As a Spanish speaker learning English you may feel relief when coming across new English words which look alike in your native language. The learning process becomes an easy task when you just need to focus on a different pronunciation yet similar or same spelling. Such is the case of common words like hotel, restaurant, similar, decision, elemental… The list is endless.
However, we’re not that lucky all the time. Make sure you know what the word means before using it in context unless you want to face funny or even embarrassing situations. You don’t want to trust a fake friend, right?
In order for a word or expression to be tagged as a ‘false friend’, it must meet two criteria: it must be similar or identical in appearance yet different in meaning.
Let’s dig deeper to understand what we mean…
Funny or embarrassing situations which false friends may lead you to
Constipated vs cold
It’s a real nuisance going abroad and not feeling well; maybe you’re so ill that you need to go to a doctor. Be careful! If you tell them you are “constipated” they won’t give you a prescription for your cold, but something for your bowels to work properly again, and it’d be a real pity not being able to visit further than your hotel’s bathroom…
Embarrassed vs pregnant
A classic that has certainly got loads of people into hot water. You mean you’ve never heard an English friend of yours saying that he was “embarazado”? Be really careful with this pair of words or you may end up being fooled by your foreign friends. Use them wisely!
Envy vs send
Envy can be a really bad thing, especially if not used correctly. Imagine that you have been overseas for a long time, you made some good friends and you promise that you are going to envy them something monthly. That would leave them thinking why you’d envy them just once a month instead of every single day.
Terrific vs terrifying
Everybody has some presumptuous friend, but I think one of mine really wins hands down. We were chatting one night before going back home when one of them said that he was so terrific he couldn’t sleep all night long thinking about it… I am still wondering how bighead some people can just be.
Bigoted vs moustache
If you want to take a moment to celebrate hipster fashion, don’t do it with the word ‘bigoted’ or people will look angrily at you. The thing is nobody likes being deemed as intolerant or narrow-minded while you really want to support the trend of bushy moustaches. Watch out for this word or it may lead you astray!
Casualty vs by chance
Accidents never happen “by casualty” but “by chance”, although they might leave some casualties behind. If you don’t want to cause a massive panic attack, beware!
Pie vs foot
Be really careful with this one because it might lead you to some funny mistakes. Once I told a friend that I couldn’t sleep if I didn’t have some pie in me. It may have been the poor choice of words but she left thinking that I really had a weird fetish.
Avocado vs lawyer
If you are ever at a trial and need the help of a lawyer don’t even think to say “I won’t say a word until my avocado arrives”. People in the jury would picture something like this in their minds:
So remember, when learning a new language be aware of false friends and, at least, do not trip up on these few words we’ve presented today.
Tell us your anecdotes in the comments below!