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French/English false cognates ('Faux amis')

edited January 2013 in French
"J'aime bien" is an interesting case. One would think that the adjective "bien" (good) would add to the significance of the verb. In fact, it is almost the opposite. 

As you know, "aimer" can mean either "like" or "love" depending on the context. For instance, if you say: "J'aime Caroline" as a man, it means you love her. But if you say "j'aime bien Caroline", it translates as "I (kin of) like Caroline".

So, when you use "J'aime bien", it is as if you liked something in an almost disinterested way. Try it with French native speakers and see when they use it.


  • Tres interresant!  J'utilise souvent 'j'aime bien' exactement incorrect!  Haha.  Maintenant, je sais dire: Oui oui, j'aime les langues, et pas: j'aime bien les languages! Merci Sev!
  • Sev
    edited January 2013
    Roe, tu peux même en rajouter (overdo it) dans ton cas et dire: "j'adore (étudier) les langues (étrangères)!" (it helps adding some detail because it the wrong context, it could mean you love tongues....:)

    Très intéressant!  J'utilise souvent 'j'aime bien' incorrectement/de façon incorrecte!  Haha.  Maintenant, je sais (le) dire: Oui oui, j'aime les langues, et pas: j'aime bien les languages! Merci Sev!
  • The adverb "actuellement" is a false cognate and means "right now" or "currently".
    Similarly, the adjective "actuel" means "current"; and "actualité" has to do with current events.
    Conversely, 'actually' is translated as 'en fait' or 'vraiment'.
  • I remember misusing vraiment. In English, we can use "really" to mean "honestly," but apparently not in French. It's franchement in that context.

    C'est vrai, Sev? Comme: Si, je te jure! Franchement...
  • Sev
    edited January 2013
    Well, "franchement" is the adverbe related to the adjective "franc(he)" which means "frank" or "straightforward". Depending on the context, we can translate "franchement" as:

    - frankly: "Elle m'a parlé franchement." (She spoke to me frankly.) 
    to put it bluntly: pour dire/parler franchement
    - to go at it, without reserve: "Quand tu enlèves le sparadrap, vas-y franchement." (When you pull off the band-aid, do it without hesitation.)
    - downright:  "C'est franchement dur." (It's downright hard.)  
    - well, really!: "Franchement, tu exagères!" (Really, you're going too far!)
    So in your example, instead of "franchement", we would say: "Si je te jure! C'est vrai..." or even: "sur la tête de ma mère" (on my mother's grave; lit. on my mother's head)

    As for "vraiment", most of the time it can be translated as "really" or "truly"

    - "C'est vraiment dommage!" (it's really too bad/It's a real pity) 
    - "Il est vraiment drôle." (He's really funny)
    - "Vraiment, il n'y a pas de quoi" (really, it's nothing)
    - "C'est vraiment un bon livre." (It's truly a good book)

    Hope this helps!
  • Sur la tête de ma mère - that's great! Merci!
  • 'éventuellement' is another trap for English speakers. In French, it means 'possibly'

    So if you need to use the word 'eventually', you can use the French word 'finalement' (like 'finally') .
  • A potential source of confusion and pitfalls is the use of 'bon' and 'bien', especially when trying to translate directly from English to French.

    Here are some examples to learn how and in which situations to use them.
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