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15 Mistakes in Spanish that English Speakers Make

MISTAKES IN SPANISH

If you’re learning Spanish, you’re going to make mistakes. Yes, no matter how hard you try. I’m sorry, that’s the truth.

That’s why there’s not point in blaming yourself or thinking your memory is rubbish.

Mistakes are part of learning a language and you should wecome them. Yes, welcome them in the real world.

Why? They leave room for growth and expose you to native speakers’ possible corrections.

And caring so much about your mistakes is preventing you from improving your Spanish.

Moreover, English and Spanish are truly different languages. It’s imposible not to make mistakes, especially if you keep translating from English to Spanish.

To be honest, that’s literally a shortcut to making mistakes. Besides, even native speakers make mistakes all the time.

Since Spanish is hard enough and you don’t need you mother tongue to make you struggle even more: here you have 15 common mistakes English speakers make in Spanish.

Let’s begin!

 

  1. ES BIEN/MAL vs ESTÁ BIEN/MAL

WARNING: This is probably the most common mistake in Spanish that English speakers make.

As a beginner, you’re likely to assume that the verb to be is “ser” most of the time in Spanish.

BUT this is when “estar” comes to give you nightmares.

In this case, we’re using “estar” with states expressed by “bien” and “mal”. They’re adverbs so they modify the verb; they don’t describe words like adjectives.

So what are you supposed to say? “Está bien” / “Está mal”.  

Examples: Mi hermana está bien; está mejorando. / La Casa de Papel está bien pero no es mi serie favorita.

 

  1. BENEFICIAL (ENG) vs BENEFICIOSO (SPA)

This word is rather intermediate and can be useful to talk about social issues and engage in deep conversations.

However, if you make this mistake, you’re clearly using English as your point of reference to speak Spanish.

Just remember that whenever you think of “beneficial”, you only have to remove “–al” and add “-oso”.

Example: dejar de fumar es beneficioso para la salud .

If you want to talk about a beneficial feminine noun, just add “-osa” instead to form the word “beneficiosa”.  

 

  1. I’M EXCITED (ENG) vs ESTOY EMOCIONADO (SPA)

Excitement becomes EMOCIÓN or ENTUSIASMO in Spanish. So the wise thing to say would be “estoy emocionADO/ADA” or “estoy entusiasmADO/ADA”.

The problem is when you think excitement is “excitación” and you say “estoy excitado”, which means “I’m aroused”.

You can imagine how weird a conversation can turn if you say that out of the blue. Unless you’re flirting, of course.

Just be careful with this one if you’re shy.

Example: Iremos al concierto la semana que viene ¡Estoy muy emocionada!

 

  1. PRONOUNCING “ALCOHOL” IN ENGLISH

This common mistake that English speakers make is really problematic.You can make three mistakes at the same time without even noticing. How can you solve it?

      • Don’t pronunce the H
      • Pronounce just one O
      • Put emphasis on “-col”, not “al-“, unlike in English.

Quick tip? Just imagine that the word is written like alCOL.

 

  1. MAKE MISTAKES (ENG) vs COMETER ERRORES (SPA)

Speaking of mistakes, some English speakers say “hacer errores” because they translate make as “hacer”.

 In other contexts, like “hacer una tarta” (make a cake), that’d be great. However, we need a set expression in this case.

Spaniards say “COMETER” + “ERRORES” / “UN ERROR”.

“Cometer” is a regular verb with an –ER ending. The conjugation for the present tense would be “cometo”, “cometes”, “comete”, “cometemos”, “cometéis”, and “cometen”.

Example: Cometer errores es beneficioso para aprender español. Did you see what I did there?

 

  1. BUSY CITY (ENG) vs CIUDAD CONCURRIDA/BULLICIOSA (SPA)

Most beginners learning Spanish know that busy means “ocupado” in Spanish.

This is very useful when someone knocks on the door at the toilet and we’re not done yet, by the way. Just like occupied.

But “ocupado” is used for people or spaces like toilets or seats, not for cities.

For cities, Spaniards use words like “concurrida”, “bulliciosa” or” ajetreada”.

Example: ¡Me encanta Barcelona! Es una ciudad muy concurrida, con mucha vida.

 

  1. PEOPLE ARE (ENG) vs LA GENTE ES (SPA)

This common mistake that English speakers make in Spanish is just a matter of number.

“Gente” is a collective noun, like family. Do you use verbs in the plural with family? I don’t think so.

English speakers use “is” or “was” with the word family. Just like Spaniards do with “gente”.

You should always use verbs with singular forms if you use “gente”, even if it refers to millions of people.

In fact, you’re likely to use “la gente” when making generalizations.

Example: La gente no es muy limpia en esta ciudad. Tira la basura al suelo.

 

  1. EMBARRASSED (ENG) vs AVERGONZADO/A (SPA)

How many times have you said “estoy embarazado” whenever you wanted to say “I’m embarrassed”? I can imagine.

The image of native speakers getting excited for your pregnancy is a bit funny.

Again, this is why I don’t like literal translation or language teaching based on translation.

