Due to the fact that each language has their own distinct linguistic and grammatical rules, students from different language backgrounds usually make different mistakes when learning English. For Portuguese speakers, there are various types of errors that are commonly committed in both speech and writing. This article will discuss five of the most common mistakes made by Portuguese speakers.


1. "Have been to" instead of "to Know"


1. The verb “to know” cannot be used to say that somebody has travelled to a certain city or country. For example, it is incorrect to say “Do you know Brazil?” Since in Portuguese it is correct to say “Você conhece Brasil?”, many Portuguese speakers ask the question “Do you know Brazil” because the word “conhecer” translates to “know” in English. However, in English, the correct way to ask the question is “Have you ever been to Brazil?” When asking someone about their previous travels, don’t say the word “know,” say the phrase “have been to.” And if you are talking about the present or future, it is most common to use the phrase “go to.” So remember, it is incorrect to say “I know Balboa Park in San Diego.” The correct sentence is “I have been to Balboa Park in San Diego.” And it is wrong to say “I want to know the that aquarium.” The correct sentence is “I want to go to that aquarium.”


Here is a link to a video on my YouTube channel where I show you how a native speaker uses the present perfect “have been” plus the preposition “to” in order to talk about about past trips.




2. "I" not "I'm"


One pronunciation error that Portuguese speakers often make when speaking English is pronouncing the word “I” the same way that they pronounce the contraction “I’m.” Even though most students know the difference between these two, when they speak, they often say the contraction “I’m” in situations where they should say the word “I.” For example, students might mistakenly say “I’m go to the mall everyday” when they should say “I go to the mall everyday.” Another common error is when students mistakenly say “I’m used to play soccer,” when they need to say “I used to play soccer.” So remember, be very careful when pronouncing the word “I” so that it doesn’t sound like the contraction “I’m.”


If you would like help using and pronouncing the phrase “used to,” here is a link to a video where I discuss this topic and the differences between “I used to” and “I’m used to.”




3. Overusing "To Arrive"


The next mistake is not really a mistake, but instead an overuse of the word “arrive.” In Portuguese, the word “chegar” is very commonly used, and so many Portuguese speakers use this word a lot in English. For example, they say sentences such as: “I arrive at my house at 5:00” and “I arrived to work very early.” Even though these sentences are grammatically correct, they are not sentences that native English speakers normally say. Instead of saying “I arrive at my house at 5:00,” native speakers would probably say “I get home at 5:00.” And instead of saying “I arrived to work very early,” native speakers would probably say “I got to work early.” Native English speakers love to use the word “get” instead of the word “arrive.” Try to do this as well!


If you’d like some more practice with this, here is a link to a video where I discuss how to use the word “get” in different situations to mean “arrive”:




4. Remember to use "Really" 


This next one is very important. Since in Portuguese, it is normal to say the phrase “Eu gosto muito,” many Portuguese speakers make the mistake of translating this into English as either “I like very much” or “I like so much.” For example, they might say “I like very much Italian food.” However, this is incorrect! In English, the correct way of saying “Eu gosto muito” is “I really like.” So, instead of saying “I like very much Italian food,” you need to say “I really like Italian food.” And instead of saying “She likes so much listening to music,” you need to say “She really likes listening to music.” So get into the habit of saying “I really like” in order to avoid this mistake.


5. "Have to" instead of "Should"


This last error involves the misuse of the word “should.” Sometimes, Portuguese speakers use the word “should” when they actually need to use the phrase “have to” or the phrase “need to.” For example, they might say the sentence “I should finish all my work before 5:00 yesterday.” However, the correct way to say this sentence is “I had to finish all my work before 5:00 yesterday,” or “I needed to finish all my work before 5:00 yesterday.” When you are describing something that is obligatory, it is necessary to use either “have to” or “need to.” The word “should” is used for suggestions, not for strict obligations. And remember, “should” cannot be used in the past tense!


Hopefully the information in this article will help you avoid making these 5 common mistakes when speaking English. 


Hero image by Estée Janssens on Unsplash