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Careful! The Most Problematic Spanish False Friends

  • Post category:Vocabulary

Ah, the false friends! Nobody warns you about them when learning a new language. These troublesome words can really make you have a bad time if you say them in the wrong context! Today we’ll learn about the most common Spanish false friends so that you don’t have this problem in the future. ūüėČ

But first, what’s a ‘false friend’?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, false friend is a word that looks or sounds similar in two languages, but they actually have different meanings. These tricky words can confuse people who are learning a new language because they might think they mean the same thing, but they don’t.

#1. Embarazada

  • What it sounds like: Embarrassed
  • What it actually means: Pregnant

It might seem natural to say “Estoy embarazada” when we feel embarrassment, but you don’t want to say this unless you’re actually pregnant! The equivalent would be “¬°Qu√© verg√ľenza!” (How embarrassing!)

#2. Culo

  • What it sounds like: Cool
  • What it actually means: Butt

Fun fact: Some of my students think that, if you add -o at the end of an English word, you’ll magically transform it into Spanish. Sorry, guys, that doesn’t work here. If you want to express that something is cool, just say “guay” (pronounced as /goo-ah-ee).

#3. √Čxito

  • What it sounds like: Exit
  • What it actually means: Success

If you ever get lost in Madrid’s metro station, don’t ask for the “√©xito”, but “salida” (exit).

#4. Librería

  • What it sounds like: Library
  • What it actually means: Bookshop

Well, at least these two words have something in common: books. The difference is that at a “librer√≠a” you can buy them, but if you want to borrow them, you’ll have to go to la biblioteca (library).

#5. Constipado

  • What it sounds like: Constipated
  • What it actually means: Stuffy (with a cold)

Along with “embarazada”, this is probably one of the most problematic Spanish false friends you’ll encounter. If your Spanish friend tells you “Estoy constipado”, please don’t give them a weird look. They’re simply trying to say they have a cold.

But, if ‚ÄĒfor some reason‚ÄĒ, you want to inform others about your actual constipation, just say “Estoy estre√Īido” (“estoy estre√Īida” for women).

#6. As

  • What it sounds like: Ass
  • What it actually means: Ace, top player, expert

Don’t worry if someone tells you “¬°Eres un as!”. They don’t mean what you’re actually imagining.

In Spanish we use this word to refer to several things, but all of them are positive! Check the example below:

#7. Molestar

  • What it sounds like: Molester
  • What it actually means: To bother or annoy

Every time I teach this word I have to be prepared for my students’ reactions and comments. Well, “molestar” is a verb with a negative connotation in Spanish, but not as much as in English!

#8. Grasa

  • What it looks like: Grass
  • What it actually means: Fat (noun)

If you want to refer to a green area, you can either use “hierba” or “c√©sped”.

#9. Sensible

  • What it sounds like: Sensible
  • What it actually means: Sensitive

Dear readers, we have reached the most problematic pair of false friends. While we use the Spanish word “sensible” to refer to someone that gets easily affected or emotional, we use the word “sensato” to describe someone who is reasonable or down-to-earth.

#10. Soportar

  • What it sounds like: To support
  • What it actually means: To stand, bear

Thank you for reading! I hope these Spanish false friends have been helpful to you. Keep them in mind so you don’t put your foot in it among Spanish speakers!

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