Have you ever experienced an embarrassing situation because of a grammar or spelling mistake? I did. More than once.
I remember when I said to my boss in London: I am constipated (because I had a cold, but in Spanish we say: estar constipado).
Also, I used to say:
I have 20 years old. Or:
There is a lot of people.
They are frequent mistakes when Spanish people
is are learning English.
If you are lucky, the other person will think that you are a foreign speaker and will understand your mistake.
However, some mistakes can change completely the meaning of the sentence. For example, do you know the difference between ser bueno and estar bueno referred to people? Ser bueno means to be a good person and estar bueno means to be sexy.
Imagine all the situations where you can be un trouble if you switch ser and estar.
This post helps you to be aware of the most common Spanish mistakes.
If you want to learn more about each one, just click the link below and read the explanation.
Contents on this post
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List of most common Spanish mistakes
Wrong Right El moto es blanco. La moto es blanca. Wrong Right Esta mañana he escribido a mi madre. Esta mañana he escrito a mi madre. Wrong Right La semana pasada andé 20 km. La semana pasada anduve 20 km. Wrong Right Yo trabajo a mi oficina. Yo trabajo en mi oficina. Wrong Right Vivo a Barcelona. Vivo en Barcelona. Wrong Right Voy en la playa. Voy a la playa. Wrong Right Viajo en otros países. Viajo a otros países. Wrong Right Es sol. Hace sol. Wrong Right Es lluvia. / Es llueve Llueve. / Está lloviendo. Wrong Right Necesito trabajar esta tarde. Tengo que trabajar esta tarde. Wrong Right ¿Puedo tener un café, por favor? ¿Me pones un café, por favor? Wrong Right Realizo que estoy incorrecto. Me doy cuenta de que estoy equivocado. Wrong Right Pregunto un café en el bar. Pido un café en el bar. Wrong Right La semana pasada nos movimos a un piso nuevo. La semana pasada nos mudamos a un piso nuevo. Wrong Right Mis proyectos tienen mucho suceso. Mis proyectos tienen mucho éxito. Wrong Right Mi padre me conduce al aeropuerto. Mi padre me lleva en coche al aeropuerto. Wrong Right Mis compañeros siempre soportan mis ideas en el trabajo. Mis compañeros siempre apoyan mis ideas en el trabajo. Wrong Right Me llamo Juan y soy 25 años. Me llamo Juan y tengo 25 años. Wrong Right María es una profesora de español. María es profesora de español.
Common Spanish mistakes #1 – ¿El moto o la moto? Gender in Spanish
«El moto es blanco» is grammatically wrong because the noun moto is grammatically feminine.
All Spanish nouns (sustantivos), including people, places, animals, things, ideas, and feelings, have a gender (male or female). If you are an English speaker, this could be confusing in the beginning. There is not a reason why in Spanish the noun table (mesa) is feminine or the noun book (libro) is masculine.
But you have to learn and remember the gender in order to match nouns with articles (like el, la, un, una…) and adjectives (like bonito, pequeño, guapo…).
La mesa es blanca
El libro es blanco
Probably you are wondering if you have to learn the gender of EACH Spanish noun. Unfortunately, yes. But don’t worry because there are a few general rules that can help with that. As a general rule, nouns ending in a -o are masculine and nouns ending in an -a are feminine. Other frequent masculine endings are -ema and -ión. Also, most nouns ending in –dad are feminine.
Now you know the general rules, it is time to have a look at the exceptions:
Masculine nouns that end in -a: el mapa, el día, el planeta, el clima…
Feminine nouns that end in -o: la moto, la radio, la mano, la foto…
Other endings: el coche, la leche, el cine, el ordenador, la coliflor, el pez, la paz…
Do you want to learn more about this topic? Check the video to find out more about gender in Spanish:
Common Spanish mistakes #2 – ¿Escribido o escrito? Irregular Spanish past participles
«Esta mañana he escribido a mi madre» is grammatically wrong because the past participle of the verb escribir is escrito.
To form the Spanish pretérito perfecto we conjugate haber in the present tense and we add the past participle (participio pasado).
The past participle is formed by taking the infinitive, removing the -ar, -er, -ir and adding the endings -ado, -ido, -ido, respectively.
- Trabajar ⇒ trabajado
- Comer ⇒ comido
- Vivir ⇒ vivido
However, when we conjugate Spanish pretérito perfecto we have to consider that there are also irregular verbs.
They are irregular because they don’t follow the general conjugation rule of the past participle (participio pasado) and use a different word instead.
