10 Most Common Mistakes in Spanish (that you are probably making too)

10 Most Common Mistakes in Spanish (that you are probably making too)

One of the inevitable parts of learning a language is making mistakes, so naturally, this is also the case with learning Spanish.

Even though Spanish is considered one of the easiest languages to learn, it has its tricky parts, just like any other language, so students can get confused.

 

Keep in mind that making mistakes while learning Spanish is not the end of the world.

It is a perfectly normal process, and it is important not to get discouraged. Over time, you will overcome your mistakes.

As long as you regularly work on your skills by listening to audio, podcasts, native speakers, reading Spanish blogs etc. you will surely overcome your mistakes.

With that in mind, in the following lines, we’ve gathered some of the most common mistakes learners make when speaking Spanish. Perhaps they can help you become aware of them and correct them.

Common mistake in Spanish no.1: Ser versus Estar

Note that ‘ser versus estar’ doesn’t mean that these verbs are in a war. It just means they get confused a lot.

The verb ‘ser’ is translated as ‘to be.’ The verb ‘estar’ is translated as ’to be.

Yes, it’s true. Both of the verbs are translated as ‘to be.

 

Learners get confused by these a lot because their translation in English is the same. However, the usage is not the same, and the explanation is quite simple:

The verb ‘ser’ is used to talk about what something is. More precisely, this verb is used to describe the characteristics of the things we talk about.

The verb is used in the following concrete situations:

  • Nationality
  • Occupation
  • Possession
  • Religious or political affiliation
  • Essential qualities
  • Place of origin
  • Date, hour or day
  • Relationship from one person to another
  • Event - where it takes place

 

The verb ‘estar’ is used to talk about how something is. More precisely, it is used for emotions, locations, actions, or conditions.

This verb is used in the following concrete situations:

  • Conditions
  • Location - geographic or physical
  • Idioms
  • Progressive tenses ( -ing tenses)

 

Examples:

Mi mama es una mujer muy alegre. - My mother is a happy woman.

Mi mama esta de buen humor. - My mother is in a good mood.

 

The first example shows that this is a part of my mother’s personality, so that is why we used the verb ‘ser.’ The second example shows that her mood can change, it isn’t constant, and we are talking about her current condition, so that is why we use the verb ‘estar.’

 

Yo soy de Mexico.- I am from Mexico.

Yo estoy en Cuba.- I am in Cuba.

The first example shows my country of origin, one of my characteristics.

The second example shows that I’m currently in that country, but I’m not from there, I wasn’t born there.

 

El hielo es frio.- The ice is cold.

El cafe es frio.- The coffee is cold.

The first example shows that the ice is always cold, that is its attribute.

The second one shows that the coffee is currently cold, but that isn’t its original state. It can be changed.

Common mistake no.2: ‘To be or to have?’

There are around ten examples with the verb ‘to be,’ that is, the verb ‘to have.’ Or the other way around?

Don’t let this confuse you.

In the following lines of this paragraph, we’ve listed cases when, in English, we use the verb ‘to be’ but in Spanish the verb ‘to have’ should be used.

The first and main example; when talking about age, in English, we use the verb ‘to be.’ In Spanish, for this common question and answer, we have to use the verb ‘tener- to have.’

So, when you want to say “I am 30 years old’, you will say ‘ Yo tengo 30 anos’, which can be translated as “I have 30 years.’

  • Tener cuidado- be careful
  • Tener suerte- to be lucky
  • Tener calor- to be hot
  • Tener frio- to be cold
  • Tener hambre- to be hungry
  • Tener sed- to be thirsty
  • Tener sueno- to be sleepy
  • Tener miedo de- to be afraid of
  • Tener prisa- to be in a hurry

 

Common mistake no. 3: Singular versus plural

The word ‘people’ in English is a collected noun, and it is used in a third person in the plural. For example, ‘People are unpredictable.’

In Spanish, the word ‘people’ is singular, ‘gente,’ so, naturally, you have to use it in a third person singular. For example: La gente tiene ambre- People are hungry.

It can be a little confusing at first, but over time and practice, you will get used to the difference in singular and plural between languages.

 

Common mistake no.4: Double negatives

It is familiar that double negation in English is something its grammar does not allow. Some consider it one of the features of unlettered.

In Spanish, however, double negative is not only allowed, but it is pretty much necessary.

According to the Spanish grammar, you can’t mix positive and negative words, so if you already have the word ‘no’ in your sentence, then you have to finish it with negative words, like in the following example:

 

No escribi nada.- I didn’t write anything.

No escribi- I didn’t write

nada – nothing

 

The literal translation of this sentence would sound something like this: ‘I didn’t write nothing.’ It is not acceptable in English, but in Spanish, it is perfectly normal.

 

Here is one more example:

No hay nadie aqui. - There isn’t anyone here.

No hay- there isn’t

Nadie- noone

Aqui- here

Literally, this sentence says, ‘There isn’t no one here.’

 

Common mistake no.5- I like a lot a lot?

Just like in the previous explanation, even though English double negative isn’t desirable, Spanish one is perfectly common. However, there are some cases when Spanish doesn’t allow double words.

You’ve surely heard of the sentence ‘Me encanta,’ or perhaps ‘Me encanta mucho.’

The first example is correct; the second one is not.

The word ‘encanta’ implies that you like something very much already, so other words such as ‘mucho’ are not necessary.

Have this in mind next time you want to say ‘Me encanta mucho el cafe.’ It isn’t correct, because this way, you say, ‘ I like a lot of coffee a lot.’. It is enough with ‘ Me encanta el cafe.’

 

Common mistake no.6- Capitalization rules

Capitalization rules can be quite different in other languages.

