Take a look at these three words: éventuellement, actuellement, forcément. If you read one of our previous lessons, you would probably guess that these words are all adverbs. And you would be right! You might also guess that they mean "eventually," "actually," and "forcefully." No such luck this time. These words are all false cognates (or faux amis, literally "false friends"), which are words that look similar in two languages but mean different things. French and English share too many faux amis to include in one lesson, so for now we'll focus on these three deceptive adverbs.
Éventuellement is synonymous with possiblement, which means "possibly" (no false friends there!). It can also be more specifically translated as "when necessary" or "if needed."
Éventuellement dans... dans telle ou telle de... situation...
Possibly, in... in such and such a... situation...
Cap. 19, Actu Vingtième: La burqa
Aujourd'hui il y a dix-sept médicaments disponibles, utilisés éventuellement en combinaison.
Today there are seventeen medications available, sometimes used in combination.
Cap. 17, Le Journal: Le sida
"Eventually" is usually translated as finalement (finally) or tôt ou tard (sooner or later):
J'ai décidé finalement de ne pas aller à la fête.
I eventually decided not to go to the party.
Nous y arriverons tôt ou tard.
We'll get there eventually.
Our second adverb, actuellement, is not "actually," but "currently" or "presently":
Actuellement sans travail, ils résident aujourd'hui près de Saintes, en France....
Currently unemployed, they now live near Saintes, in France....
"Actually" in French is en fait (in fact):
Et... pour imaginer le texte, en fait j'ai eu une vision dans ma tête.
And... to imagine the lyrics, actually I had a vision in my head.
Cap. 16, Melissa Mars: On "Army of Love"
And in case this wasn't complicated enough, "currently" has a faux ami of its own: couramment (fluently).
Nicole parle couramment cinq langues.
Nicole speaks five languages fluently.
Finally, forcément means "necessarily" or "inevitably." "Forcefully" is simply avec force or avec vigueur:
Je l'aime bien, mais... enfin, ce n'est pas forcément le meilleur qui soit....
I like him all right, but... well, he's not necessarily the best there is....
This one actually makes sense if you break up the word. Like many adverbs, forcément is made up of an adjective (forcé) plus the ending -ment, which corresponds to the English adverbial ending -ly. Forcé(e) means "forced," so forcément literally means "forcedly" or "done under force," i.e., "necessarily."
Actuellement and éventuellement are also made up of an adjective plus -ment, and their adjectives are also false cognates: actuel(le) means "current" (not "actual") and éventuel(le) means "possible" (not "eventual"). These words have noun forms as well: les actualités are the news or current events, and une éventualité is a possibility. (Interestingly, éventualité is a cognate of "eventuality," another word for "possibility.")
English and French share so many faux amis that there are entire books dedicated to the subject. But if you're not itching to memorize them all right away, you can learn why there are so many of them in this article.
You may recall our previous lesson on three adverbs that were false cognates, or words that look similar in two languages but mean different things. In French, these are called faux amis (literally, “false friends”), and there are too many French-English ones to count. In this lesson, we’ll just focus on four more, all from our most recent videos
We’ve been learning a lot about Galileo lately in the Il était une fois (Once Upon a Time) series, the third installment of which deals with the scientist’s experiments with pendulums, which move in a very specific way:
Vous allez voir que cet instrument va se balancer de moins en moins fort!
You'll see that this instrument is going to swing less and less intensely!
You may have expected se balancer to mean “to balance,” but it actually means “to swing.” “To balance” is tenir en équilibre (literally, “to hold in equilibrium”).
In part four of the series, we finally get to the revolutionary idea that made Galileo famous and ultimately cost him his life
Vous vous rendez compte, mon cher, qu'ils se trouvent des savants pour prétendre que la Terre n'est pas le centre de l'univers!
You realize, my dear friend, that there are scientists claiming that the earth is not the center of the universe!
Galileo didn’t “pretend” that the earth revolved around the sun—on the contrary, he was pretty sure of it! So sure, in fact, that he boldly “claimed” it. “To pretend” is faire semblant or feindre.
Prétendre is followed by que when you're making a claim ("to claim that..."), but when you're claiming a specific thing for yourself, you use prétendre à:
Il peut prétendre à une allocation chômage.
He can claim unemployment benefits.
On a different note, there’s no pretending that the angora rabbits on the Croix de Pierre Farm aren’t adorable, or that their breeder doesn’t take the utmost care to make sure that they’re warm and cozy:
Le plus galère pour eux c'est quand tu les épiles et que le temps n'est pas très au beau ou qu'il gèle très fort.
The toughest time for them is when you shear them and that the weather is not very nice or that there is a very hard frost.
Cap. 19-20, Ferme de la Croix de Pierre: Les lapins
Il gèle is an impersonal expression (more on those in this lesson) meaning “it’s freezing” or “there’s a frost,” and it comes from the verb geler. That may look like it might mean “to gel”—and indeed, the noun le gel means both “frost” and “gel”—but “to gel” is more like prendre forme (to take shape).
Finally, we’ll leave the French countryside for Montreal, where Geneviève Morissette has been making waves on the music scene as a singer-songwriter and as the host of the “Rendez-Vous de la Chanson Vivante” (Meetings of the Living Song) festival:
Ça fait deux ans que je les anime.
I've been hosting them for two years.
Geneviève certainly animates the festival with her impassioned lyrics and powerful voice (and animer can in fact mean “to animate” or “enliven”), but in this context the verb means “to host” or “present.” We could also say that Geneviève is l’animatrice (“host” or “presenter”) of the festival.
Faux amis can be tricky (not to mention a bit sneaky), so be on the lookout for them when watching Yabla videos. Whenever you spot one you don’t know, you can just click on it to add it to your flashcards list. Then, once you review your flashcards, you’ll have it mastered in no time! Bonne chance (“good luck,” not “good chance”)!
In one of our newest videos, an interviewer asks people on the street to talk about their most beautiful dreams and most terrifying nightmares. One woman describes a particularly unsettling nightmare:
J'assiste à des accidents où y a des gens qui sont très blessés...
I witness accidents where there are people who are badly injured...
Cap. 83-84, Micro-Trottoirs: Rêves et cauchemars
She's not saying that she assists with these accidents (which would be even more unsettling!), but that she witnesses them. The phrase assister à doesn't mean "to assist," but rather "to witness" or "to attend":
Puisqu'un public assiste à une assemblée générale et à une réunion...
Because a crowd attends a general assembly and a meeting...
Cap. 8, Lionel L: Nuit Debout - Journée internationale - Part 2
"To attend" looks a lot like the French verb attendre, but like "to assist" and assister à, these two words are faux amis (false friends)—attendre means "to wait," not "to attend."
But once you take away the à, assister has the same meaning as its English cognate:
Le sous-chef assiste le chef dans la cuisine.
The sous-chef assists the chef in the kitchen.
There are a number of other French verbs meaning "to assist," like aider (to help) and accompagner (to accompany):
J'ai aidé ma grand-mère à nettoyer la maison.
I helped my grandmother clean her house.
...qui connaissent les parents et accompagnent les enfants les plus en retard
...who know the parents and assist the students who are the most behind
Cap. 29, Grand Corps Malade: Education nationale