The most frequent are:
- Hacer ⇒ hecho
- Abrir ⇒ abierto
- Poner ⇒ puesto
- Escribir ⇒ escrito
- Volver ⇒ vuelto
- Cubrir ⇒ cubierto
- Romper ⇒ roto
- Morir ⇒ muerto
- Ver ⇒ visto
- Decir ⇒ dicho
Common Spanish mistakes #3 – ¿Andé or anduve? Irregular verbs of pretérito indefinido
«La semana pasada andé 20 kilómetros» is grammatically wrong because the right conjugation of andar in the pretérito indefinido is anduve.
How to conjugate the Spanish pretérito indefinido
The Spanish Pretérito indefinido is one of the Spanish past tenses. Its conjugation is one of the most complicated in Spanish, as there are a lot of irregular verbs in the conjugation of this past tense.
The Spanish pretérito indefinido is formed by taking the infinitive, removing the -ar, -er, -ir and adding a specific ending for each person:
Irregular conjugation – Spanish pretérito indefinido
As I mentioned before, the Spanish pretérito indefinido has a lot of irregularities in its conjugation. The easiest way to learn them is to divide them into 3 groups:
⇒ Group 1: 100% Irregular verbs – Spanish pretérito indefinido
These verbs are completely irregular, so they don’t follow any pattern. There are only three completely irregular verbs in the pretérito indefinido:
⇒ Group 2: Irregular stem – Spanish pretérito indefinido
There is a group of verbs that are conjugated with an irregular stem in the pretérito indefinido. To conjugate them, we need to change the stem from the infinitive for a different stem (according to each verb). All verbs in this group are conjugated with the same endings, doesn’t matter if their infinitive ends with -ar, -er or -ir.
The most frequent verbs in this group are:
Él / Ella estuvo
Ellos / Ellas estuvieron
Él / Ella hizo
Ellos / Ellas hicieron
Él / Ella quiso
Ellos / Ellas quisieron
There is an extra irregularity in this group. When the irregular stem end with J, the ending for «ellos – ellas» is «-eron» instead of «-ieron». For example:
- Decir – Dij – Ellos dijeron
- Conducir – Conduj – Ellos condujeron
- Traer – Traj- Ellos trajeron
⇒ Group 3: Third person irregular verbs – Spanish pretérito indefinido
The third and last group is for those verbs which are irregular only in the third person (él, ella – ellos, ellas) This change affects also the second person formal (usted, ustedes). These verbs present a stem vowel change. Check them in the picture:
|Yo me vestí|
Tú te vestiste
Él / Ella se vistió
Nosotros/as nos vestimos
Vosotros/as os vestisteis
Ellos / Ellas se vistieron
Él / Ella durmió
Ellos / Ellas durmieron
Él / Ella leyó
Ellos / Ellas leyeron
♦If you want to learn more about how to use and conjugate the Spanish pretérito indefinido read this post.
Common Spanish mistakes #4 #5 #6 & #7 – ¿A, en, con, por, para…? Spanish prepositions
The sentences Yo trabajo a mi oficina, Vivo a Barcelona, Voy en la playa and Viajo en otros países are gramatically wrong because of the use of the prepositions.
What is the meaning of «en»? // How do you say «to» in Spanish?
These questions are very frequent during Spanish lessons. Frequently students are used to look for an English translation in order to understand words.
However, I want to tell you a secret to learn the prepositions in Spanish:
♦Do not try to translate them into English or into your language. It does not work.
The best way to learn to use these words is in context. ♦
Let’s have a closer look at how to learn words in context. Take note of these tips:
- Write in your vocabulary list different examples of the same verb with each preposition. Do this anytime you learn a new verb. For example:
Trabajo EN Barcelona. (Location)
Trabajo CON mis amigos. (Accompanying)
Trabajo PARA comprarme una casa. (Goal)Trabajo POR la mañana. (Part of the day)
- Explore the change of meaning with each preposition. Find new combinations. And if you have questions: ask your teacher.
- Forget about the rules, at least for a moment. Each preposition has different possible translations into English and different usage rules. Studying these rules is interesting, but what will help you the most to use the prepositions correctly when you speak is:
Reading and listening in Spanish. As much as you can.
Common Spanish mistakes #8 and #9 – ¿Es sol, hay sol o hace sol? How to talk about the weather in Spanish
Talking about the weather is everyone’s favorite conversation topic when we don’t know what to say.
However, Spanish weather vocabulary can be a bit tricky because it does not have the translation from English that many people expect.
That’s why sentences like «Es sol» or «Es lluvia» are wrong in Spanish. In this case, it is a matter of vocabulary.
Some useful sentences to remember about the weather in Spanish are:
- Hace sol. (It’s sunny.)
- Hace frío. / Hace calor. (It’s cold. / It’s hot.
