Wednesday, October 19, 2011

False Friend: Asistir vs. Assist

An emergency call box for assistance (help). Photo Credit: Eric E. Johnson

Hello again! In a few days I'll post more about the Third Conditional, but for today we have another False Friend. If you're not sure what a False Friend is, check out this introductory post. I want to look at the difference between asistir in Spanish and assist in English. My students commonly confuse these two words: 

False Friend: asistir vs. assist 
This SPANISH word...
Looks like this ENGLISH word...
...but they are DIFFERENT because...
In English, assist is usually used as a verb. It is similar to the word help. For example:
"If you have English problems, please tell me and I'll be happy to assist you."

In Spanish, asistir is a verb that often means to go to or to attend. BUT, it can also mean to help, depending on the context.

As nouns in English, an "assistant" is a helper, and "assistance" is help. Note that "attendance" is a noun form of "attend." Compare:
"When her car broke down, Jane called her insurance company to ask for assistance."
"It's important to go to every English class because 10% of my final grade is based on class attendance."

As nouns in Spanish, asistencia can mean either "attendance" (in a class) or "assistance" (help, like in the photo above).

I hope that helps you. If you're confused or have any questions, please leave a comment below and I'll be happy to try to assist you! If you have suggestions for other False Friends or Common Errors, please tell me. 

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


  1. this is one of those ones that is so diametrically opposed, that it has started to confuse me not only in Spanish but also English - like driving again in a country where you drive on the left after a long time driving on the right (or whatever) - it gets hard to remember which is which, where - or in this case, in what language.... *hopeless shrug* =(

  2. Hi Lucy,

    Agreed! Just wait until we talk about "attend"!

    Thanks for the comment,

  3. The english word "attend" can also be understood as "help" in the context or "attend to" :)

  4. Yes, exactly. I just realized now that I've not done the post for "attend," so I'll have to do that ASAP. Thanks for the comment, Mr./Ms./Miss Anonymous! :)


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