French-English False Friends


"False friends" are words that seem to be the same but in fact have different meanings (eg actuel/actual). Listed here are some of the most common false friends for French and English, as well as a few other words that give particular problems.

French English translation Comments and Examples
actuel present in the present situation
actuellement at present I am studying English at present
réel actual his actual words were...
réellement actually  
air air fresh air
air look, appearance, air, manner an air of luxury
air air, melody, tune, aria he sung an air
aire area vast area
ancien, ex- former ancien professeur  a former professor
ancien, de jadis ancient La Grèce ancienne  ancient Greece
assister à to attend to attend a meeting, conference
assister (aider) to assist to assist sby in doing sth
attendre to wait (for)  
commander, diriger to command to command an army
commander to order to order a meal
complet comprehensive a comprehensive price-list
compréhensif understanding an understanding friend
conseils advice uncountable
conseil a piece of advice countable
contrée surrounding territory people from the region
pays country people from all the countries
contrôler to check to check passengers' tickets
maîtriser to control control yourself!
crier to shout  
pleurer to cry  
demander to ask to ask sby for sth
exiger, réclamer to demand to demand a refund
démissioner to resign he resigned from the company
licencier to dismiss he was dismissed without notice

se résigner (à)

resign oneself (to) she resigned herself to her fate
divertissement entertainment uncountable
entrainement training uncountable
état state the American states
état estate real estate; the third estate
état status civil status
éventuel, possible possible one possible result
éventuellement possibly he could possibly arrive
final(ement) eventual(ly) eventually he surrendered
expérience experiment a scientific experiment
expérience experience experience of life
experimenté experienced an experienced teacher
fait fact  
haut faits, exploit feat, exploit  
frère brother they were brother and sister
moine, frère friar, monk the friars of the Franciscan order
ignorer, ne pas connaître not to know, to be unaware of I know nothing about the matter
ignorant [adj] ignorant ignorant of the rule, he
ignorant [mf] ignoramus what an ignoramus you are!
ne tenir aucun compte de to ignore I shall ignore your impertinence
important important (quality) an important event, fact, question, meeting, decision; a VIP
important big, sizeable (quantity) a big house, a sizeable turnover
informations news uncountable
renseignements information uncountable
intéressant, captivant interesting an interesting book or person
intéressant, avantageux attractive, worthwhile an attractive price or offer


day; day's work he worked all the day
voyage journey, voyage a journey through the country
labeur, travail labor, toil  
labour, labourage ploughing  
location rent, hire car hire, a hire-car
situation location a suitable location for a car factory, filmed on location
noise quarrel  
bruit noise  
occasion, circonstance occasion on the first occasion that it happened
occasion, conjoncture favorable opportunity, chance to jump at the chance
occasion second-hand buy a second-hand or used car
bargain a real bargain at $100
offrir, proposer to offer to offer to help, how much do you offer for it?
offrir, donner to give to give sby a birthday present
politique [adj] political a political campaign, speech
politique [nf] policy it is not company policy
politique [nm] politician an honest politician
préciser to specify, to make clear the verb "to precise" does not exist in English
prix prize to win first prize
prix price the price is $10
retrouvailles reunion a school reunion every year
réunion meeting a meeting with clients
meeting meeting a sports or political meeting
se retirer to withdraw to withdraw from a race
prendre sa retraite to retire to retire at 60
travail work a work to be done
torture travail, torture  
voyage travel  



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