- ¡Qué frío hace! / ¡Qué calor hace! (It’s so cold! / It’s so hot!)
- Hace viento. (It’s windy.)
- Está nublado. (It’s cloudy.)
- Llueve. / Está lloviendo. (It rains. / It’s raining.)
- Nieva. / Está nevando. (It snows. / It’s snowing.)
Remember that in Spanish we use the word tiempo for weather and time. This can confuse you in the beginning but it will be easy to understand because of the context:
¿Qué tiempo hace hoy? -> How’s the weather
No tengo tiempo para ir al gimnasio. -> I don’t have time to go to the gym.
Common Spanish mistakes #10 – What is the difference between «necesitar» and «tener que»?
The sentence «Necesito trabajar esta tarde» is grammatically correct but the verb necesitar is rarely used by Spanish speakers in this context.
The English verb to need is frequently translated into Spanish as necesitar. However, there are some differences in the usage of both verbs. Let’s have a closer look:
♦ In Spanish, the most natural way to express what should, must, or has to be done is with the structure tener que + infinitive. This structure expresses an obligation imposed by the circumstances.
♦On the other hand, necesitar expresses an actual need or strong desire, rather than an obligation.
Check these examples:
Esta tarde no puedo ir a la playa porque tengo que trabajar.
In this sentence, trabajar (to work) is an obligation imposed by the circumstances, not a personal need or desire.
No tengo dinero, necesito trabajar más horas.
In this case, trabajar is a personal need as the person needs the money to live.
Tengo que llamar a mi madre.
It is an obligation, a task that has to be done. It does not matter if the person wants to do it or not.
Necesito llamar a mi madre.
It is a personal desire or need, the person strongly needs to make that call.
Tengo que beber agua.
The person is following a recommendation or he/she considers that he/she should drink water, but maybe he/she is not feeling thirsty.
Necesito beber agua.
The person feels very thirsty.
Common Spanish mistakes #11 – Don’t say «¿Puedo tener…?» to order in a restaurant!
In Spanish, we use ¿Puedo tender…? to ask for permission to own something. For example:
Mamá, ¿Puedo tener un perro? -> Mum, can I have a dog?
However, we should not use ¿Puedo tender…? to order in a restaurant or to ask someone to give us something. In these contexts, we use other verbs like poner, dar, or pasar. Let’s have a closer look:
Poner is the most common verb to order in a bar or restaurant in Spain. In other countries, it is also frequent to use dar in this context. For example.
In a bar, to the waiter: ¿Me pones un café, por favor? -> Can I have a coffee, please?
In Spain, we use dar when we want someone to give us something that he/she has. For example:
Eating at home, to your flatmate: ¿Me das una servilleta, por favor? -> Can I have a napkin, please?
In the supermarket: ¿Me das una bolsa, por favor? -> Can I have a plastic bag, please?
Apart from many other contexts, we use pasar when we want someone to hand or pass something. For example:
¿Me pasas la botella, por favor? -> Can you pass me the bottle, please?
Common Spanish mistakes #12 – Don’t say «Realizar» in Spanish when you mean «to realize»
A common tendency among English-speaking learners of Spanish is to use the verb realizar as a translation from the verb to realize. However, when we use to realize in a sense of ‘being aware of’, the Spanish verb that we should use is darse cuenta (de…)
¿Te has dado cuenta de que la escuela empieza el próximo lunes? -> Did you realize that the school term starts next Monday?
Nunca te das cuenta de tus errores -> You never realize your mistakes.
Darse cuenta also means to notice when we use it like ‘to observe or to detect’. For example:
¿Te has dado cuenta de que Ana estaba triste? -> Did you notice that Ana was sad?
The Spanish verb realizar means to make or to carry out. For example:
El arquitecto ha realizado un proyecto para nuestra empresa -> The arquitect made a proyect for our company.
Common Spanish mistakes #13 – Be careful! «To ask» is not always «preguntar» in Spanish
«How do you say to ask in Spanish?»
In Spanish, there are two verbs that we use to say to ask: pedir and preguntar. However, they don’t mean the same so they’re not interchangeable.
Preguntar means «to ask a question». When we use this verb, we expect an answer. For example:
Juan me preguntó: «¿Cuántos años tienes?» -> Juan asked me: «How old are you?»
In the same way, preguntar also means to wonder:
I wonder why she never called me -> Me pregunto por qué nunca me ha llamado.
Take note that in Spanish to say «to ask a question» we don’t say «preguntar una pregunta» but «hacer una pregunta».
On the other hand, pedir is used to request something: an object, service, favor, etc. Check these examples:
Cuando voy a un restaurants siempre pido algo saludable. -> When I go to a restaurant I always order something healthy.
