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Typical errors and mistakes in Spanish by English speakers


Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Errors are part of the learning process. We all make mistakes when Spanish is not our first language.
Be big enough to admit your mistakes, smart enough to profit from them and strong enough to correct them.


To make it clear, we are going to use this color scheme:


 The title


 The mistake




 Correct examples


Ask and ask for
I asked for a beer. I ordered a beer. *Pregunté por una cerveza.*
Preguntar = to ask (when you want to know something)
Pedir = to ask for (when you want something)
I asked for a beer. I ordered a beer. Pedí una cerveza.
I asked him if he had beer. Le pregunté si tenia cerveza.
I didn't realize. *No me realicé.*
"Realizar": means to carry out, execute, to make, to conduct. If you want to say "realize" in Spanish you have to say: "Darse cuenta".
I didn't realize. No me di cuenta.
She carried out her plan. Ella realizó su plan.
I remember that day
I remember that day. *Me recuerdo de aquel día.*
"Recordar" (to remember) does not have a reflexive pronoun, nor "de".
Recordar a alguien = remember someone
I remember that day. Recuerdo aquel día.
Do you remember Juan? ¿Recuerdas a Juan?
The more I see him the more I like him
The more I see him the more I like him. *Lo más que lo veo lo más que me gusta.*
Just get used to the Spanish construction using "Cuanto".
The more I see him the more I like him. Cuanto más lo veo, más me gusta.
The more I study the more I learn. Cuanto más estudio, más aprendo.
The less you smoke the better you feel. Cuanto menos fumas, mejor te sientes.
More than
More than twenty. *Más que veinte.*
Normally we use "que" eg. "más que yo" = "more than I", but when we use numbers we use "de".
There were more than 20 people at the conference. Había más de 20 personas en la conferencia.
He knows more than I. El sabe más que yo.
The person I live with
The boy I live with. *El chico que vivo con.*
Prepositions never come at the end of a sentence in Spanish. The preposition must come before a noun, a pronoun or an article.
The boy I live with. El chico con quien vivo. / El chico con el que vivo.
Whom can I speak to? ¿Con quién puedo hablar?
He's dressed in red
He's dressed in red. *Está vestido en rojo.*
When we use dressed in + "a color" we use "de".
He's dressed in red. Está vestido de rojo.
I supported his decision *Soportaba su decisión.*

"Soportar" = "to tolerate" or "to put up with" or "to stand (have patience for)". In most cases we use "apoyar".

I supported his decision. Yo apoyaba su decisión.
I can't stand Juan. No soporto a Juan.
I like adventure stories. *Me gustan las cuentas de aventuras.*

Cuento = story or tale
Contar una historia = to tell a story
Cuenta = Cuenta bancaria = bank account
Cuenta = a sum (mathematical calculation)
Cuenta = Bill in a restaurant: Note that we use "cuenta" for a bill with food and drinks, but for other types of bill we use "factura" eg. plumbers, in the garage etc.

I like adventure stories. Me gustan los cuentos de aventuras.
I don't have any money in my account. No tengo fondos en mi cuenta.
They always make mistakes in the bill. Siempre se equivocan en la cuenta.
Can you bring us the bill please? ¿Nos trae la cuenta, por favor?
Take someone / Take something
I took my son to the airport. *Tomé a mi hijo al aeropuerto.*
To express the idea of giving someone a lift or taking someone somewhere, we use the verb "llevar".
To express the idea of taking something such as a pill, a drink, a bus, etc. we use the verb "tomar".
I took my son to the airport. Llevé a mi hijo al aeropuerto.
My son took a taxi to the airport. Mi hijo tomo un taxi al aeropuerto.
He drank a lot and the next morning he had a hangover. *Bebió mucho y la próxima mañana tenía resaca.*
The "próxima/o" (next) is only used in the present and the future. In the past we must use "siguiente" (the following).
He drank a lot and the next morning he had a hangover. Bebió mucho y la mañana siguente tenía resaca.
They met in 1990 and they will get married next year. Se conocieron en 1990 y se van a casar el año próximo. 
It was a success
The film was a big success in Argentina. *La película tuvo mucho suceso en Argentina*.
Success in Spanish is "éxito". "Suceso" is an event.
The film was a big success in Argentina. La pelicula tuvo mucho éxito en Argentina.
The event took place in the city. El suceso tomó lugar en la ciudad.
I will be here for 6 months
I will be here for five days. *Voy a estar aquí por cinco días.*
This is the answer to the question. How long are you going to be here?
In Spanish you have to say "voy a estar aquí" or the meaning is unclear.
I will be here for five days. Voy a estar aquí cinco dias.
In the morning
In the morning *en la mañana*

The problem is the preposition "en" it should be "por" or "de".

We use "por" when we speak about an approximate time:
eg: Por la tarde doy un paseo. = I go for a walk in the evening.

We use "de" when we speak about the exact time:
eg: A las 5 de la tarde doy un paseo. = I go for a walk at 5 o clock in the evening.

in the morning por la mañana:
early in the morning temprano por la mañana
at midday al mediodía
at lunchtime a la hora de comer/a la hora de almorzar
in the evening por la tarde
at midnight a medianoche
in the early hours of the morning por la madrugada
I live in the Suburbs
I live in the suburbs. *Vivo en los suburbios.*
The "suburbios" in Spanish is a conflictive area of a city with poverty and other problems. It is not a good translation of "suburb" or "outskirts"
I live in the suburbs of Bogota. Vivo en las afueras de Bogotá.
To move
I'm going to move to another house. *Voy a moverme a otra casa.*
When you want to say "to move" in the sense of changing where you live you have to use the verb "mudarse".
"Moverse" is to move as in movement.
"Correrse" is to move over.
I'm going to move to another house. Voy a mudarme a otra casa.
The dancer moves with grace. La bailarina se mueve con gracia.  
Please move over. Córrete por favor.
Regarding / To respect
I don't know anything regarding this subject. *No sé nada respeto a este asunto.*
You must respect your wife. *Debes respectar a tu esposa.*
"Respecto a" (regarding) and "respeto" (respect).
I don't know anything regarding this subject. No sé nada respecto a este asunto.
You must respect your wife. Debes respetar a tu esposa.
My oldest / youngest brother
My oldest/youngest brother *Mi hermano más viejo/joven*
You have to use "mayor" or "menor".
My oldest brother lives in Guatemala. Mi hermano mayor vive en Guatemala.
Patricia is my youngest daughter. Patricia es mi hija menor.
Look for - Search
I am looking for my book. *Estoy mirando para mi libro.*
"Mirando para" doesn't exist, it's a literal translation from English. You can use "buscar" but it has no preposition.
Note: When the thing we are looking for is a person we add "a" after "buscar".
I am looking for my book. Estoy buscando mi libro.
I am looking at the book. Estoy mirando el libro.

Did you buy the tickets for the cinema?

*¿Compraste los billetes para el cine?*

"Boletos" or "Pasajes" are for travel tickets. We use "entradas" for ticket to the theater or cinema or shows.
By the way: A showing in the cinema is the "la sesión" A performance at the theatre is "la función"
Did you buy the tickets for the cinema? ¿Compraste las entradas para el cine?
Did you buy the train tickets? ¿Compraste los boletos para el tren?

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