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Common Mistakes      

Common Mistakes in English

Here are some more common vocabulary mistakes that some of my students make in English. Believe it or not, some of these are made by native speakers! Most of these mistakes are made because in Spanish, one word can sum up many different meanings where in English, two or more words are needed to cover the many different meanings.

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A good example of this is the word “Hacer” in Spanish. As you probably know, hacer can be translated into “Make”, “Do”, or other words, just like the word “Tomar” can also be expressed with “Take”, “Drink”, “Have” (food and drink), etc.

An article written by Victoria Fontana.

Other times the mistakes arise for different reasons:

  • There is no Spanish equivalent or vice versa.
  • The word or expression doesn’t translate literally.
  • Different grammar rules and structures.
  • Different expressions or idioms.
  • Or just plain confusion!
  • Aquí tienes más errores comunes de vocabulario que cometen algunos de mis alumnos en Inglés. Aunque parece mentira, algunos de estos los cometen nativos tambien! La mayoría de estos errores ocurren porque en Español una palabra vale 2 o más en Inglés. Un buen ejemplo de esto es la palabra “Hacer”. Como bien sabrás, “hacer” se puede traducir como “Make” or “Do”, u otras palabras, igual que la palabra “Tomar”, que puede significar “Take”, “Drink”, “Have”(comida y bebidas), etc. Otras veces, los errores surgen por otras razones:

  • No hay un equivalente en Español o viceversa
  • La palabra o expresión no se puede traducir literalmente
  • Diferencias en estructura o gramática
  • Diferentes expresiones o frases hechas
  • Simple confusión!
  • Was/Been and Went/Gone

    "Was" and "Been" come from the verb "to be". "Went" and "Gone" come from the verb "to go," as you probably know. However, many English students confuse their usage when talking about where they were or where they went in the past. Here's the difference:

    "I was in Rome last summer." – This means that I was there and makes reference to my physical presence there, not the journey.
    "I went to Rome last summer." – This implies that I made a journey last summer to Rome. This makes reference to the movement of going there, it is not static.

    Perhaps there is more confusion with these two:
    "I have been to Rome." – This implies that you have been and have come back.
    "I have gone to Rome." – This would mean that you have not yet come back, unless you specify the amount of times you have gone there.
    Whatever the case, please do not say "I was to Rome" or "I went in Rome" – The first one is just wrong, and the second one refers to you entering Rome, like crossing the border or passing through customs.

    Note: In American English, many people use "been" and "gone" in the same way.

    Practice: Been - Gone

    Bored and Boring - Interested and Interesting

    I have grouped these two together because they are of the same nature.

    "Bored" and "Interested" are past participles.

    These two are adjectives that describe someone's state of mind (or a feeling):

    "I am bored in class because the teacher talks slow."
    "I am interested in many different things."

    This corresponds in Spanish to:

    "Estoy aburrido en clase porque el profesor habla demasiado despacio."
    "Estoy interesada en muchas cosas distintas."

    Notice how these translate to "ESTAR."

    "Boring" and "Interesting" are adjectives that describe a permanent quality that someone/something has:

    "This class is so boring that I always fall asleep!"
    "He is really interesting."

    This corresponds in Spanish to:

    "Esta clase es tan aburrida que siempre me quedo dormida!"
    "Él es realmente interesante."

    Notice how these translate to "SER."

    Some other examples of this are: Exciting/excited, captivating/captivated, tiring/tired, depressing/depressed, disappointing/disappointed, surprising/surprised, confusing/confused, disgusting/disgusted, satisfying, satisfied.

    In other words, an object which is "boring" produces a similar feeling. (i.e. I am "bored" because the object is "boring.")

    Practice: - ed , - ing

    Borrow and Lend

    "Borrow" is what the person who uses the object does, and "Lend" is what the person who is the owner of the object does.

    For example:

    "John has a pen that I want to use." I am not going to keep it forever, I am going to use it and give it back to him.
    "I am going to borrow his pen." ("Voy a usar su bolígrafo.")

    From John’s point of view, he is going to let me use his pen, and of course, he wants it back!
    "John is going to lend me his pen." ("John va a prestarme su bolígrafo.")

    In other words, "Borrow a pen" is similar to "Take a pen" and "Lend a pen" is similar to "Give a pen." However, with "Borrow" and "Lend" the object is supposed to be returned. With "Take" and "Give" the object will not necessarily be returned.

    Practice: Borrow - Lend

    Teach and Learn

    This is simple: Teachers teach and Students learn. You can not ask your teacher to "learn" you English.

    Every day and All day

    "Every day" refers to more than one day, not just one day, but each day of the week, month, year, etc. It usually refers to habit and repetition.

