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French Homework Help/Study Tips: False Cognates in French

written by: Brian J. Donovan • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 5/14/2013

There are a number of false cognates between French and English that trip students up. for example, "coin" in French has nothing to do with money. This list provides some of the most common false cognates students encounter.

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    Note: This is not a complete list of nouns and verbs, obviously, but I've included some you'll see at the beginning levels. Also, some are considered semi-false cognates, as they have multiple meanings depending on how they're used. [(m) = masculine/(f) = feminine/(adj.) = adjective/(vb) = verb]

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    Study Tips.

    Common French False Cognates 1. When you're reading sentences, look at the words around the one in question for clues. You can tell we're not talking about money here: Il y a une librairie au coin de la Rue Maise. To be sure about "librairie," you may have to keep reading. Hopefully, there'll be more clues...

    2. When studying False Cognates, make a list of the ones you need to know and look at that list regularly. Fold it in half, with French on one side and English on the other, then fold to hide the meanings and quiz yourself!

    3. You can even create a match-up exercise for yourself. Scramble the English meanings--or even French words that would work with your false cognates--so you'll have to match them up.

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    4. Use them a lot! One way to become familiar with false cognates--especially those you'll use more often than others--is to use them as much as you can. Slowly work them into the French you use--both in your writing and your speaking.

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    Common Fales Cognates.


    • bel/belle (adj): beautiful
    • Arm bras (m): arm
    • car (m): coach bus
    • cent: one hundred
    • champ: field
    • chat (m): cat
    • coin (m): corner
    • comment: how, what
    • commode (f): dresser
    • date (f): calendar date, but not the fruit
    • dire (vb): to say
    • divers: diverse, varied
    • fin (f): end
    • fort/forte (adj.): strong, loud
    • four: oven
    • gomme (f): eraser
    • gros/grosse (adj.): fat, large
    • journée (f): day (as a whole)
    • lame (f): blade
    • librairie (f): bookstore
    • limon: silt
    • lit (m): bed
    • loin: far
    • machin (m): thing, thingie
    • magasin (m): store
    • main (f): hand
    • match (m): match, game; but not match for lighting a fire
    • médecine (m): doctor
    • merci: thank you
    • mère: mother
    • mode (f): fashion
    • or: noun = gold/conj. = now, whereas
    • ours (m): bear
    • pain (m): bread
    • parole (f): one's, word, promise, speech, words, lyrics
    • patron (m): boss
    • pays (m): country
    • pour: for,
    • prune (f): plus / a prune = un pruneau
    • raisin (m): grape / raisin = un raisin sec
    • rang: row, line, rank
    • sale (adj.): dirty
    • seize: sixteen
    • son (poss. adj.): his, her, its
    • store: blind, shade, awning
    • tongs: flipflops
    • vent (m): wind
    • vie (f): life


    • aimer: to like, to love
    • attendre: to wait (for)
    • assister: to attend
    • bâtir: to build
    • blesser: to wound
    • cacher: to hide
    • commander: to order or ask for food
    • (se) coucher: to bed, to go to bed
    • crier: to scream
    • délivrer: issue, set free
    • demander: to ask (something)
    • dormir: to sleep
    • écouter: to listen (to)
    • employer: to use
    • essayer: to try
    • habiter: to live, reside
    • hurler: to howl, shout
    • introduire: to introduce (but use présenter to introduce a person)
    • jeter: to throw (away)
    • manger: to eat
    • nager: to swim
    • nettoyer: to clean (up)
    • partir: to leave
    • porter: to carry, wear
    • ranger: to tidy, straighten (up)
    • rater: to miss, fail
    • regarder: to watch, to look at
    • rentrer: to return home
    • rester: to stay, remain
    • savoir: to know (something/how to do something)
    • sentir: to feel, to smell
    • sortir: to go out, exit, to date
    • taper: to type, tap, hammer
    • tirer: to pull
    • traîner: to pull, drag, hang out
    • travailler: to work
    • user: to wear out/away, become worn
    • visiter: to visit (but usually "rendre visite à" for people)