Cognates are words that sound similar and mean the same thing in both English and Spanish. You will be able to recognize a lot of these, particularly in the technical and scientific fields, which will assist you greatly in improving and enriching your Spanish vocabulary while at the same time increasing your understanding. Many of these cognates are written exactly the same as in English, while others will have some slight spelling variations which you will soon learn to recognize and anticipate.
To help you in identifying cognates, it is helpful to recognize some of the common word endings which will help you in determining if the word is a verb, noun, adverb or adjective. The table below outlines a few groups of cognates and how they relate to English and English endings. Some of these words are very common in Spanish while others appear very infrequently.
Throughout this course and your future readings in Spanish you will see many other cognates with English and if you are fortunate enough to know other languages, you may also be able to take advantage of the cognates between Spanish and other languages with similar origins. On the whole you will find that scientific, business, and journalistic writings rely on more cognates than literary texts.
While cognates will be instrumental in enriching your vocabulary, you will also have to be aware of false cognates, word pairs which look like they might mean the same thing but don't. While there are relatively few of these, they may cause some challenges, and in some cases provide for some awkward silences or moments while people are trying to sort out exactly what you have said.
The following is a list of some of the most common false cognates.