    "I go to bed every day at 10." ("Voy a la cama todos los días a las 10.")

    "All day" refers to something that happens throughout the duration of one whole day.

    "I have been thinking about my new car all day." ("He estado pensando en mi coche nuevo todo el día.")

    Note: In Spanish, "every day" means "todos los días", but is gramatically similar to "cada día". "Every day" is similar to "each day" (because it refers to each day as a single day): we say "every day is a beautiful day" not: are. Compare: "Cada día es un día bonito" - with "Todos los días son bonitos." To say this last sentence, we say "all days are beautiful." (generally speaking)

    Practice: Every day - All day

    Notar que "every day" va por separado. "everyday" es un adjetivo que significa "cotidiano" o "corriente". Por ejemplo "everyday life" = "la vida cotidiana".

    Since, Like and As

    Spanish speakers often get confused with these three words (since, like and as) because they all correspond to "Como" in Spanish.


    Sometimes we use the word "since," usually at the beginning of a sentence, to express, "given that" – just like in Spanish when you use "Como" at the beginning of a sentence to mean, "Dado que." This has nothing to do with the word "since" in time phrases ("desde"). (Note: this is also true for "as".)

    For example:

    "Since I don’t have a car, I can’t take you to the movies."
    "Como no tengo coche, no puedo llevaros al cine."


    We use "like" in comparisons with nouns and in metaphors, when they have the same qualities.

    "Her hair is like the wind."
    "Su pelo es como el viento."

    "He is exactly like his brother."
    "El es exactamente como su hermano."


    We use "as" to compare things too, but as goes with adjectives. This corresponds to "tan...como..." in Spanish.

    Her hair is "as" long "as" the Eiffel Tower.
    "Su pelo es tan largo como la Torre Eiffel."

    We also use "as" to talk about how we use something or how something or somebody is employed.

    "I'm using this shoe as a hammer."
    "Estoy utilizando este zapato como un martillo."

    "I work as a teacher."
    "Trabaja como profesor."

    Practice: since, like, and as

    I or Me

    As you know, "I" is a subject pronoun and "me" is an object pronoun:

    "I am a teacher."
    "She gave me the book."

    Ok. But what about when you want to use two pronouns, one being the first person, either as the subject or the object in the same sentence? People often get confused between whether to use "he and I," "I and he," "he and me"...
    Let me give you an example:

    Let's say I want to communicate two ideas:

    1. "I went to the theatre."
    2. "John went to the theatre."

    1. "She called me on Sunday."
    2. "She called John on Sunday."

    But I don’t want to say these with two sentences, rather, with one:

    "John and I went to the theatre."
    "She called John and me on Sunday." (or me and John)

    So how do you know whether to use "I" or "me" in these two sentences? Well, if you are good with grammar, you can see that in the first sentence, "I" is the subject and in the second sentence, "me" is used because it is the object. If you are not sure, you can always do a simple test. Break the sentence back down into two sentences, and if it makes sense, then that's the pronoun to use:

    John went to the theatre. Ok
    "Me" went to the theatre. NO!
    I went to the theatre. Ok!


    She called John on Sunday. Ok
    She called "I" on Sunday. NO!
    She called me on Sunday. Ok!

    This works with all pronouns.

      Subject pronouns I you he she it you we they
      Object pronouns me you him her it you us them

    Practice: I - me

    Say and Tell

    "Say" and "tell" basically have the same meaning – they both refer to oral communication - however, "tell" is sometimes associated with "contar" in Spanish. You don’t "say" a story, you "tell" a story in English. Just like in Spanish, you don't "decir una historia," rather, "contar una historia."
    But in other contexts they are pretty much the same, they are just used differently in a sentence:
    In general, you "Say something to someone." And "Tell someone something."


    "Say" usually takes what you say as the direct object, and to whom you say it, as the indirect object. The person is always proceeded by a preposition, usually "to."

    "Say it to me." ("Dimelo")
    "She said the number to me again." ("Ella me dijo el número otra vez.")
    Direct object - Indirect object.

    ***** We never say: "Say me the number." *****

    "Say," not "tell," is also used with quotes:
    "She said, I love you." Not: "She told, I love you."
    "She said that she was happy." NOT: "She told that she was happy."
    However, you can say: "She told me that she was happy."


    "Tell" takes the personal pronoun without a preposition (as the direct object) if there are no other pronouns:

    "Tell me."
    "Tell me the truth."

    If you use "it" in place of "the truth" then "it" becomes the direct object:

    Tell "it" to me.

    "Tell," not "say," is also used for giving commands:

    "He told me to wash the dishes." NOT: "He said me to wash the dishes."

    Practice: say - tell

    More Common Mistakes: Lay, Lie, Make, Do, etc.

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