Part of learning Spanish is memorizing large amounts of vocabulary. Part of that is remembering false friends and using them correctly. We show you how!
Definition and use
A false friend is, according to the Cambridge dictionary, “a word that is often confused with a word in another language with a different meaning because the two words look or sound similar.” That means that a word in Spanish is written or said similarly to a word in English, but has a totally different meaning. Because of the similarities in writing, they are very confusing to Spanish learners, so you have to be very careful. It is essential to recognise them and find the right equivalent.
So, how can we master them? Unfortunately, you just have to identify them and learn the right equivalents. But today, we show you two that are very common in Spanish:
Librería is a common word in Spanish culture, but also in most Spanish speaking countries. You might think that it is very similar to “library” and, in form, you would be right but they do not mean the same. Librería means bookshop. To say “library” in Spanish you have to use biblioteca. So, librería means a store where you buy books and biblioteca a place where you can take books on loan for free. “Biblio-” means books, “teca” means “wardrobe, box”, so biblioteca is the box for books. Here are some examples of usage:
He comprado la última novela de mi autora favorita en esa librería.>> I bought the new novel by my favorite author in that bookshop.
Voy a la biblioteca a ver si puedo coger de préstamo el libro para clase. >> I’m going to the library to get the book for class on loan.
Embarazada is another common word in Spanish that appears in both personal and medical situations. If you were thinking that it means “embarrassed”, you would be wrong. We use the word avergonzada or dar vergüenza to say “to be embarrassed.” So, what does embarazada mean? It actually means pregnant. There is the word preñada which sounds similar to “pregnant” which also means pregnant, but in a more colloquial and vulgar way. For general use and in the doctor’s office, we use the word embarazada. Therefore:
He ido al médico por náuseas y me han dicho que estoy embarazada. >> I went to the doctor because I had nausea and they told me I’m pregnant.
Avergonzada/dar vergüenza: embarrassed.
Me he equivocado en la reunión y estoy avergonzada/me ha dado vergüenza. >> I made a mistake in the meeting and now I’m embarrassed.
If you have any questions about these, ask us in the comments! Click here for more posts about grammar.