Posted by: janecronin | September 24, 2011

Spanish/English translation – pretender

The more I think about “False Friends”, the more I realize why they are given such a defamatory title.  They are not just words that look similar but mean something completely different in both languages, they tend to be words that are so close in meaning that they can create all manner of misunderstandings.

Today’s example is “pretender” which, surprise surprise, does not mean “to pretend”.  “Pretender” means to hope, to aspire, to try to, whereas “to pretend” in Spanish is “fingir” or “disimular”. 

Well this doesn’t seem too bad until someone says  to you “¿Qué pretendes hacer?” which means “What do you hope, or what are you trying, to do?” and you think they’re accusing you of “pretending” to do or be something you are not.

I’ve never heard of anyone getting a punch on the nose because of a “false friend”, but I wouldn’t be surprised.


  1. As in the Stuart Pretenders, old and young who “aspired” or “claimed” the British throne in the 18th century.

  2. Precisely! That’s also a good illustration of how many of these words probably started life meaning the same thing and have changed in meaning over the years.

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