I am sure you have come across many posts about English-Italian false friends while googling language resources online.
This is the type of post you usually find on language learning blogs, right? Well, when I came up with the idea of writing a blog post about English-Italian false friends, I first thought that this was a very ordinary idea. But I keep on seeing my students making little mistakes due to these tricky words and I’ve decided to give it a go.
So I started writing down English-Italian false friends and I very quickly ended up with a really long list. I didn’t want my blog post to be just a list of words with only a translation and no explanation, so I decided to make a selection and I kept only the terms that I most frequently see my students struggle with.
Still, the list was very long and so I have split it into two different posts: the one you are reading today focuses only on nouns, while there’ll be another one about verbs, adjectives, and adverbs next month. Once I am done with the posts, I will also prepare a downloadable pdf file for you to keep.
Now let’s see some of the most common English-Italian false friends when it comes to nouns.
Argument: an English speaker could easily translate it as “argomento” but this word in Italian has a completely different meaning, it means topic. So, if you say “ho avuto un argomento con qualcuno“, this phrase doesn’t make sense at all. The Italian word you need to translate argument is “discussione” or “litigio“.
Casino: this word in English refers to a public place where gambling games are played but, in Italian, this word either means mess – as in “ho fatto un casino” – or refers to a brothel. The Italian word for casino is casinò, so make sure you pronounce it right when you say something like “ieri sera sono stato al casinò“.
Condominium: this word has more or less the same meaning in English or Italian, it basically refers to a large property complex divided into individual units. However, in American-English the word condominium is used to describe the single apartment in a condominium while in Italian it is not used in this sense. So pay attention because if you say “ho comprato un condominio in Florida“, an Italian speaker thinks that you have bought the whole complex.
Editor: it is easy to think that the Italian translation of editor is “editore”, but the Italian word has a different meaning. Editor, in English, a person who prepares a book to be published or someone who works as a journalist in a certain area of news. In Italian, “editore” means publisher or publishing company. The Italian word you need to translate editor would be “redattore“.
Education: again, it would be really easy to think that the Italian translation of this word is “educazione“, but it is another tricky word. Educazione in Italian means either good-manners or upbringing, while the word you need to properly translate the English word education is “istruzione“.
Fabric: someone who speaks English might think that the Italian translation of this word is “fabbrica“, but this word has a completely different meaning. “Fabbrica” in Italian means factory, so again, pay attention if you say “ho comprato un pezzo di fabbrica” because people might think you are a very rich person and just bought a part of a factory. The Italian word you need to translate fabric is “stoffa” or “tessuto” and the right phrase would be “ho comprato un pezzo di stoffa“.
Furniture: I have heard more than one student make a mistake using “fornitura” to translate this word in Italian. Again, this is a false friend and it means something completely different. “Fornitura” in Italian means supply, while the correct Italian translation for furniture is “mobile“. Since furniture is uncountable in English, a piece of furniture is “un mobile” in Italian, while “house furniture” becomes “mobili per la casa“.
Library: if you don’t know the exact translation of this word, you may say “ho preso questo libro in libreria“, meaning that you have borrowed the book at the local library. But if you say such a phrase to an Italian, he or she would think that you have gone to a bookstore and bought the book. This is because “libreria” is the Italian for bookstore, while the proper translation of library is “biblioteca“. But don’t forget that in Italian “libreria” also means bookcase.
Parent: don’t translate this word in Italian as “parente” because you’d make a little mistake. In fact, in Italian “un parente” is a relative, while the proper translation of parents is “genitori“.
Pavement: I have seen this mistake a lot of times with my students and I have a feeling it is very easy to be confused. English speakers might think that the Italian word “pavimento” is the proper translation of the English pavement but it is not. “Pavimento” is the floor, usually the one you have inside a house or a building, while the English pavement is translated as “marciapiede“.
Preservative: this is another word you need to be careful with because it can put you into some embarrassing situations. Don’t use the word “preservativo” to translate this word in Italian because it doesn’t refer to something you use to preserve food from decaying. “Preservativo” in Italian means condom, so pay attention if you say “quel cibo era pieno di preservativi“, it might not be taken it very well.
Rate: this is another very tricky word and I can totally see why. If you are an English speaker, you might think that the Italian for rate is “rata” but unfortunately, it has a different meaning – not as embarrassing as other words, though. “Rata” in Italian means installment, while the Italian word you need to translate rate is “tasso“.
Vacancy: here is another word that is confused sometimes – less often, though, because many speakers know very well the meaning of the Italian word “vacanza“. Anyway, the English word vacancy refers to an available room in a hotel or to an available job, but it must not be translated with “vacanza” because this word means holiday. The Italian expression you need to translate vacancy is “posto libero“.
I hope you’ll find this post useful for your language learning purposes. Stay tuned for another post of this kind next month (and a downloadable pdf file too).
By the way, are there other tricky nouns that come to your mind when using the Italian language as an English speaker?
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