I have noticed that beginners of Spanish often make the same kinds of mistakes. If you learn about these easy to make blunders from the beginning you will be more likely to avoid making them yourself.
Spanish is a different type of language to English therefore the grammatical structure and phrases are often very different to how we say things in English. Learners of Spanish often want to transfer something in English directly into Spanish, however this does not always work!
In this blog post we will point out the most common mistakes to avoid as a beginner of the Spanish language:
1. Using SER with age
2. Me llamo es
3. Es caliente
4. Soy bien
5. La problema
6. Bored v boring
7. “My Dad is doctor”
8. La gente / la familia – SINGULAR!
One of the first things that people learn to say in a language is how to say their age or ask someone’s age. In Spanish they do not say “I am x years old” they say “I have x years old”. This is easy to forget even once learned.
¿Cuántos años tienes? – How old are you?
(Literal translation: How many years do you have?)
Tengo treinta años. – I am 30 years old.
(Literal translation: I have 30 years.)
There are several other uses of “Tener” + noun in Spanish when we would use “to be”:
Tener hambre – To be hungry
Tener sed – to be thirsty
Tener frío – to be (feel) cold
Tener calor – to be (feel) hot
Tener sueño – to be sleepy
Tener miedo – to be scared
Tener vergüenza – to be embarrassed/ashamed
Tener celos – to be jealous
Tener orgullo – to be proud
Tener razón – to be right
Tener suerte – to be lucky
Tener éxito – to be successful
I often hear people who have started learning Spanish elsewhere say their name this way. What you are actually saying is:
I am called it is ….
To say your name in Spanish the most common ways are either:
Me llamo … – I am called …
Mi nombre es … – My name is …
Soy … – I’m …
When talking about the weather in Spanish the verb that is mostly used is “hacer”. Spanish people do not say “It is hot” they say “It makes heat”:
Correct: Hace calor – It’s hot
Incorrect: Es caliente
To talk about things being hot, such as a hot drink or meal, you would use “estar” the temporary verb “to be” as it will change state fairly quickly and become colder.
El café está caliente. – The coffee is hot.
Las patatas fritas están muy calientes. – The chips are very hot.
Whereas talking about weather, most expressions use “hacer” + noun:
Hace sol – It’s sunny
Hace frío – It’s cold
Hace fresco – It’s chilly
Hace viento – It’s windy
Hace buen tiempo – It’s good weather
Hace mal tiempo – It’s bad weather
A few use “estar”:
Está nublado – It’s cloudy
Está soleado – It’s sunny
Some use “haber”:
Hay tormenta – There is a storm
Hay niebla – There is fog
Another common mistake people make is using “ser” (for permanent states) instead of “estar” (for temporary states). So when you are asked, “How are you?” they are asking how are you feeling at that particular time which is a temporary feeling as it may change in a few hours. This is why you should reply using the temporary “estar” verb:
¿Cómo estás? / ¿Qué tal? – How are you?
Estoy bien, gracias. – I am good, thanks.
Normally words that end in –a in Spanish are feminine and those that end in –o are masculine, however there are exceptions to this rule. It would be a good idea to make a note of the most common words that are exceptions.
Words that end in –a that are masculine:
el problema – the problem
el tema – the subject
el sistema – the system
el pijama – pyjamas
el mapa – the map
el planeta – the planet
Words that end in –o that are feminine:
la foto – the photo (short for “fotografía”)
la moto – the motorbike (short for “moto”)
la mano – the hand
la radio – the radio
This is one mistake you really don’t want to make in case you offend someone!
I remember from a school exchange when my Spanish exchange partner asked me if I was boring, when really, I think (I hope) she meant to ask if I was bored.
Ser aburrido/a – to be boring
Estar aburrido/a – to be bored
e.g. La película es muy larga y aburrida.
The film is very long and boring.
e.g. Juan está aburrido en la clase, casi se duerme.
Juan is bored in the class, he almost falls asleep.
There are several adjectives that change meaning depending on whether they are used with ser or estar so it is really worthwhile memorising these. Read a previous blog post about this:
“Ser” or “estar” with adjectives – can totally change your meaning!”
Another mistake to watch out for which crops up fairly early on when learning Spanish is saying someone’s occupation with the article. In Spanish you do not say “My dad is a doctor”, you should say, “My Dad is doctor”.
Mi padre es un médico.
Mi padre es médico.
A really common mistake even amongst intermediate learners is to use plural verbs with words like “la familia” (family), “la gente” (people) and “la policía” (the police). Even though they mean more than one person they are classed as singular in Spanish so then you need to use a “he/she/it” verb with them.
La policía llegó en seguida. – The police arrived straight away.
La policía llegaron en seguida.
Mi familia va al restaurante. – My family goes to the restaurant.
Mi familia van al restaurante.
La gente lleva cascos. – People wear safety helmets.
NOT: La gente llevan cascos.
In Spanish you do not capitalise the days of the week, months of the year nor languages or nationalities.
Los días de la semana:
lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, viernes, sábado, domingo
Los meses del año:
enero, febrero, marzo, abril, mayo, junio, julio, agosto, septiembre, octubre, noviembre, diciembre
inglés/inglesa, español/española, francés/francesa, italiano/italiana, griego/griega
inglés, español, francés, alemán
As you have probably already noticed in Spanish the word order is a little strange, a bit mixed up compared to how we say things in English! One of the reasons for this is that when using descriptive words, (adjectives), these are said after the thing that you are describing:
e.g. el coche azul – the car blue
el azul coche
Also you have to remember to make the ending of the adjective agree with the noun whether it is singular or plural, feminine or masculine:
La casa blanca – the white house
El apartamento blanco – the white apartment
Las casas blancas – the white houses
Los apartamentos blancos – the white apartments
So as you can see there is a lot to bear in mind when you first start learning Spanish. These are some of the most common mistakes to avoid making in Spanish.