Language tip of the week: false

Posted by on February 13, 2014

Learn English with Macmillan DictionaryIn this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are usually based on areas of English which learners find difficult, e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc.

This week’s language tip helps with other ways of saying false:

imitation made to look like something else, usually something more expensive:
imitation leather
artificial made to have the same features or do the same job as something else that exists naturally:
artificial cream/sweeteners/flavourings
fake made to look like something valuable or important, often in a way that is meant to trick people:
fake jewellery or fur
forged made to look exactly like something valuable or important and used illegally to trick people:
a forged signature/passport/painting
counterfeit made to look exactly like something valuable or important and used illegally to trick people, especially illegally produced money:
counterfeit currency/traveller’s cheques
phoney (informal) used for describing behaviour and emotions that are not natural or sincere:
He didn’t fool anyone with that phoney Italian accent.
bogus (informal) false and used for tricking people or pretending to be somebody you are not:
a bogus repairman, bogus auto parts
pirate used for describing copies of things such as books or videos that have been made and sold illegally:
They were caught selling pirate copies of the album.

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Comments (2)
  • I still have doubts about the difference between fake and forgery. Could they be used interchangeably?

    Posted by Sergio Rodrigues on 14th February, 2014
  • Sergio: a good question about fake and forgery. The simple answer is that they are not usually interchangeable (though it’s a characteristic of close synonyms like these that they can be used interchangeably *in some contexts* – see below). If we focus on the adjectival uses, the most frequent collocates of “forged” are these: passport, banknote, signature, document, cheque/check, licence, certificate, receipt: all are official documents of some kind, which someone has created or copied with dishonest or criminal intent. “Fake” modifies a very different set of nouns, the most frequent being: tan, fur, moustache, beard, Rolex, designer (e.g. fake designer jeans), blood, leather, diamonds, and even breasts.
    Having said that, the “fake” collocates do also include passport and a few other “document” words – so that’s the area of overlap. (But it doesn’t work the other way around: you can’t have a forged beard or tan…forgery always implies careful, meticulous work aimed at creating something which cannot be distinguished from the real thing.) The outlier here is works of art: we know that paintings and similar can be “forgeries”, but for some reason we don’t see the collocation “forged painting”.

    Posted by Michael Rundell on 14th February, 2014
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