Common Mistakes (version 4)
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Common Mistakes (version 4)



A reworking of my original slideshow, with some additions and a new look. I'm working on an audio version of this which I will add to make it a slide cast. Updated on April 12, 2014

A reworking of my original slideshow, with some additions and a new look. I'm working on an audio version of this which I will add to make it a slide cast. Updated on April 12, 2014



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    Common Mistakes (version 4) Common Mistakes (version 4) Presentation Transcript

    • COMMON ENGLISH MISTAKES of Native Spanish Speakers Peter Mangiaracina
    • DISCLAIMER The slideshows in this series are not meant to be comprehensive, but rather are starting points for further study by intermediate level students of English as a second language (ESL). They may also be useful for teachers. Peter Mangiaracina
    • INTRODUCTION This presentation focuses on common and persistent English mistakes made by native Spanish speakers. Peter Mangiaracina
    • NATIVE LANGUAGE INTERFERENCE Most of the errors you will see in this short presentation are due to native language interference. This comes about because: The student probably learned with the grammar-translation method and/or The structure in English is alien to the structure in Spanish, setting up a classic negative learning situation. Intensive drilling of the correct form, every day at first and then a periodic surprise progress check, is required to correct these very tenacious errors. Peter Mangiaracina
    • MISUSE OF “HAVE” wrong: I haven't a pen. right: I don't have a pen. This mistake comes either from the correct idiomatic phrase "I haven't got a pen," or some teacher in a Spanish school got hold of a 50- year-old English grammar book in which "I haven't the time," and such things were taught. In any case, it is not often used now. Better to use the structure of the present tense which requires doesn't/don't in a negative sentence. Have is not an auxiliary in the present tense. Have and has are auxiliaries in the present perfect only. Peter Mangiaracina
    • “PEOPLE” IS NOT A SINGULAR NOUN wrong: The people is very angry at the tax increase. right: People are very angry at the tax increase. Students translate "people" which is plural in English (people=persons) as "gente" which is singular in Spanish. The fact that "people" is an irregular plural (without an "s") doesn't help matters. Peter Mangiaracina
    • ARTICLE CONFUSION wrong: The people use a lot of credit cards. right: People use a lot of credit cards. The definite article is not used when speaking generally. If you are speaking about a specific people (The people of the North, The people in the next room), then the definite article is necessary. Plurals in English do not have an indefinite article. Peter Mangiaracina
    • “WHICH” AND “WHAT” “Which” and “What” are not always interchangeable. A general rule is, if the choice is in front of you, use “which”: I have two kinds of beer, Budweiser and Coors. Which one do you want? If the choice is more abstract, use “what”: What kind of beer do you like? Peter Mangiaracina
    • USE OF “WANT” wrong: I want that you open the door. right: I want you to open the door. In Spanish, Quiero que abras la puerta, “que” subordinates the clause. In English we use an infinitive phrase. I would like you to… is the same. Peter Mangiaracina
    • MODALS DON’T TAKE INFINITIVES wrong: I must to leave. It is getting late. right: I must leave. It is getting late. True modal auxiliaries like can, might, could, should, would and must never take infinitives. They use the simple form of the verb, no conjugation. Peter Mangiaracina
    • “AGREE” IS A VERB wrong: I am agree with you. right: I agree with you. Agree is a verb in English. It does not need an auxiliary. The confusion again comes from translation “Estoy de acuerdo contigo.” Peter Mangiaracina
    • DEPEND wrong: I can see you, but it depends of my time. right: I can see you, but it depends on my time. There are more prepositions in English than in Spanish. The tendency is to directly translate a preposition, and many times this creates confusion. Peter Mangiaracina
    • “CALL” AND “ASK” wrong: I will call to my mother and ask to her if she is coming. right: I will call my mother and ask her if she is coming. Still more preposition problems. This one is also a direct translation. Some verbs need “to” in English (speak to, listen to) but many do not.
    • SAY wrong: He said me hello. right: He said hello (to me) The object of the verb “say” is what is said, not the person to whom it was said. Most of the time it is not even necessary to indicate to whom it was said. Peter Mangiaracina
    • TELL wrong: He told to me a story. right: He told me a story / He told a story to me. This is a different verb from “say”. The direct object here is story and the indirect object is me. Having two objects means that the verb “tell” can be used in two different ways, as shown above. Peter Mangiaracina
    • SUBJECT-VERB wrong: Tomorrow comes my friend right: My friend will come tomorrow (or is coming tomorrow) Often, when a student starts a sentence with a prepositional phrase or an adverb of time, the tendency is to follow that with a verb. An English sentence must start with a subject. Peter Mangiaracina
    • ENJOY wrong: I enjoyed with the museum yesterday. right: I enjoyed the museum yesterday. Yet another example of direct translation and the havoc it causes. In Spanish it is “desfrutar con,” but in English we do not use a preposition. Peter Mangiaracina
    • FUN AND FUNNY wrong: The party last night was very funny. right: The party last night was a lot of fun. “Funny” means that it made you laugh, ha ha! Jokes are funny, but parties are usually “fun,” meaning you had a good time.
    • COMPARATIVE CONFUSION wrong: That house is the more big (or bigger) on the block right: That house is the biggest on the block I won’t get into a discussion about comparatives and superlatives here, but “the” is mostly used with an adjective with “-est” ending or “most,” for example, the biggest, the most beautiful. Peter Mangiaracina
    • ASSIST AND ATTEND wrong: I can’t assist your class today. right: I can’t attend your class today. The word “assist” in English means to help (ayudar). The word “attend” means to be at some event (asistir). Peter Mangiaracina
    • DOT, POINT, PERIOD In American English… dot for web addresses. point for math. period for the end of sentences. (The British use “full stop”) Peter Mangiaracina
    • CONCLUSION I could continue, but I believe I have hit some of the major problems here. As I said, many of these mistakes are due to native language interference; only practice will eradicate them. Errors with prepositions are very frequent because there are more in English than Spanish, and are also key in forming phrasal verbs in English. A bit of advice: When you learn new words and phrases, resist the urge to translate. If you are an intermediate student, buy an English- English dictionary and leave your translation dictionary at home. Peter Mangiaracina