesse
un agenda a diary an agenda un ordre du jour
agoniser to be dying to agonise se tourmenter
un agrément a charm an agreement un accord
aimer to love to aim viser
une apologie a praise *an apology des excuses
assister to attend *to assist aider
assumer to take on to assume supposer
attendre to wait to attend assister à
un avertissement a warning an advertisement une publicité
un avis an opinion a piece of advice un conseil
un bachelier a student who has passed the baccalauréat a bachelor un célibataire
un bail a lease a bail une caution
un biais a means, a way a bias un préjugé
bigot zealously religious bigot sectaire
blanc white blank vierge/à remplir
une blanquette a veal stew in white sauce a blanket une couverture
blesser to hurt to bless bénir
une bribe bit a bribe un pot-de-vin
une bride a bridle a bride une mariée
une caméra a film camera a camera un appareil-photo
car because/coach car une voiture
un caractère a nature a character un personnage
une caution a guarantee, a deposit some caution une prudence
une cave a cellar, a basement a cave une caverne
une chair a flesh a chair une chaise
une chance some luck *a chance une possibilité de succès
charger to load *to charge faire payer
un chat a cat a chat une causette, une discussion
des chips some crisps some chips des frites
une chose a thing a chose choisi
commander to order *to command commander
compréhensif understanding comprehensive complet
un coin a corner a coin une pièce
concerner to involve *to concern inquiéter
un conducteur a driver a conductor un chef d'orchestre, un contrôleur
une confection a preparation, making *a confection une friandise
une confidence a secret a confidence une confiance
consistant solid, substantial *consistent cohérent
un crâne a skull, brain a crane une grue
crier to shout *to cry pleurer
décevoir to disappoint to deceive tromper
défiler to march *to defile salir
un délai time-limit, deadline *delay un retard
demander to ask *to demand exiger
un député an MP a deputy adjoint
un dessin a drawing a design un plan, une conception
disposer de to have at one's disposal *to dispose of se débarrasser de
un editeur a publisher an editor un rédacteur
effectivement in fact, indeed effectively efficacement
engagé committed engaged occupé, fiancé
un engin a device an engine un moteur
un entrainement a training some entertainment un divertissement
une envie a desire, a craving *an envy une jalousie
un état a state, a condition an estate un domaine
éventuellement maybe, possibly eventually finalement
une évidence obviousness *some evidence une preuve
une fabrique a factory some fabric un tissu
un fond bottom (to be) fond of aimer
un forfait pay something a fixed rate a forfeit un gage
formidable great, terrific formidable redoutable
un formulaire a form a formula une formule
fortuné rich fortunate chanceux
un four an oven four quatre
des fournitures some supplies some furniture des meubles
génial brilliant genial friendly, nice
gentil kind gentle doux
une glace an ice-cream, mirror a glass un verre
une grappe a bunch of grapes some grapes du raisin
une gratuité the fact that something is free of charge a gratuity un pourboire
gros fat, big gross grossier
des habits some clothes some habits des habitudes
un hasard a chance a hazard un risque
heurter to hit to hurt blesser
une humeur a mood a humour un humour
hurler to shriek, to yell to hurl lancer
ignorer not to know *ignore ignorer
inconvenant improper inconvenient inopportun
un inconvénient a drawback an inconvenient inopportun
inhabitable uninhabitable inhabitable habitable
injurier to insult to injure blesser
une isolation an insulation an isolation isolement
une issue an exit an issue un problème
joindre to get hold of (someone), to enclose or to attach together to join devenir membre
une journée a day a journey un voyage
laid ugly laid couché, posé
unelecture a reading a lecture un cours magistral
une librairie a bookstore a library une bibliothèque
licencier to fire, to dismiss to license autoriser
une lime a file a lime un citron vert, du tilleul
un lit a bed lit allumé, éclairé
un/une livre book, pound liver un foie
une location a rental, lease a location un emplacement
lunatique moody lunatic un fou
luxurieux lustful luxurious luxueux
un magasin a shop, store a magazine un magazine
une main a hand main principal
manger to eat a manger une mangeoire
marron brown maroon bordeaux
un médecin a doctor medecine un médicament
une misère poverty misery une souffrance
une monnaie a currency, change some money de l'argent
une nouvelle a short-story/some news a novel un roman
une noise a quarrel some noise un bruit
onéreux expensive onerous lourd, pénible
un ours a bear ours nôtre
un pain some bread some pain une douleur
une pièce a room, play a piece un morceau
une peine some sorrow some pain une douleur
pour for pour verser
préjudice harm *prejudice un préjugé
un préservatif a condom some preservative un agent conservateur
prévenir to warn prevent empêcher
un procès a trial a process un processus
une pub an ad a pub un pub
une queue tail *a queue une queue/ une file d'attente
un raisin some grape a raisin un raisin sec
ranger to tidy a ranger un garde forestier
relever to lift up, to raise to relieve soulager
reporter postpone report signaler, faire un compte rendu
rester to stay rest se reposer
résumer to sum up to resume reprendre
retirer to withdraw to retire prendre sa retraite
une réunion a meeting a reunion des retrouvailles
un roman a novel roman romain
rude harsh rude grossier, impoli
sale dirty sale/sales des vente/des soldes
un senior old person senior confirmé
sensible sensitive sensible sensé
une sentence a verdict a sentence une phrase
un slip some underwear a slip une erreur
un sommaire a table of contents a summary résumé
un son his/her/its son un fils
supplier to beg supply approvisionner
supporter to put up with support soutenir
sympathique friendly, nice sympathetic compatissant
une tentative an attempt tentative provisoire
un tissu material, fabric a tissue un mouchoir en papier
une vase some silt, mud a vase un vase
une veste a jacket a vest un maillot