False friends: Accident and Incident

Verrebbe da tradurli entrambi con “incidente”, ma le cose sono molto più complesse… Accident vuol dire “incidente”, ma by accident, per esempio, significa “per caso”; incident, invece, significa tutta un’altra cosa: indica un evento, un episodio… LANGUAGE LEVEL B2 (UPPER INTERMEDIATE)

Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

The word incident can be a false friend for Italians in English because it does not mean incidente  – because in English we tend to say accident; for example, a car crash is a car crash or an accident. An incident in English, on the other hand, is rather (1) different: it is an event or an episode. For example, there’s the book which our friend David Dickens talked about recently, and that is The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time. That means the curious episode, the curious event of the dog in the night-time, but to confuse things further (2), we do actually (3) use the expression a diplomatic incident,  exactly as the same… exactly the same as… as in Italian. However, an incident even there is a… an episode, an event, probably not a very fortunate one. Accident, as I said, means a crash or a disaster, but we can also talk about things happening by accident, that means per caso and you can… arrive somewhere by accident. It doesn’t mean that you had a crash, it just means by chance (4) that you ended up there or you caught (5) the… wrong train or whatever. And then, to conclude, there is the expression, a chapter of accidents, which means a series of unfortunate and unpredictable episodes, and there’s a very good book – I don’t think it’s in print (6) anymore – but it’s called A Chapter of Accidents and it’s written by a… it was written by a Welsh writer called Goronwy Rees and it talked about his life in Wales and England, and it’s a rather good read.


1    rather: abbastanza, piuttosto
2    further: ulteriormente
3    actually: in realtà
4    by chance: per caso
5    you caught: hai preso
6    I don’t think it’s in print anymore: non credo sia ancora in stampa (vale a dire “forse è fuori catalogo”)

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