Connexion tip: Know your "Faux-amis"

One pitfall when learning French is the deceptive faux amis – words that appear the same in French and English when, ‘actuellement’, they have different meanings.

Actuellement is one of them. It does not mean actually, en fait, but currently.

So, where do these language traps come from?

English, despite belonging to the Germanic family of language, has many words that are influenced by the French, ever since 1066, and changed little in spelling or meaning: such as “intelligence”, “situation” or “accident”. After the English defeat at the hands of the French in the Hundred Years War, English started to undergo a revival and the two languages increasingly went their separate ways.

Sandrine Durand, a French language tutor at Lalangue Paris, says: “Often that’s how faux-amis arise: the word evolves in meaning in one language but not the other but still sounds the same.”
Others include library (the French librairie means bookshop), assister (to attend), blesser (to injure) and above all take note that préservatifs refers to condoms, not preservatives which are conservateurs.

You can find tips like this and much more in our Moving to France guide, on sale now.

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