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Common Mistakes


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Common and persistent mistakes of native Spanish speakers. See same title version 3 in my slideshows for a recent update.

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Common Mistakes

  1. 1. Common English Mistakes of Native Spanish Speakers Version 2
  2. 2. Disclaimer <ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Native Language Interference <ul><li>Most of the errors you will see in this short presentation are due to native language interference. This comes about because 1) The student probably learned with the grammar-translation method and/or 2) 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. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Intro   <ul><li>This presentation focuses on common and persistent English mistakes made by native Spanish speakers. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Misuse of &quot;Have&quot; wrong: I haven't a pen. correct: I don't have a pen. This mistake comes either from the correct idiomatic phrase &quot;I haven't got a pen,&quot; or some teacher in a Spanish school got hold of a 50- year-old English grammar book in which &quot;I haven't the time,&quot; 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.
  6. 6. &quot;People&quot; as a singular noun wrong: The people is very angry at the tax increase. correct: People are very angry at the tax increase. Students translate &quot;people&quot; which is plural in English (people=persons) as &quot; gente &quot; which is singular in Spanish. The fact that &quot;people&quot; is an irregular plural (without an &quot;s&quot;) doesn't help matters.
  7. 7. Article Confusion <ul><li>Wrong: The people use a lot of credit cards. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: People use a lot of credit cards. </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Which and What Confusion <ul><li>“Which” and “What” are not always interchangeable. A general rule is, if the choice is in front of you, use “which”: </li></ul><ul><li>I have two kinds of beer, Budweiser and Coors. Which one do you want? </li></ul><ul><li>If the choice is more abstract, use “what”: </li></ul><ul><li>What kind of beer do you like? </li></ul>
  9. 9. I want that you… <ul><li>Wrong: I want that you open the door. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: I want you to open the door. </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Modals with Infinitives <ul><li>Wrong: I must to leave . It is getting late. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: I must leave . It is getting late. </li></ul><ul><li>True modal auxiliaries like can, might, could, should, would and must never take infinitives. They use the root verb, no conjugation. </li></ul>
  11. 11. I am agree… <ul><li>Wrong: I am agree with you. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: I agree with you. </li></ul><ul><li>Agree is a verb in English. It does not need an auxiliary. The confusion again comes from translation “Estoy de acuerdo contigo.” </li></ul>
  12. 12. It depends of… <ul><li>Wrong: I can see you, but it depends of my time. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: I can see you, but it depends on my time. </li></ul><ul><li>There are more prepositions in English than in Spanish. The tendency is to directly translate a preposition, and many times this creates confusion. </li></ul>
  13. 13. call to / ask to <ul><li>Wrong: I will call to my mother and ask to her if she is coming. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: I will call my mother and ask her if she is coming. </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  14. 14. He said me hello… <ul><li>Wrong: He said me hello. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: He said hello (to me) </li></ul><ul><li>The object of the verb “say” is what is said, not the person it is said to . Many times it is not even necessary to indicate to whom it was said. </li></ul>
  15. 15. He told to me a story… <ul><li>Wrong: He told to me a story. </li></ul><ul><li>Right: He told me a story / He told a story to me </li></ul><ul><li>This is a different verb from “said”. 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. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Conclusion <ul><li>I could continue with this, but I have hit some of the major problems here. As I said, many of these come from 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. </li></ul>