A Lesson in Language Complexities

A Lesson in Language Complexities

Prime Production is a one-stop language provider based in the UK and Asia. From translation to interpretation, our team of project managers and linguistic expertise make it their business to stay up to date with the latest news and trends in the language industry. Our multilingual office also looks to learn and understand various language complexities from our network of linguistic expertise.

Inspired by these learnings, we are going to discuss ‘faux amis’, otherwise known as ‘false friends’.



When learning a new language, we naturally notice words that look similar to those in other languages that we speak. Sometimes, they have a similar meaning or share similar linguistic roots. Sometimes, they share no link at all, making them ‘faux amis’. For example, the English word ‘Library’ linguistically looks similar to the French word ‘Librairie’, making us think that this is the French translation for ‘Library’, however, it actually translates to ‘bookshop’, making ‘Librarie’ a ‘false friend’. So, even though words in the target language can look similar to those in one of your spoken languages, they can have an entirely different meaning.


English – French Examples

  1. Attendre – Although this looks like the English verb ‘to attend’, this French verb actually means ‘to wait’.

           e.g. Je t’attends – I’m waiting for you


  1. Pain – In English, ‘pain’ refers to a painful physical sensation whereas the French word ‘le pain’ translates to ‘bread’.

           e.g. Une tranche de pain – A slice of bread


Blesser – This looks like the English verb ‘to bless’, suggesting it may have religious meaning in French, but ‘blesser’ actually translates to ‘to injure or wound’.

          e.g. Un enfant blessé – An injured child


  1. Déception, déçu and décevoir – Although these words look like something to do with deception or being deceptive, they mean ‘disappointment, disappointed and to disappoint’ in French.

           e.g. Elle est très déçue de ne pas avoir été choisie – She is very disappointed not to have been chosen


  1. Grappe – Does it mean ‘grapes’ or ‘to grab’? No, in French, it means ‘a bunch’.

           e.g. Une grappe de raisins – A bunch of grapes  


  1. Réaliser – Rather than realising or understanding something, this French verb means ‘to fulfil, accomplish or achieve’.

           e.g. Il a réalisé son rêve – He has fulfilled his dream


  1. Pétrole – Although this may look like the English word ‘petrol’, it translates to ‘oil’. The French translation for petrol is ‘l’essence’.

          e.g. Le prix du pétrole – The price of oil


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