False Friends in English and Portuguese – Part III

This is the third and last part of a list I created with the most common false friends between English and Portuguese. These pairs of words and their meanings show that the word which resembles the most in spelling and pronunciation in another language is not always the right match in terms of translation. The list is organised by alphabetical order. You can read or reread the first and second parts here.



Pretend translates as fingir, while pretender is used when we mean to say intend or mean. In Portuguese, desejar or ter a intenção.

The boys pretended not hear their mum call them. – Os rapazes fingiram não estar a ouvir a mãe a chamá-los.

She intends to go to Yale. – Ela pretende entrar em Yale.



The verb pull means the same as puxar. When we want to say pular, we can use the verb to jump.

He pulled the curtains to the side to let the sun in. – Ele puxou os cortinados para os lados para deixar entrar o sol.

She was jumping with joy at the news. – Ela pulava de alegria com a notícia.



For the Portuguese speakers, even if fluent in English, there tends to be some hesitation when faced with a door with a sign that reads “Push”. Should we puxar or empurrar? Instinctively, it seems to make sense to puxar, since both words are similar, but puxar actually means to pull. Confusing?

Could you please push the closet to the right? – Importas-te de empurrar o armário para a direita?

Stop pulling your sister’s hair. – Para de puxar o cabelo da tua irmã.



To realize is a verb usually used with the sense of aperceber-se or estar ciente de. Realizar can be translated as perform, carry out.

I hadn’t realized the meeting started at 9.30. – Não me tinha apercebido de que a reunião começava às 9h30.

The company carried out inquiries on client satisfaction. – A empresa realizou inquéritos de satisfação junto dos clientes.



The verb resume has the same meaning as retomar or recomeçar, while resumir means to summariz(s)e or abbreviate.

You can resume work on the platform at any time. – Pode retomar o trabalho na plataforma em qualquer altura.

The main changes can be summarized in two minutes. – Podemos resumir as alterações principais em dois minutos.



Retire, as a verb, means the same as reformar-se. Retirar translates into remove, take out, or withdraw, depending on context.

He plans to retire before he turns 60. – Ele tem intenção de se reformar antes de completar 60 anos.

Mum has just taken down the Christmas decorations. – A mãe acabou de retirar as decorações de Natal.



Rim [ˈʀĩ ], in Portuguese, is an organ, a kidney to be more exact. On the other hand, the English rim [ˈrim ] is used when referring to the aros (of glasses), the beira or borda of something.

She licked the rim of the plate, that’s how much she loved the meal. – Ela gostou tanto da refeição que até lambeu a borda do prato.

He desperately needs a kidney transplant. – Ele precisa desesperadamente de um transplante de rim.



Sensible is an adjective used to talk about what is sensato. Sensível can translate into sensitive or delicate.

It is the sensible thing to do. – É a atitude sensata a ter.

Ann’s kids are very sensitive and loving boys. – Os filhos da Ann são miúdos muito sensíveis e afetuosos.



A stranger is a estranho or desconhecido, not a estrangeiro. A estrangeiro is a foreigner.

He’s a stranger so he cannot just get inside the building freely. – Ele é um estranho, pelo que não lhe é permitido entrar livremente no edifício.

What is it like living as a foreigner in this country? – Como é viver como um estrangeiro neste país?



Support, as a verb, means apoiar. But suportar translates as to bear or to endure.

My family supports my professional choices. – A minha família apoia as minhas escolhas profissionais.

I can’t bear seeing him like that. – Não suporto vê-lo naquele estado.



Tax is usually an imposto, while taxa can be a fee or rate.

I don’t know of anyone who enjoys paying taxes. – Não conheço ninguém que goste de pagar impostos.

The change implies the charge of a single fee. – A alteração implica a cobrança de uma taxa única.



The tenant is the inquilino or locatário of a piece of property. Tenente corresponds to the military rank of lieutenant.

There is a new tenant on the 2nd floor every two months. – Há um inquilino novo no 2.º andar a cada dois meses.

Is he a lieutenant or a lieutenant colonel? – Ele é tenente ou tenente-coronel?



The difference between terrific and terrível is the same as between terrific and terrible (or awful). You really shouldn’t mix the two.

That’s a terrific idea, John. Thanks! – Essa ideia é excelente, John. Obrigado!

It’s hard to stay positive with such terrible news. – É difícil manter o otimismo com tanta notícia terrível.



The noun turn stands for volta or vez. Turno translates mostly as shift.

Wait your turn, please! – Aguarde pela sua vez!

She has been working the night shift since 2015. – Desde 2015 que ela faz o turno da noite.



These two terms could easily be synonyms, but they are not. Ultimately is the same as em última instância or por fim. Ultimamente, in English, stands for lately.

Ultimately, Bob will fill in for Paula. – Em última instância, o Bob substitui a Paula.

I haven’t been sleeping much lately. – Ultimamente, tenho dormido pouco.


Languages are always very rich and complex elements that identify a nation. For this reason, it takes a really long time for one to become fluent in a foreign language. What looks obvious can either be wrong or just not the best option. Even with our mother tongue, it is important to keep studying it and look for answers to our doubts. But it is in this complexity and richness that lies its beauty.

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