When we’re learning a new language, we tend to rely on our native language to guess the meaning of new words, try to understand grammatical structures, etc, whether we’re aware of it or not. So, it’s pretty common to think that a foreign word that is so similar to a word we have in our native language, carries the same meaning.
Sometimes it does but sometimes it does not. These words that have a similar form in different languages but carry a completely different meaning are called false friends.
So, today I’m going to make a small list of some English-Italian false. Let’s see if you know them all.
When you hear the Italian word attualmente for the very first time, the English word actually could come to your mind. But guess what? Actually is not the right translation of attualmente. In fact, attualmente means currently.
Ex: Attualmente in Italia vivono 59 milioni di persone.
There are currently 59 million people living in Italy.
The word actually is generally translated with in realtà in Italian.
There is an English word that is written exactly like the Italian word camera. However, while in English this word means a piece of equipment used to take photos, in Italian it can mean either room or bedroom.
Ex: All’hotel non c’erano camere disponibili.
There were no rooms available at the hotel.
Ex: Mi piacerebbe vivere in un appartamento con almeno tre camere e due bagni.
I would like to live in an apartment with at least three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The word camera is translated with macchina fotografica in Italian.
Comprensivo sounds very similar to the English word comprehensive. But this is where the similarities end. In fact, comprensivo means understanding, sympathetic.
Ex: Andrea è una persona molto comprensiva.
Andrea is a very understanding person.
The word comprehensive is generally translated with completo, esauriente in Italian.
Confrontare can remind you of the English verb to confront. However, its meaning in Italian is quite different. In fact, it means to compare.
Ex: Se confrontiamo i dati sulla disoccupazione del 2020 con quelli del 2021, noteremo che è aumentata dell’2%.
If we compare the unemployment figures for 2020 with those for 2021, we will notice that it has increased by 2 percent.
The verb to confront is translated with affrontare in Italian.
Libreria is very similar to the English word library. However, libreria in Italian means bookstore.
Ex: Oggi vado in libreria a comprare una buona grammatica di italiano.
Today I’m going to the bookstore to buy a good Italian grammar.
The word library is translated with biblioteca in Italian.
When you think about magazzino, the English word magazine might come to your mind. However, magazzino in Italian means warehouse, not magazine.
Ex: Hai sentito che finalmente abbatteranno quel vecchio magazzino in centro per farne una scuola?
Did you hear that they are finally going to tear down that old warehouse downtown to make a school?
The word magazine is generally translated with rivista in Italian.
Parente is one of the very first false friends you’ll come across when learning Italian. In fact, even if it looks like the word parent in English, it actually means relative.
Ex: I miei parenti verranno a trovarmi venerdì dall’America.
My relatives are coming to visit me on Friday from America.
The word parent is translated with genitore in Italian.
Pretendere might sound like the English word to pretend but in reality, it means to demand or to expect.
Ex: Da voi pretendo il massimo impegno.
I demand/expect the utmost commitment from you.
The verb to pretend is translated with fare finta in Italian.
Even if sensibile might remind you the word sensible, it actually means sensitive.
Ex: Anna è una persona molto sensibile.
Anna is a very sensitive person.
The word sensible is generally translated with ragionevole in Italian.
Finally, the word simpatico is very similar to the English word sympathetic. However, it means likeable, nice in Italian.
Ex: Massimo e Paolo sono molto simpatici.
Massimo and Paolo are very likeable.
The word sympathetic is generally translated with comprensivo/empatico in Italian.
Di you already know these Italian false friends in Italian? Can you come up with some other English-Italian false friends?
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Original image by mohamed_hassan