Making mistakes are common throughout the process of learning any language, but some mistakes you can avoid if you know how to in advance. So pay attention to this post.
Along my journey as a Spanish teacher, I remember some common mistakes that people learning Spanish make. So, I thought it would be useful if I write about all these common mistakes in one article. Therefore, if you haven’t made these mistakes, you will try to avoid them; or if you already made such mistakes, you know how to fix it. Think of this article as a cheat sheet. So before you start reading more, grab a pen and your Spanish notebook, in order to get the most from this article.
If you are at an early learning stage for Spanish, then pay special attention to this post because you will eventually face situations when you need to use these tips -- and of course you want to get it right from the beginning so you do not need to fix your mistakes later on.
So let us begin!
1) Correct: La gente ES; Wrong: la gente SON
This sentence can be confusing as gente (people) is a singular word that means more than one. However, the word gente - and its meaning - is singular, so grammatically we need to treat it like such.
I used the verb SER, but it can be written with any other verb. You always would use the third person singular of the verb you want to use, and therefore, the adjectives to go with them are singular as well. For example:
- “La gente está muy loca”.
- “People are very crazy”.
Side note: has anyone heard of this song? It might be worthwhile to memorize and use as a tool in case you tend to forget. I don’t know about you, but songs help me a lot when I learn languages.
Also watch out for the word familia, this word has the same problem. It is a word that conveys more than one person but the word itself is singular, so we need to treat it as third person singular when written. For example:
- Correct: “Mi familia ES grande”.
- Translation: “My family is big”.
Wrong: “Mi familia son grandes”.
Please note that it is not the same when we talk about personas. Since personas is a plural noun, so we need the verb to be plural too - the same same with adjectives. Another example:
- “Las personas no están contentas”.
- “People are not happy”.
I know in English you do not have plural for a person, so this might be confusing. Just keep the above example of the song in mind.
2) Correct: OTRA or OTRO; Wrong: una otra/un otro
I would say that this is one of the most common mistakes that I’ve encountered from my students. I would often hear people say (or write) una otra/un otro. You never say that in Spanish!
This mistake is made because you would say una otra/un otro when you translate directly from English, but the correct way is to say OTRA/OTRO (depending on the gender of the noun you use).
If you are on holidays and you are already drinking beer when your friend asks you if you would like to drink something else from the bar, you will say for example:
- Correct: “Otra cerveza por favor”.
- Translation: “Another beer please”.
- Wrong: “Una otra cerveza”.
*Please note that, yes, both “another” and “other” have the same translation in Spanish.
3) Correct: me duele LA cabeza; Wrong: me duele mi cabeza
Some people say “me duele mi cabeza” when they have a headache, but you do not need to add the possessive for this sentence. Indeed, this sounds a bit unnatural, and it is enough just to say “me duele LA cabeza”. You are using “me”, which means you are talking about something that’s yours. Therefore, saying “mi” again is just redundant and confusing.
And you know Spaniards love to shorten things so, the less, the better!
4) Correct: está bien/mal; Wrong: es bien/mal
I know that “Ser and Estar” is a common topic covered in many Spanish lessons, so apologies if this information is repetitive. Actually, you can find more in-depth articles about it here & here.
But I just want to add one more tip this common mistake by saying that you can’t say “es bien/mal”. Instead, you need to use
- “está bien/mal”.
- “It is good/bad”.
Lastly, with the verb SER, we would use “bueno/malo”.
5) Correct: Es necesario; Wrong: Es necesito
Another common mistake is “otro común”: so whenever someone says:
- Correct: “Es necesario”.
- Translation: “It is necessary”.
- Wrong: “Es necesito”.
- [Wrong Translation]: “It is I need”.
- Kind of strange when you say it this way in English as well, isn’t it? The same goes for Spanish.
6) Correct: depende de; Wrong: es depende or es dependiente
Whenever someone ask you something and you are not sure if you are going to do it, you would say:
- Correct: “depende de”.
- Translation: “depends on”.
- Wrong: “es depende” or “es dependiente”
For example, if you have been talking about going to the beach for the coming weekend and someone asks you if you have plans, you will say:
- “Bueno, depende del tiempo”.
- “Well depends on the weather”.
And that is all amigos! I hope you can avoid these mistakes away from day one of your Spanish learning journey. If you do, your Spanish conversations will sound much more natural to native speakers. I hope this article was useful for you, and if so, I have some actionable things for you...
Homework - Tarea / Deberes
Simply pay attention to the next time you practice speaking Spanish. If you see yourself making these mistakes, first realize that you made the mistake, and second correct your mistake. The best way is to write a couple of sentences using the right way in a sentences. These sentences must makes sense to you, so pick a topic matter that will relate to you. A topic you can try to practice on is something humorous, as it is proven that funny things can increase your learning results.
Now your turn!
Have you made any of these mistakes during your Spanish learning journey? Any others? Leave a comment below and help someone to avoid the same mistake(s) in the future. I look forward to reading all your replies. Your questions are welcome as well. Write you soon and happy Spanish learning!
Hero image by Atlas Green (CC0 1.0)