False friends are words that look similar in two languages, but have quite different meanings. For example, “gift” is another word for present, but in German, Gift means poison. An English speaker who needs an “ambulance” (Krankenwagen) is more seriously ill than the German speaker who only needs the Ambulanz (“out-patient clinic”). False friends can be entertaining, too. A German visitor to Scotland may not share his Scottish host’s enthusiasm for the beautiful “mist” (Nebel) over the mountains.
How much do you know about German-English false friends? Test yourself with our exercises below.