false friends cartelLearning Spanish vocabulary can seem so easy for English speakers, but these two languages have thousands of false friends (falsos amigos), word pairs that look like they might mean the same thing, but don’t. You have to be careful because if you use them in speech or writing you’re likely to be misunderstood. Many of our students get confused when they come across with them, so today we will point out most common false friends when reading or listening to Spanish. Keep reading!


  • Actual: Means current, at the present time (tema actual = day’s hot topic). If you wish to say something is actual (as opposed to imaginary), use verdadero or real (which also means “royal”).
  • Asistir:  Means to attend or to be present (Carlos asistirá a la boda = Carlos will go to the wedding). To say “to assist,” use ayudar (to help).
  • Atender: Means to serve or to take care of, to attend to (El camarero nos ha atendido muy bien = The waiter has served us very well). If you’re talking about attending a meeting or a class, use asistir.
  • Carpeta: Means a file folder (including the virtual kind) or a briefcase (coge la carpeta de Ana = Take Ana’s folder). “Carpet” is most often alfombra.
  • Constiparse: Means to catch a cold (Me constipé porque no me puse el abrigo = I got a cold because I didn’t put my coat on). Someone who is constipated is estreñido.
  • Delito: Usually refers to a minor crime (Mi hermano ha cometido un delito = My brother has commited a minor crime). The feeling of delight can be a deleite.
  • Despertar: Means to wake up (me despierto a las ocho =  I wake up at eight).This verb is usually used in the reflexive form. If you’re desperate, you can use desesperado.
  • Embarazada: Means to be pregnant (Mi mejor amiga está embarazada de seis meses = My best friend is six months pregnant). Someone who feels embarrassed tiene vergüenza or se siente avergonzado.
  • Emocionante: Used to describe something that’s thrilling or emotionally moving (La película es muy emocionante = The movie is very thrilling). To say “emotional” you can use emocional.
  • Éxito: Means a hit or a success (La canción fue un éxito = The song was a hit). A way out is una salida.
  • Fábrica: A place where they fabricate items, namely a factory (Hay 120 trabajadores en la fábrica = There are 120 workers in the factory). Words for “cloth” include tejido and tela.
  • Molestar:  Means to bother or to annoy (Su hermano mayor le está siempre molestando = His older brother is always bothering her). For the sexual meaning of “to molest” in English, you can use abusar sexualmente.
  • Recordar: Means to remember or to remind (Me acuerdo del nombre del restaurante = I remember the name of the restaurant). 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.
  • Sopa: Means soup (¡Me encanta la sopa! = I love the soup!). Soap is jabón.

If you want to develop useful and functional Spanish vocabulary such as these false friends, contact with us. Here you can see the grammatical and functional content you will learn at each level. And don’t worry about textbooks! Your teacher will provide you with training materials suitable to your needs and interests.

Image courtesy of Keep Calm Network Ltd