Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

16.2: False Friends

  • Page ID
    79315
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    By this point in your experiences with German you will have noticed that, despite the existence of thousands of words which both look like and share the same meaning as English words, there are a few which look like English words but whose meanings are completely different. Visual similarities of other kinds can also be misleading. Here are the most common of these so-called “false friends” – words that are often confused:

    FALSE FRIEND NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH
    aktuell (current, up-to-date) eigentlich (actual, actually)
    also (thus, therefore) auch (also)
    bald (soon, shortly) kahl (bald)
    bekommen (to get, to receive) werden (to become)
    erst (only, not until) (when used with time expressions It means “first” when used as an adjective: das erste Teil [the first part]).
    etwa (approximately) etwas (something)
    eventuell (possibly, in that case) schließlich / endlich (eventually)
    fast (almost) fest or schnell (firm, solid) or (fast, quick)
    fehlen (to be lacking or missing) there is no one-word English equivalent
    gelangen (to arrive, to attain)
    (tip: regular verb!)
    gelingen (to succeed)
    (tip: irregular verb!)
    der Rat (advice, counsellor) die Ratte (rat)
    reichen (to reach, to suffice) riechen (to smell, to reek)
    der Roman (novel) der Römer (Roman person)
    schon (already, even) schön (beautiful)
    wer (who, whoever) wo (where)
    wohl (probably, indeed) gut (well)

    This page titled 16.2: False Friends is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Howard Martin revised by Alan Ng.

    • Was this article helpful?