¿Puedo pedirte un favor? -> Can I ask you a favor?
Juan me pidió el teléfono de María -> Juan asked me for Maria’s number.
Common Spanish mistakes #14 – Did you know that «to move» is not always «moverse» in Spanish?
The English verb to move can be translated into Spanish as moverse in many contexts.
However, when we talk about moving out or moving away to another house or city, the Spanish verb that we have to use is mudarse.
El año pasado me mudé a un piso más grande-> Last year I moved to a bigger flat.
In Spanish, we use moverse to talk about physical movement:
Te mueves mucho cuando duermes-> You move a lot when you sleep.
We use mover when we talk about changing the place or location of something (to shift):
Voy a mover la cama para limpiar el suelo. -> I am going to move the bed to clean the floor.
Common Spanish mistakes #15 – Don’t say «Suceso» in Spanish when you mean «succeed»
It is frequent among English-speakers to say suceso when they want to translate the word succeed. However, this structure is a false cognate.
We say that there is a false cognate (falso amigo in Spanish) when two words appear similar in two languages but they have a different meaning.
The noun succeed is translated into Spanish as éxito. To succeed is translated as tener éxito. Check these examples:
El libro fue un éxito tremendo. -> The book was a huge success.
Antonio tuvo mucho éxito en los negocios -> He succeeded in businness.
The Spanish word suceso is a noun that means «event, happening or incident».
Also, note that the Spanish word éxito is not related to the English noun exit or the verb to exit (salida and salir, in Spanish) .
Common Spanish mistakes #16 – Did you know that «to drive» is not always «conducir» in Spanish?
The Spanish verb conducir means to drive a vehicle (a car, a motorbike, a bus…). However, in Spanish, we can not say that «we drive someone to a place». When we use to drive as to give a ride, we use llevar. Look at the examples:
Me gusta conducir en la ciudad.
Todos los días conduzco al trabajo.
Cuando viajo, mi familia me lleva al aeropuerto.
We can also specify the vehicle like this:
Mi primo me llevó en moto al concierto.
María lleva a los niños en coche a la escuela.
Common Spanish mistakes #17 – Don’t say «Soportar» in Spanish when you mean «to support»
A common mistake in Spanish is to use the verb soportar as a translation from English of the verb to support.
However, these words are false cognates (falsos amigos in Spanish). Remember:
We say that there is a false cognate (falso amigo in Spanish) when two words appear similar in two languages but they have a different meaning.
Soportar in Spanish means to put up with someone. When we use its negative form, it means «can’t stand someone or something». Check these examples:
No soporto el ruido. -> I can’t stand noise.
No soporto al novio de Antonio. -> I can’t stand Antonio’s boyfriend.
Soportar can be translated as to support when we talk about weight (to hold up). Like this:
El poste soporta el techo del edificio -> The pole supports the roof of the building.
The Spanish word apoyar means to support a person or an idea:
Mi familia me apoya siempre.-> My family always supports me.
No apoyamos al Gobierno. -> We don’t support the Goverment.
Common Spanish mistakes #18 – ¿Ser or tener?
The sentence «Soy 25 años» is wrong because is Spanish we use the verb tener to talk about age.
Have you made this mistake before?
Don’t worry, it is very frequent! It happens when you translate the complete sentence from English. It is frequent to translate I am into Yo soy. This translation works sometimes (for example: I am María = Yo soy María), but not always.
Other frequent sentences in which you need to remember to use TENER instead of SER are:
Tengo frío (I am cold / I am feeling cold)
Tengo hambre (I am hungry)
Tengo sueño (I am sleepy)
Tengo miedo (I am afraid)
Common Spanish mistakes #19 – ¿Soy profesor or soy un profesor?
In Spanish, it is not correct to use the indefinite singular articles: un, una when describing professions.
We only use them when we want to make the difference between that specific person and the other people with the same profession.
In those cases, we will use an adjective (or an adjective subordinate clause) after the profession.
Juan es profesor. / Juan es un profesor muy intelligent.
María es policía. / María es una policía responsible.
Pedro es camarero. / Pedro es un camarero muy rápido y educado.
Do you make these mistakes in Spanish? Download the worksheet and test your knowledge!
Who wrote this post?
We are CactusBCN Languages, a Spanish language school located in Barcelona.
In March 2020, the pandemic situation encouraged us to start teaching online. All our students were happy with this change so we will keep teaching online for a while 🙂
The school was founded and is run by enthusiastic teachers. Out team was teaching Spanish around the world for a few years and when we come back to Spain, we decided to start our own school.
Why should I take an online Spanish course?
Online classes are as fun as face-to-face classes but with the added benefits of online learning: