German ‘falsche Freunde’ – false cognates that will no longer trip you up

German and English share lots of cognates, making it easier to learn German, but there are lots of falsche Freunde out there. Here are some of the most common for you to learn so that they’ll no longer trip you up! 

also – auch

This is a very common word and an easy mistake to make. If you’re trying to say ‘also’ in German, the word is ‘auch’. The German word ‘also’ actually means ‘therefore’.

der See – die See

This is a particularly confusing one, as you need to look at the article to find the meaning. ‘Der See’ is a lake, whereas ‘die See’ is the sea. 

kontrollieren – unter Kontrolle haben

If you’re trying to say ‘to control’ in German, you need to say ‘have under control’, or ‘unter Kontrolle haben’. ‘Kontrollieren’ means more to monitor  or to handle. 

fast – schnell 

This is a classic false cognate that is confusing if you don’t already know it. If you want to say something is ‘fast’ in German, then it is ‘schnell’. The German word ‘fast’ means ‘almost’. 

bald – eine Glätze

Here’s another tricky one. If someone is bald, you would say they have ‘eine Glätze’, because the German word ‘bald’ actually means ‘soon’. 

die Fabrik – der Stoff

Whilst the word ‘Fabrik’ looks like it should be ‘fabric’, it actually is a ‘factory’. ‘Fabric’ is ‘Stoff’ in German.

gross – ekelhaft 

This is another sneaky one – ‘gross’ in German is actually ‘ekelhaft’, because ‘gross’ means large. 

der Rat – die Ratte

These two are similar, which makes them extra difficult to learn, but remember that ‘a rat’ in German is ‘eine Ratte’, and the German word ‘Rat’ actually means ‘advice’. 

lachen – lächeln 

These two verbs look very similar, but have different meanings. ‘Lachen’ means ‘to laugh’ whereas ‘lächeln’ is to smile. 

The cognates in German are often amazingly helpful for your reading and listening, but make sure they don’t trip you up, and remember it’s confusing for German ESL learners too when you schedule your Lex

Was this list helpful? Did we miss anything important? Let us know in the comments below! 

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