False friends in German

German-Language-CoachGermans are loyal and trustworthy folks. However, there are some false friends in the German language that may confuse the English speaker or his mind.

If the German finance minister says that 2 Billionen Euros are sufficient to bail out Greece, then he’s got his figures right because he actually means two trillion. A billion in German is a trillion in English.

Being told in German that taking Gift is to be avoided shouldn’t be surprising, not because Germans have ulterior motives, but because Gift in German means poison in English.

The word Star in German means starling or cataract; the German equivalent for star is Stern.

Winken is to blink and not to wink, der Akt is not the deed but nude artwork. After is not after, but means rectum. Bald is not bald, but means soon.

False friends work both ways. Consider the following:

der Roman the novel the roman der Römer
der Qualm the smoke the qualm das Bedenken
die Provision the fee the provision die Vorsorge
der Mist the dung the mist der Dunst
das Kraut the herb the kraut der Deutsche
der Lack the lacquer the lack der Mangel

Confused? Refresh your German with one of our German courses!

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