Test yourself: false friends in business English, part 1


Can you identify the false friends that plague business English?

This is not a handy.

False friends are not your friends! In language learning, a false friend refers to a word in one language that looks or sounds like a word in another. But beware, the false friend has a different meaning from the word in your native language.

German is particularly tricky because it likes to give English-language words their own meaning in German. For example, most people know that “a handy” is not the English word for mobile phone. But it sounds like it could be.

If you think you can tell your real friends from your false friends, then test yourself below. How many false friends can you find in this business memo?

Here’s the protocol from the meeting we had on Friday with actual company news:

  1. We firstly need to order a new beamer so that meetings run more smoothly in the future; personal have been complaining about this for months now. If anyone wants to use it outside the office, then you need to leave a €20 caution with Ms Wright at reception.
  2. We need to begin spending money to a charity of our choice in order to improve our image. Richard from accounting suggested starting an action to spend the refunds we become from beer doses.  We just need to decide how to create a spending recipe for the spenders so that they can write off their spendings at the end of the year.
  3. The chef explained that a Chinese firm is looking to buy a large share of our company. We therefore need to find out what the meanings of our investors are regarding this matter. While their meanings of course matter to us and to the direction in which our company is headed – the Board believes it’s eventually a good thing.
  4. Personal loan increases – shall we increase loans across the board or approach this according to what direction tells us? 
  5. We are out of time. When should we terminate the rest of the meeting again?


Tell us your answers in the comments below. We’ll post the answers next week! Check out the BBC for some fun stories about false friends.

By Tony A.