Monday, October 3, 2011

False Friend: Discusión vs. Discussion

Are these birds having a discussion? An argument? Read on to find out! (Photo Credit)

Hello! Today we have another False Friend to discuss. If you're not sure what a False Friend is, check out this introductory post. Today we'll be looking at the difference between discusión in Spanish and discussion in English. Like most False Friends, they look very similar and in fact sometimes there's no difference in meaning. Still, there are some contexts where they mean different things. Let's look:

False Friend: discusión vs. discussion 
This SPANISH word...
Looks like this ENGLISH word...
...but they are DIFFERENT because...
In English, a discussion is usually the same thing as a conversation. It can be positive or negative, depending on the context.

In Spanish, a discusión is usually a negative thing. In other words, if you use this word, it indicates that people were possibly yelling and getting very angry. Basically, it's like a verbal fight.

If you want to say discusión in English, try to use a word like "an argument" or even "a fight." Those are closer to the meaning in Spanish.

I'll be posting more False Friends in the days and weeks to come, but if you have any suggestions for other False Friends or Common Errors, please tell me. 

Thanks for reading, and have a great day full of interesting discussions--but hopefully no arguments!


  1. actually i never really thought about it being a more negative word in Spanish than English.

    I DO remember my parents - very angry with each other - on being implored by we snivelling children to stop fighting insisting "We are NOT fighting, we're DISCUSSING!!!!" a VERY fine line between the two at times, apparently

  2. Hey Lucy!

    Thanks for the comment, and that's funny about your parents. I wonder-- if they spoke Spanish, do you think they would have said the equivalent of "We're NOT discussing, we're CONVERSING!" :)

  3. Could the negative vs. neutral question be one of dialect? I wonder because ONE of my many Spanish teachers over the years mentioned this very example as a false cognate, but I don't recall any of the other teachers bringing it up. And each of my teachers was from a different Spanish-speaking country.

  4. Hi AnnaLisa,

    You may be onto something regarding this being a question of dialect, but since I've only really spoken or learned Spanish in Costa Rica, I'm not sure. Does anyone else out there know?



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