False Friends - Common Mistakes in English

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In this lesson we will learn about some false friends.


Angela: A ‘false friend’ is a word that sounds or looks similar to a word of different meaning in another language.

Evelyn: Can you give us an example, Angela?

Angela: Sure, Evelyn. The French word ‘actuellement’ and the English word ‘actually’ are examples of false friends.

Evelyn: What is ‘actually’?

Angela: It means ‘in fact’. For example: My daughter loves “Pink Floyd”. Actually, she has all their CDs.

Evelyn: Do you know some other examples of false friends?

Angela: Sure. The English word ‘embarrassed’ and the Spanish word ‘embarazado’.

Evelyn: I know the English word. It means that you feel ashamed or shy.

Angela: That’s right, Evelyn. Another word that some Portuguese speakers mix up is ‘pretender’. It sounds like the English word ‘pretend’, but the meanings are different.

Evelyn: In English, the verb ‘pretend’ means ‘make believe’, as in your imagination. If you are bored at work, you can close your eyes and pretend you’re at the beach…

Angela: That’s right, Evelyn, but you have to be really creative for that one!

Evelyn:I know! But, actually, I like my job. By the way, that reminds me of another false friend, Angie.

Angela:Which one, Eve?

Evelyn: The English adjective ‘sympathetic’ and the Portuguese adjective ‘simpático’.

Angela: Oh, of course. ‘Sympathetic’ means showing that you understand and care about someone’s problems. But why does that remind you of your job?

Evelyn: I had to miss work the other day because of a personal problem and my boss was very sympathetic.

Angela: That’s good, Eve. It’s very important to have a job you like. Now let’s see some conversations.

Conversation 1

Yuri: What happened? Your clothes are all dirty!

Sophia: I am so embarrassed! I was running to catch a bus, but I tripped and fell…stop laughing!!

Yuri: Sorry!! I didn’t intend to laugh!! It’s just that you look so…

Sophia: Don’t say it!!

Yuri: Oh, come on, Sophia!!

Conversation 2

Yuri: Hi. Are you feeling better?

Sophia: Yes. But I just wish you would be more sympathetic.

Yuri: You’re right. I’m just happy you didn’t get hurt.

Actually, you should remember that your health comes first. Next time you should wait for another bus.

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