Unlocking French language: simple advice for avoiding faux amis – Part Three


Here is part three of our series on faux amis – these false friends will always be tricky for students of both French and English.

Saying things in French when you are not really quite sure what you are saying can be a real bummer. But it is important – very important – to have a go.

My husband speaks dreadful French, yet he always gets his message across. He once went in to a supermarket to buy a hot water bottle and, in his laborious French, he managed to explain to the girl that he was looking for something hot to take to bed with him!

The faux amis are a constant danger to us expats, and here are a few:

Tissu vs Tissue

Tissue in English is a kleenex (yes, like the brand), or mouchoir. The French word tissu means fabric.

Abusif vs Abusive

The English word abusive, in French would be injurieux if referring to abusive words, or violent if referring to physical abuse.

The French word abusif means excessive, improper or controlling.

Actuel vs Actual

The English word actual, in French would be réel or vrai. The French word actuellement means now.

Actuellement vs Actually

The English word actually would in French be en fait. The French word actuellement means now.

Avertissement vs Advertisement

The English word advertisement, in French would be publicité. The French word avertissement means warning.

Illustration by Kala Barba-Court

About the Contributor

Catherine Broughton

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  1. Florent Rols Aug 9, 2013 at 10:27 AM - Reply

    I did some awkward use of some of those words. Thanks for me, the Australians understand the proximity of words and they find hilarious to use some words in another context.

    • Catherine Broughton Aug 9, 2013 at 8:50 PM - Reply

      The Australians are naturally very good-humoured and pleasnt people. Brilliant at joking and taking a joke.

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