Do you know the difference? Italian language « false friends » and how to spot them

Do you know the difference between the most common Italian language « false friends » (falsi amici)?

In this post you’re going to discover the most common Italian language false friends and how to avoid them.

You are probably aware that when learning a language, there are several words that compared to your native language look the same, but aren’t the same.

Those are the ones that would cause you some good laughs in the best case, and a real communication problem in the worst case.

So let’s get into them!

Spotting the English – Italian false friends

The list below has the Italian false friends at hand represented by images, examples and further information, so you’re not to be confused by them ever again!

  1. Annoiare vs. To Annoy

Comparison English Italian false friend annoiare vs to annoy

If you say to someone in Italian that you are annoiato a morte, that means that you are bored to death. Which can be annoying, too.

Annoiare means to boreto tire, or to weary.

E.g., scusa, ti sto annoiando? (excuse me, am I boring you?)

*Learn more about annoiare and to annoy.


  1. Confrontare vs. To Confront

Confrontare two things.

We could say that this one is like confronting two things to each other and see which one « wins » by comparison.

Confrontare means to compare.

E.g., io confronto i telefoni (I compare the phones)

*Learn more about confrontare and to confront.


  1. Domandare vs. To Demand

Domandare is to ask. To ask a question, to ask for something… Very different from demanding.

E.g., scusi, vorrei domandare qualcosa (excuse me, I’d like to ask something).

*Learn more about domandare and to demand.


  1. Pretendere vs. To Pretend

Italian false friend pretendere vs to pretend comparison

Pretendere means to expect, to presume, aspire to, or to demand. Whereas to say to pretend you should use fingere.

E.g., che cosa pretendi? (what do you expect?)

*Learn more about pretendere and to pretend.


  1. Attualmente vs. Actually

Italian false friend attualmente vs actually comparison

It makes sense that you think attualmente means actually as many other Italian adverbs share their meaning.

In this case is different since attualmente means at present, at the moment, now, or nowadays.

E.g., attualmente tutto è chiuso (currently everything is closed).

*Learn more about attualmente and actually.


  1. Educato/a vs. Educated

Italian false friend educato vs educated comparison

It’s not the same saying someone is educato (has good manners) than that someone is educated (has an education).

Educato means polite.

E.g., Roberto è molto educato (Roberto is very polite).

*Learn more about educato and educated.


  1. Grosso/a vs. Gross

Italian false friend grosso vs gross comparison

If you are given something truly disgusting and you say to your Italian friend that is grosso the surprise on their face will be immediate.

Grosso means big, large.

E.g., vuoi il piatto di spaghetti grande? Sempre (do you want the large spaghetti dish? Always)

*Learn more about grosso and gross.


  1. Morbido/a vs. Morbid

Italian false friend morbido vs morbid comparison

This English – Italian false friend has one of the most different meanings. You won’t be able to help yourself but giggle every time you hear something is morbido.

Morbido means soft.

E.g., il tuo gatto è molto morbido (your cat is really soft)

*Learn more about morbido and morbid.


  1. Camera vs. Camera

Italian false friend camera vs camera comparison

Remember that when asked if you want a camera singola o doppia, they’re asking you if you want a single or double room, not a single or double camera!

Camera means room.

E.g., avete una camera con vista? (Do you have a room with a view?)

*Learn more about camera and camera.


  1. Fabbrica vs. Fabric

Italian false friend fabbrica vs fabric comparison

When asking for some fabrics, be careful, as you might end up in the industrial area where all the fabbricas are.

Fabbrica means factory.

E.g., lei lavora in quella fabbrica (she works in that factory).

*Learn more about fabbrica and fabric.


  1. Fattoria vs. Factory

Italian false friend fattoria vs factory comparison

And, if actually looking for a factory, be careful to not end up in a fattoria.

Fattoria means farm.

E.g., l’area de la Toscana è piena di fattorie (the area of the Tuscany is full of farms).

*Learn more about fattoria and factory.


  1. Libreria vs. Library

Italian false friend libreria vs library comparison

Confusing these two wouldn’t be such a drama. You might just end up buying some books in the libreria when you actually wanted to study in the library.

Libreria means book shop.

E.g., ho trovato il libro in libreria (I found the book in the book shop).

*Learn more about libreria and library.


  1. Preservativo vs. Preservative

Italian false friend preservativo vs preservative comparison

This false friend can be embarrassing. So be careful when talking about preservatives in the food, because Italian speakers will get a totally different story involving food and preservativi.

Preservativo means condom.

E.g., dopo il concerto la strada era piena di preservativi (after the concert the street was full of condoms).

*Learn more about preservativo and preservative.


  1. Parenti vs parents

Italian false friend parenti vs parents comparison

Although having some similarity in its meaning, there’s a slight difference between these two.

Parenti means relatives or kin. So they are also part of your family, but they’re definitely not your parents.

E.g., ho invitato tutti i miai parenti al compleanno (I invited all my relatives to the birthday).

*Learn more about parenti and parents.


  1. Ricordo vs record

Italian false friend ricordo vs to record comparison

You will have a great ricordo of that time you ask your Italian friends to record that moment and they looked at you in utter confusion.

Ricordo means memory, recollection, or souvenir.

E.g., ricordo perfettamente il nostro ultimo viaggio (I remember perfectly our last trip).

*Learn more about ricordo and record.


  1. Attendere vs to attend

Italian false friend attendere vs to attend comparison

You wouldn’t want to think you’re attending somewhere, when you are actually asked to attendere.

Attendere means to wait, wait for, or await.

E.g., devi attendere che tutto sia pronto (You have to wait until everything is ready).

*Learn more about attendere and to attend.


  1. Avvertimento vs advertisement

Italian false friend avvertimento vs advertisement comparison

L’avvertimento will warn you about something, whereas the advertisement will promote something.

Avvertimento means warning, notice, caution.

E.g., l’avvertimento non era chiaro (the warning was not clear).


  1. Lettura vs lecture

Italian false friend lettura vs lecture comparison

Going to a lecture can be misinterpreted as going for a lettura, which means reading.

E.g., lui era immerso nella lettura di quel romanzo (he was immersed in reading that novel).

*Learn more about lettura and lecture.


  1. Rumore vs rumour

Italian false friend rumore vs rumour comparison

Don’t expect to be told a rumour if any Italian tells you if you have listened to that big rumore.

Rumore means noise, din, or racket.

E.g., proviene uno strano rumore dalla casa del vicino (a strange noise comes from the neighbor’s house).

*Learn more about rumore and rumour.


What it takes to spot all the Italian false friends

Well, you’ve just got the list of Italian false friends.

All you have to do now is imagining yourself in a context you would use any of them, associate them to something meaningful to you, read more about their etymology and roots…

Basically, do any kind of interaction so it’s easier for them to stick in your head.

Tell us in the comments your false friends’ anecdotes!

You might be also interested in how to boost your Italian pronunciation, getting to know the most popular Italian songs, or take your Italian to the next level with our Italian Live Courses.

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