False Cognates (False Friends)

There are several words in Spanish that are similar in English, but have a different meaning. Here are a few examples:

  • actually is similar to Spanish actualmente; however, actualmente is better translated with e.g. currently, as actually actually means in reality. Confusing, eh?
  • embarrassed is not the same as embarazada. A translation for embarrassed could be apenado. In some situations it can be embarrassing to be embarazada, i.e. pregnant!
  • realize should not be confused with Spanish realizar. When Mexican students use the English word realize, they normally use it meaning to say something like: to give an idea physical form. They mostly don’t realize that realize also means that you become aware of something.
  • approve is sometimes confused with aprobar:”Teacher, did I approve the exam?” aprobar means pass as in ‘pass an exam’, whereas approve means to agree to something.
  • eventually is not the same as eventual(mente)Eventually could be translated with finalmente, as it means: in the end, in the long run. The Spanish cognate eventual is in meaning similar to English temporary or conditional