5 False friends that can mislead Spanish speakers


A false friend is a word that resembles another one in your native tongue in its form but not in its meaning. You probably know that “actually” expresses “in fact” and it is not translated as “actualmente”.  But this is a no-brainer. Students with an extensive English background know it and if they occasionally fall in the trap, it is no more than a slip to be quickly self-corrected. 

By the same token, I take for granted that the pairs “sensible/sensitive, carpet/folder, argument/plot, library/bookshop” are a given. If not, I trust you can figure them out or else, ask for clarification.

My selection is based on specific areas of trouble that come up regularly in class. Let’s dive in!



If you feel disappointment, your expectations were not met and that makes you feel deflated.

The team’s defeat at the beginning of the championship was a great disappointment for their supporters.

Deception means hiding the truth, being dishonest.

The documentary “All governments lie” deals with the long-standing problem of political deception.



Attending means being present at an event, or institutions (school, university…)

Only the senior politicians were invited to attend the meeting, which seemed undemocratic.

Note: Beware of the use of “attend” meaning “give service” as a waiter/waitress. It is very formal, old-fashioned English.

For that use, we can rely on the word assist, to help someone with something.

The nurse not only assisted her patients with their daily needs but also read to them in her spare moments.



If you resume something, you start to do it again and keep going from where you left off.

Once the summer break has come to an end, I have resumed my blog writing.

If you sum up something, you come up with a reduced version of it that encapsulates the main ideas, a summary.

When summing up a text, it is paramount to make sure every word used is relevant and stay clear of all the padding.



Reaching a compromise usually involves more than one individual as it entails some sort of negotiation before it is agreed on. It is like finding some middle ground between two or more people or parties.

As of today, the UK and EU are still trying to work out a compromise over Brexit. (18th September 2018)

Another meaning of the word compromise is to put something at risk, to jeopardise. In this case, compromise is not a false friend as we do use it similarly in Spanish.

We have been witnessing how preferential treatment on the part of some universities has compromised some politicians’ credibility and thus, their jobs.

Commitment can be met by individuals too. It involves a decision to dedicate time to something or someone.

Mother Teresa had a lifelong commitment to the poor and disadvantaged.



Simple as it may look, it creates confusion. Both can be eaten but the first one comes from a pig’s leg (ham) and the second from fruit and sugar (jam).

Lay a slice of ham and some cheese on a piece of bread, grill it and enjoy the toastie.

The children put the finishing touches by spreading some home-made strawberry jam over the cake.


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