You just assumed that English words are the same in Spanish with an added –o. Some prefer adding an -e.

Sadly, this isn’t how Spanish works. Embarrassed is “avergonzado/a” and pregnant is “embarazada”.

Examples: ¡Me olvidé su nombre! Estoy muy avergonzado / ¡Estoy embarazada de una niña! Se llamará Julia.

 

  1. CASADA vs CANSADA

In a conversation class, I invited one student to ask me questions. For example, my age, my hometown…

Then the student said “¿estás cansada?” and I panicked.

Did I look tired? Wasn’t I meeting my own standards as a teacher?

So I asked: “¿por qué?, ¿no estoy explicando las cosas bien en español?”

He didn’t understand why I replied like that so when he said “marido”, I got it.

It’s funny how an N can change a whole situation. In Spanish, you need to be careful with letters. Just one letter can change the whole meaning.

So, just remember: “casada” is married and “cansada” is tired.

 

  1. ME ENCANTA MUCHO

This common mistake that English speakers make in Spanish is very easy to fix. You only have to leave out “mucho”.

Why? Me encanta is an intensified version of me gusta in terms of how much you like something.

Saying mucho with me encanta is redundant and it doesn’t sound natural at all.

Examples: Me gusta mucho la serie Las Chicas del Cable / Me encanta la serie Las Chicas del Cable.

 

  1. THE PRONUNCIATION OF LETTER X

Many Spanish students dream about going to Mexico once they improve their Spanish.

However, they assume that the sound X is always the same in Spanish.

Well, bad news: the X can be pronounced in different ways in Spanish:

    • S at the beginning of a word (xenofobia) (with exceptions)
    • Ks/gs in the middle of a word (examen)
    • Spanish J in the word México (blame history)

Do you want to memorise the sounds? Try to write meaningful sentences for you including the examples. Don’t forget to read them out loud, of course.

 

  1. REALISE (ENG) vs DARSE CUENTA DE (SPA)

To realise is a verb that you’re likely to use very often in your daily life. That’s why you should be able to use it confidently in Spanish as well.

Whenever you want to use it, just use the set expression “darse cuenta de”. Remember that the verb “dar” is a bit irregular depending on the tense.

Moreover, the verb contains “-se”. This means you’ll have to a) know irregular conjugations and b) know how to use reflexive pronouns to say it right.

Here you have some help: “me doy cuenta de” / “me di cuenta de” / “se dio cuenta de” / “nos dimos cuenta de”…

Example: Me di cuenta de que María y Héctor estaban en la sala y fui a saludarlos.

 

  1. I’M GOOD/I’M WELL (ENG) vs ESTOY BIEN (SPA)

If you translate I’m good as “Estoy bueno” whenever someone says “¿qué tal?”, you may seem a bit cocky.

“Estar bueno” means to be hot, attractive. If you’re modest, you can say any of these sentences to reply to “¿qué tal?”:

    • ¡Estoy muy bien, gracias!
    • Genial, gracias
    • Estoy estupendamente
    • Me encuentro maravillosamente

 

  1. APPLY FOR (ENG) vs SOLICITAR (SPA)

This common mistake that English speakers make is very similar to mistake number 8.

In Spanish, the word “aplicar” exists, but it usually means to spread a substance on a surface or use theoretical knowledge in a practical situation.

The word also has other meanings that you can check here.

 If you’re applying for a university, you should not say “estoy aplicando una universidad”.

Instead, you should say “estoy solicitando una plaza en una universidad”.

That’s it: Solicitar una plaza en… This Spanish equivalent may change depending on the context. For example, if you apply for a scholarship, you would say “estoy solicitando una beca”.

 

  1. TO BE LATE (ENG) vs LLEGAR TARDE (SPA)

If you still use translation as a way to speak Spanish, you may end up saying “soy/estoy tarde”.

To be honest, Spaniards will understand you but it’s not correct. We use the verb “llegar” (arrive) with “tarde”.

It’s another fixed expression that learners should know by heart, like “Tengo 20 años” instead of “Soy 20 años”.

Example: Odio llegar tarde. Soy una persona muy puntual.

 

AWARENESS LEADS TO BRILLIANCE

Spending some time on detecting and fixing those little mistakes can level up your Spanish.

But these are not the only mistakes that you’re likely to make as a English speaker.

Stick to ACC Spanish blog to find more mistakes that you can easily correct. You won’t only impress native speakers. It’ll improve your confidence as well.

Besides, once you’ve overcome little obstacles like these, you can focus on functional language. For example, do you know how to order, talk to a doctor or withdraw money in a bank?

Try to practise what you’ve read in this post daily so it becomes part of your Spanish repertoire as soon as possible. Or even better: make a personalised list of your mistakes if a conversation partner can help you.

So, remember: welcome mistakes, detect them, and find the Spanish equivalent. If you try to translate less, that’s even better.

Now, tell me, what mistakes you didn’t know you made before reading this blog post? What are other mistakes you used to do but someone corrected you?

I can’t wait to read your comments!

40 Spanish Phrases to Sound like a Spaniard

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