False friends - faux amis in French

French Window (c) Kristin Espinasse
No, the street light and the window are not false friends, but keep each other quiet company on a lazy midsummer day in the South of France.

les faux amis (lay fowz ah mee)

    : "false friends" or words that look alike... but have different meanings

Audio File & Example sentence:
Listen to my daughter Jackie, her friend Manu, and me... pronounce these French words: Download MP3 file

Les Faux Amis!
Dans la vie, la plupart de nos amis sont des vrais amis, mais c'est les faux amis qui nous déçoivent. In life, most of our friends are true friends, but it's the false friends who deceive us. --Tim Averill

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On Wednesday I told you about my very *spéciale* family... and a certain faux amis that was rendering them insane  ... en tout cas* to the French.

I was inspired to write that story after Tim Averill (whom we met in Gary's pétanque post) shared with me a list of faux amis.

Tim is here today ("here" in a very façon de parler*/manner-of-speaking way, for Tim is currently in Massachusetts--but more about Tim in the bio below)... as I was saying, Tim is here (sort of... à peu près*) to share his list of faux amis with you. Enjoy it, share it, and help grow it by adding to Tim's list of "false friends"!

Tim's List of Faux Amis

Faux amis are cognates that are deceptive because they do not have the same meaning in English and in French, even though they have the same or very similar orthography. Have a look at these:

sensible = sensitive (français*) wise and pragmatic (anglais*)

location = rental (fr) place (ang)

affair(e) = business (fr) sexual infidelity (ang)

vase = mud, silt (fr) container (ang)

versatile = fickle (fr) multi talented (ang)

blesser = injure/wound (fr) bless (ang)

chair = flesh (fr) seat (ang)

college = lycée (fr) university (eng)

Tim adds: Dans la vie, la plupart de nos amis sont des vrais amis, mais c'est les faux amis qui nous déçoivent. C'est la même chose entre les langues :-)


Tim Averill is a teacher at "Ecole Bilingue de Beverly," also known as Waring School. He first spent a year in France in 1967-68 at "L'Universite de Bordeaux," and is an avid francophile. Both personally and professionally, he enjoys travels in France. Waring School has an annual exchange with Lycée David D'Angers and Tim and his artist wife Lauren travel to Provence as frequently as possible. The highlight of Tim's most recent trip was a visit to Domaine Rouge-Bleu and the chance to taste the wines of Jean Marc and to meet Kristin.

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Please join me in thanking Tim for this faux amis edition by leaving a note in the comments box. You might share a faux amis not listed here, or share a story about a false friend fiasco of your own (for example: how many of us health-conscious Francophiles have made the "préservatif"* language gaffe? ...blabbing on and on to our eyes-wide interlocutors about how we are minding our menus... by eliminating condoms from them? Yikes! I am so glad I got that mistake over with right off le bât.* (For the record, it is "conservateurs" we must watch out for, else we watch, in humble-pie I could just die horror, as the French stare back with smirks on their faces.)

*looks as though Italian might have its share of false friends, too (dog/food/goodbye?) ...never mind my spelling.

~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~
en tout cas
= in any case; façon de parler = so to speak; à peu près = almost, more or less; le français (m) = French; l'anglais (m) = English; le bât (m) = packsaddle


photo (c) Kristin Espinasse
Forget faux amis for a moment and enjoy these true friends from Villedieu.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety