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Thread: Explanation of "false cognates"

  1. #1
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    Default Explanation of "false cognates"

    False cognates are Spanish words that look like the English word (or vice versa) but do not have the same meaning. It was mentioned in one the threads and I thought it might be beneficial to expand a bit for those who did not understand the term. My advice is never to assume the meaning when in doubt "look it up". I will start off with ten words and please feel free to add to the list. Here are some common false cognates:

    1) Librería= book store (not library). Library in Spanish is "biblioteca".

    2) Sensible= sensitive (not sensible). Sensible in Spanish is "sensato".

    3) Copia= copy (as in a photocopy of something). A “copy” of book or magazine in Spanish is "ejemplar".

    4) Gol =goal (for sports). Goal (as in objective) in Spanish is "****". (I have heard people say "este año tengo muchos goles").

    5) Efectivo= cash money (not effective or efficient). Effective in Spanish is "eficaz". (This is a common error as well).

    6) Cualidad= quality (as in characteristics of a person) Calidad = quality of goods or products.

    7) Molestar= to bother someone and not "molest" with the English meaning.

    8) Largo= long (not large). Large in Spanish is "grande" (This is a common error as well).

    9) Avisar = to let some one know (not advise). To give advice is the verb "aconsejar".

    10) Realizar= to accomplish something (not realize). To realize is the verb "darse cuenta".


    LDG.

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    Default Colegio y college

    Another one (I believe) would be Colegio:

    Colegio = mostly used to mean private school in DR and for professionals' associations (as "colegio de abogados"). It doesn't mean the similar 'College' that means 'University'.

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    Default Pretty good examples, however I think that

    "efectivo" might not be quite so false.

    Used as an adjective it imeans effective or real or actual..

    Efectivamente, does not mean lots of cash.

    I do believe you can use it as in: "Él es muy efectivo en su trabajo." Or "El resultado efectivo fue un disastre."

    But I am not a Spanish guru..

    HB

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    Hillbilly,

    I understand your point but as a noun "efectivo" means "cash" and in my example I was referring to the "noun" not the adjective.


    LDG.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hillbilly
    "efectivo" might not be quite so false.

    Used as an adjective it imeans effective or real or actual..

    Efectivamente, does not mean lots of cash.

    I do believe you can use it as in: "Él es muy efectivo en su trabajo." Or "El resultado efectivo fue un disastre."

    But I am not a Spanish guru..

    HB
    Last edited by Marianopolita; 04-29-2005 at 09:01 PM. Reason: typo

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    Gatoazul,

    I agree with your example.


    LDG.

    Quote Originally Posted by gatoazul
    Another one (I believe) would be Colegio:

    Colegio = mostly used to mean private school in DR and for professionals' associations (as "colegio de abogados"). It doesn't mean the similar 'College' that means 'University'.

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    Default

    There are many others. I have a list with my English class materials. Two that I recall that are not listed are:

    embarazada which is pregnant - not embarrased

    preservativo which is a condom - not preservative

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    Default ooh, can I play?

    I love these. I compiled a list similar to this when I was teaching someone English last year. I've taken out the ones already mentioned.

    1. Asistir means to attend. Asisto a la oficina cada día, I go to the office daily. To say "to assist," use ayudar, to help.

    2. Atender: Means to serve or to take care of, to attend to. If you're talking about attending a meeting or a class, use asistir.

    3. Carpeta means a file folder (including the virtual kind) or a briefcase. "Carpet" is most often alfombra.

    4. Compromiso means a promise, obligation, or commitment, it does not usually convey the sense that one have given up something to reach an agreement. There is no good noun equivalent of "compromise" that would be understood that way out of context, although the verb transigir conveys the sense of giving in to, yielding to, or tolerating another person.

    5. Constipado: Una constipación, though not very common, is one of the words that means a cold. Someone who is constipated is estreñido.

    6. Contestar: It's a very common verb meaning to answer. To contest something, use contender. A contest or a competition is concurso.

    7. Decepción, decepcionar means disappointment or to disappoint. To deceive someone is to engañar a alguién.

    8. Delito: There's seldom much delightful about a crime. (Delito usually refers to a minor crime, as contrasted with a serious crime or crimen.)

    9. Desgracia: In Spanish, this is little more than a mistake or misfortune. Something shameful is una vergüenza.

    10. Disgusto: Derived from the prefix dis- (meaning "not") and the root word gusto (meaning "pleasure"), this word refers simply to displeasure or misfortune. If you need to use a much stronger term akin to "disgust," use asco or repugnancia.

    11. Etiqueta is a label, not a ticket.

    12. Éxito: It's a hit or a success. If you're looking for the way out, look for una salida.

    13. Fábrica: That's a place where they fabricate items, namely a factory. Words for "cloth" include tejido and tela. n.b. in the DR Factoria is used for rice mill.

    14. Introducir: This isn't truly a false cognate, for it can be translated as, among other things, to introduce in the sense of to bring in, to begin, to put, or to place. For example, se introdujo la ley en 1998, the law was introduced (put in effect) in 1998. But it's not the verb to use to introduce someone. Use presentar.

    15. Pretender: The Spanish verb doesn't have anything to do with faking it, only to try. To pretend, use fingir or simular.

    16. Realizar, realizacón: The verb can be used flexibly to indicate something becoming real or becoming completed: Se realizó el rascacielos, the skyscraper was built. To realize as a mental event can be translated using darse cuenta ("to realize"), comprender ("to understand") or saber ("to know"), among other possibilities, depending on the context.

    17. Reclamar: to complain.

    18. Recordar means to remember or to remind. The verb to use when recording something depends on what you're recording. Possibilities include anotar or tomar nota for writing something down, or grabar for making an audio or video recording.

    19. Sano means healthy. Someone who is sane is en su juicio or "in his right mind."

    20. Suceso: Merely an event or happening, sometimes a crime. A success is un éxito.

    Adapted from Spanish teaching websites like spanish.about.com

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    Default Chirimoya

    Nice list. Some of the false cognates made me laugh. I don't know if you have ever been to Miami but whenever I go I hear examples of the words you gave used incorrectly of course. A common error from your list is "carpeta". I give up. There is no hope. Also certain phrases that are a literal translation from English to Spanish have become acceptable. For example "Have a nice day" in Spanish spoken in the USA. Take a wild guess.


    LDG.
    Last edited by Marianopolita; 04-30-2005 at 09:49 AM. Reason: word missing

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    Default

    Good lesson! We all need to be reminded about those false cognates.

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    What about notorio and notorious... have just fallen here!

    notorio = noticeable, evident. Notorious stands for dishonorable, or bad reputation...

    Shame on me!

    Jess.

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