It is the case with English and Spanish, too.

In the following lines, you’ll find some listed words that are to be capitalized in English but not in Spanish, and it would be good to remember them:

  • Nationality: español/a- Spanish,
  • Religion: catolico- Catholic,
  • Languages: ingles- English,
  • Days of the week: lunes- Monday,
  • Months of the year: enero- January,
  • Titles- only the first letter of the title is capitalized: Juego de tronos- Game of Thrones.

 

Common mistake no.7- Adjectives: which one comes first?

In English, it is quite clear that the adjective goes before the noun, simple as that.

In Spanish, there are a lot of situations when adjectives come after nouns. Of course, there are cases when adjectives come before nouns, but the previous rule is much more common.

Examples when adjective comes after the noun:

  • Corazon amable- kind heart
  • Falda roja- red skirt
  • Sonrisa deslumbrante- dazzling smile

 

Examples when the adjective comes before the noun:

  • Una hija intelligente- a smart daughter
  • La caja vacia- an empty box
  • El dia tranquillo- the calm day

 

Common mistake no.8- False Friends

False friends are words, sometimes phrases that sound similar to words in English, but they don’t mean the same thing.

 

For example, the word ‘sensato’ means ‘sensible,’ but the word ‘sensible’ in Spanish means ‘sensitive’ in English.

 

And here is another one: ‘embarazada’ means ‘pregnant’ in Spanish. Don’t mix it with ‘embarrassed’ in English, which would be in Spanish ‘avergonzado/a.’

 

Let’s not forget to mention one of the pretty confusing words: actually and actualmente.

In Spanish, ‘actualmente’ means ‘currently, at present.’ For example, ‘Actualmente, no me gusta la carne,’ which means ‘ Currently,/ at present, I don’t like meat.’ If you, however, say that you don’t like meat at all, not just currently, then you should say ‘La verdad, no me gusta la carne.’

Common mistake no.9- Which one to use: Por or Para?

These two Spanish words are one of the most common mistakes English speakers make. Let’s clear the difference and memorize it once and for all.

Por’ is used with something that doesn’t have a definite end. This word is focused around something, not about the final result. 

For example, ‘Pagué 10$ por un regalo,’ which is translated ‘ I’ve paid 10$ for a present.’ From this example, we can see that it focuses on the process through which the present is acquired.

 

Para’ is used in two cases: first, to show the final result, and second, before a verb in the infinitive, which means ‘in order to.’

Examples:

Voy para casa de mi amigo- I’m going for my friend’s house.

Para llegar a trabajo, tengo que pasar por el parque- In order to arrive at work, I have to pass through the park.

 

Common mistake no.10- Genders

In English, there are no grammatical gender doubts.

However, the idea that words, not only nouns but adjectives as well have genders, can be a little confusing. It can’t be listed as one of the hardest things to understand, but somewhat hard to put in practice and be aware of it.

 

In Spanish, generally speaking, words ending in ‘o’ are masculine, words ending in ‘a’ are feminine, and that is all the philosophy.

Of course, there are some exceptions, but mainly this is the rule.

What makes English learners confused a bit is putting adjectives in genders, too.

For example, ‘la casa roja- red house,’ feminine, or el ‘libro rojo- the red book,’ masculine.

 

Confusion also arises around words ending in ‘a’ in the plural form, but that are masculine in singular such as ‘el agua- water,’ ‘el alma- the soul,’ and ‘el aguila- the eagle.’

These examples in plural sound like this: ‘ las aguas,’ ‘ las almas,’ and ‘las aguilas.’

And here are several exceptions:

  • La foto- the picture, feminine
  • La mano- the hand, feminine
  • El mapa- the map, masculine
  • La radio- the radio, feminine

Bonus

One more common mistake in Spanish- Muy vs. Mucho

It is a common mistake among beginners mostly, so it would be good to make it clearer.

‘Muy’ is equivalent to ‘very, and it is used in two cases:

  1. Before an adjective: Ella es muy bonita- She is very pretty.
  2. Before another adverb: Tu español es muy bueno- your Spanish is very good.

 

‘Mucho’ is an adjective, and as per the previous explanations in the ‘gender’ section, it will match with the noun in number and gender.

‘Mucho’ in the singular form is ‘mucho’- masculine, and ‘mucha’ in the feminine. In plural is ‘muchos’ in the masculine and ‘muchas’ in the feminine.

Here’s a table sheet to make it simple:

Singular

Plural

Mucho - masculine

Muchos - masculine

Mucha - feminine

Muchas - feminine

 

This adjective increases the amount of the noun.

For example, No tengo mucho dinero- I don’t have a lot of money.

Or, Hay muchos dulces en la tienda- There are many sweets in the store.

 

Like other adjectives, ‘mucho’ can also become an adverb. Used this way, it means ‘a lot’ in English.

It is placed after the verb and doesn’t change number and gender, like when it is used as an adjective.

Example: Hace mucho frio- It is very cold.

Hoy trabajo mucho- Today I’m working a lot.

If you're interested in improving your Spanish skills, you should try some of these cool options: Check out Babbel for fun, interactive lessons that fit into your day easily.

If you want something more in-depth, there's a great Spanish course on Coursera that covers everything from the basics to more advanced topics.

And if you prefer learning with a personal touch, Lingoda offers classes with native speakers that can really help you practice speaking.

Why some mistakes are so often made?

This happens because of the differences between your native language and the one you are learning.

Is it easier to learn Spanish after leaning Italian?

Yes, these languages are similar due to the common protolanguage.

How to get rid of mistakes?

Don't be afraid of making mistakes, they are a part of learning. Just practice your target language more.

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