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Common Mistakes to Avoid

Learning any foreign language is not easy. Being able to communicate well is more than just being able to translate word by word. There are many different grammatical structures, syntaxes, idiomatic expressions, etc. that learners need to know and understand. Following is a list of the more common errors committed by Spanish students. (Don't feel bad if you make a mistake. Even with the notable advantage of being a cyborg from the future, The Terminator says "no problemo" when he ought to say "no problema.")

Noun-Adjective Agreement

In English one adjective (e.g. "quick") works with any noun. In Spanish our adjectives need agree in gender and in number with the nouns they modify (e.g. rápido, rápida, rápidos, rápidas).

Do:

Don't:

las montañas bonitas

las montañas bonito

Adjective Placement

It's the exact opposite of the way we normally do things in English but the vast majority of the time in Spanish the adjective comes after the noun.

Do:

Don't:

la casa blanca

la blanca casa

el balón rojo

el rojo balón

Subject-Verb Agreement

In English we have far fewer conjugations than we do in Spanish (I run; you run; we run; they run). Be sure your verb conjugation agrees with your subject (Yo corro; corres; nosotros corremos; ellas corren). And don't forget to conjugate your verb.

Do:

Don't:

Nosotros estudiamos la literatura.

Nosotros estudiar la literatura.

Also, It's perfectly acceptable to use two (or even more) verbs in one clause, but you should only conjugate one of them — the first one.

Do:

Don't:

Yo quiero tener más dinero.

Yo quiero tengo más dinero.

Overusing Articles

When to use (and not to use) articles in Spanish can be bewildering. But one thing is certain: you will never have more than one article (definite or indefinite). And possessive adjectives replace articles.

Do:

Don't:

un cuarto

un el cuarto

su bicicleta

su la bicicleta

Using Nouns with Nouns

We frequently use nouns as adjectives in English which is something we cannot do in Spanish. If you need to use a noun to function as an adjective in Spanish make sure you separate the two nouns with a de.

Do:

Don't:

clase de inglés

inglés clase

partido de fútbol

fútbol partido

Possession

There is no "apostrophe s" in Spanish. We cannot add " 's " to the end of a name to make it into a possessive adjective. We must use this formula instead: noun + de + name. (More on Possessive Adjectives)

Do:

Don't:

el libro de Marta

Marta's libro

el coche de mi padre

mi padre's coche

Gustar

See also: How to Use Gustar

Gustar is not a normal verb. It works the opposite of how we use its translation "to like." We use indirect object pronouns where we'd normally have our subject, and our direct object becomes the subject. (More on How to Use Gustar)

Do:

Don't:

Me gustan las películas.

Yo gusto las películas.

Nos gusta el español.

Nosotros gustamos el español.

When Fun Isn't Fun

In English, the word "fun" can function as a noun or as an adjective, but in Spanish we have different words for "fun" depending on how it's used. Divertido (or divertida) is the adjective form. Diversión is the noun form. And don't forget it's best to just to use the verb, divertirse, which means "to have fun."

Do:

Don't:

El viaje fue divertido.

El viaje fue diversión.

Me divertí.

Tuve diversión.

Muy Mucho, Bien Bueno

The word muy means "very." It is an adverb and it comes in front of an adjective. Mucho means "a lot" or "much." It is an adjective and modifies a noun. They are not interchangeable.

Do:

Don't:

muy feo

mucho feo

mucha tarea

muy tarea

The word bien means "well." It is an adverb and it modifies a verb. Bueno (or buen or buena) means "good." It is an adjective and it modifies a noun. Bien and bueno are also not interchangeable.

Do:

Don't:

Él corre bien.

Él corre bueno.

Tengo un amigo bueno.

Tengo un amigo bien.

Objects and Subjects

A subject is a noun in a sentence that does the action of the verb. An object is a noun that receives the action of the verb (or a noun to whom or for whom the action is done). Subject pronouns (yo, , él, ella, usted, nosotros, vosotros, ellos, ellas, ustedes) and object pronouns (me, te, le, lo, la, nos, os, les, los, las) are not interchangeable. Neither can possessive adjectives be used as subjects. (More on Direct & Indirect Object Pronouns)

Do:

Don't:

Nosotros pintamos la pared.

Nos pintamos la pared.

Ella es inteligente.

Su es inteligente.

Using "It"

In English "it" can function as a subject pronoun ("It was expensive") or an object pronoun ("He stole it"). The same is not true of Spanish. In Spanish if "it" is an object pronoun, we use lo or la, but if "it" is the subject of the sentence, we omit the pronoun altogether. As an object lo or la (usually) precedes the verb in the sentence.

Do:

Don't:

Fue caro.

Lo fue caro.

Él lo robó.

Él robó lo.