Obvious… but wrong. False friends

False Friends Often Lead to Mistakes. Learning English vocabulary can seem so easy: Constitución means “constitution,” nación means “nation,” and decepción means “deception,” right?

Not quite. True, most words that end in –tion can be translated into Spanish by changing the suffix to “-ción.” But una decepción is a disappointment, not a deception.

Spanish and English have literally thousands of cognates, words that are basically the same in both languages, having the same etymology and similar meanings. But combinations such as decepción and “deception” are so-called false cognates — known more precisely as “false friends” — word pairs that look like they might mean the same thing but don’t. They can be confusing, and if you make the mistake of using them in speech or writing you’re likely to be misunderstood.

Following is a list of some of the most common false friends:

False friend English Similar to the Spanish word
Actual Real Actual=  at the present time
Assist Help Asistir= go to, attend
Attend Go to Atender = help
Billion 1,000,000,000,000 (British English) 1,000,000,000
Carpet Rug Carpeta = file
Constipation Not able to poo Estar constipado = have a cold
Deception Trick Decepción =disappointment

How good are you at identifying false friends? Try exercise 1 or exercise 2.

Do you know any others? Help us complete this list!

This entry was posted in Student's corner, Vocabulary. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Obvious… but wrong. False friends

  1. inesal says:

    Diversion is a funny one. It means desvío and not diversión.

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