Cognates are words that are written in a similar way and have a similar meaning in two languages. This can be an advantage for English speakers since there are many cognates in English and Spanish. However, there are many false cognates. I have chosen 10 commonly use false cognates according to what I have experienced as a language instructor.
1. Actualmente: Actualmente does not mean Actually. It refers to something that is current; it is an adverb that means currently. Actually means la verdad es…
e.g. Actualmente el presidente de Estados Unidos es Barack Obama.
2. Contestar: Contestar does not mean to contest. It is a verb that means to answer.
e.g. Voy a contestar el teléfono.
3. Constipado: It means to have a cold. If you say: Estoy constipado, it doesn´t mean I´m constipated, it means I have a cold. Being constipated means estar extreñido.
4. Embarazada: Embarazada doesn’t mean embarrassing. It means being pregnant.
It may be embarrassing for someone to say: Estoy embarazado.
e.g. Mi esposa está embarazada.
5. En absoluto: It doesn´t mean absolutely. En absoluto means not at all.
e.g. no me gustan los gatos en absoluto.
6. Minorista: Minorista doesn’t mean minority. It means retailer (noun) or retail (adjective).
e.g. Macy’s es una tienda minorista.
7. Molestar: Molestar doesn´t mean to molest. It means to annoy.
e.g. No molestes a tu amigo.
To molest in Spanish is abusar sexualmente.
8. Realizar: It doesn´t mean to realize. Realizar is a verb that refers to something becoming real, or completed.
e.g. Yo realicé mi sueño de ser doctor.
9. Sopa: It means soup, not soap. Soap means jabón. Avoid saying: Me baño con sopa.
e.g. La sopa de pollo es deliciosa.
10. Tuna: It is not tuna fish, it means cactus. If you want a tuna sándwich, you want to ask for:
e.g. Un sáwdwich de atún, not un sándwich de cactus.