Amigos falsos

False friends

 

"False friends" are words that are confusing for learners of a second language because they look similar to something that exists in both languages but that actually have different meanings. There are lots of "false friends" in Spanish and English. For example, an English speaker might see the adjective embarazada written in Spanish and wrongly think it means embarrased, but the actual meaning of embarazada is pregnant. 

Here is a table with some of the most common false friends for Spanish and English speakers:

SPANISH ENGLISH ENGLISH SPANISH
contento/-a happy content satisfecho/-a
pretender to hope/expect to pretend fingir
realizar to do/carry out to realise/-ze darse cuenta de 
soportar

to be able to stand/

put up with (a person)

to support apoyar
fábrica factory fabric tela
decepción disappointment deception un engaño
embarazada pregnant embarrased avergonzado/-a
constipado/-a to have a cold constipated estreñido/-a
largo/-a  long large grande
sopa soup soap jabón
parientes relatives parents padres
sensible sensitive sensible sensato
librería  bookshop library biblioteca
actualmente currently actually en realidad
carpeta  folder carpet moqueta/alfombra
costumbre habit costume disfraz
advertir to warn to advertise anunciar
jamón ham jam [US: jelly] mermelada
éxito success exit salida
preocupado/-a worried preoccupied absorto/-a
ocupado/-a busy occupied habitado/-a
asistir  to attend to assist  ayudar
preservativo condom preservative conservante

 

 Here are some examples:
  • "assitir" means to attend, not to assist

No puedo asistir a la reunión.I can't attend the meeting.

  • "embarazada" means pregnant, not embarrased

¿Estás embarazada?Are you pregnant?

  • "librería" means bookshop, not library

Voy a ir a la librería para comprar unos libros.I am going to the bookshop to buy some books.

  • "carpeta" means folder, not carpet

Pon los papeles en la carpeta.Put the papers in the folder.

 

Let me take a look at that...