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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4


Many words in German look like words in English, but can be tricky because they actually have different meanings. These paired words are called false friends or false cognates and can be the source of many difficulties when starting to learn a new language. Here are a few examples from Yabla, all starting with the letter A:

absolvieren: to finish a course of study or exam
False friend: absolve: to declare (someone) free from guilt, obligation, or punishment (German: entlasten)


Auch wenn man ein Studium absolviert hat...

Even after finishing a study...

Caption 88, Lokalhelden - Art House

 Play Caption


aktuell: current, latest
False friend: actual: existing in fact; real. (German: eigentlich, wirklich)


Neunundsechzig: die aktuelle Diskussion.

Sixty-nine is the current debate.

Caption 46, Kurzfilm-Festival - Shorts at Moonlight

 Play Caption


die Argumentation: the reasoning, process of reasoning
False friend: argument: an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one (German: der Streit)


Das hessische Ministerium

The Hessian Ministry

hat kein Verständnis für diese Argumentation.

has no understanding for this reasoning.

Captions 28-29, Deutsche Autobahnen - Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen

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Further Learning:
Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a very funny commentary in German containing false friends, read this dialog on Grimm GrammarBis bald! (No, this is not about hair loss…)


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