Most Common Errors in Spanish to Look for When Proofreading

If Spanish is not your native language, then errors are a very important step in your progress. You should not be afraid of making mistakes, as they are part of the process of learning. However, sometimes you will need your texts to be perfect:

  • A paper in Spanish to be published in an academic publication
  • An essay for your homework
  • A report or presentation about your business
  • The content of your website

If this is your case, do not hesitate to contact me. Let me know the length and the topic of your writing and I will give you a budget, so you can decide freely.

However if you want to check for your own mistakes as  part of your learning,  there are some things that you should keep in mind. Even though Spanish might seem to be an easy language, there are always some things that we all tend to get wrong, regardless of whether we are natives or just learning.

First of all, it is crucial that you identify both the error and its origin. Most of the time, errors come from either a bad translation from your own native language or maybe even an adaptation. The second thing that you have to keep in mind is to learn the correct version and try not to repeat it. Finally, you should practice and practice until you get it right.

So, let’s get to the subject of the matter. What are the most common errors in Spanish? This page will give you a short description of those mistakes and later on, they will be explained in more detail in additional  posts if there aren’t any posts on the matter already. Get a pen, a piece of paper or a notebook and start taking notes, because it is about to get serious.

  1. Ser or Estar…. maybe haber?

Probably one of the most common errors in Spanish is using the wrong “to be” verb. Spaniards simply had to overcomplicate things. They could not just decide upon one verb to use like the rest of us. They were so undecided that they simply had to have three words for the same thing. Well, actually there are some differences between: ser, estar, and haber, but you will just have to read the post about it to find out how to stop mixing them up. Here you can read another post focused in SER and ESTAR.

  1. Prepositions

A second error that is really common among people who are learning Spanish is about prepositions. It seems likes Spaniards really enjoy overcomplicating things and here we have yet another example. For example, when they use two different prepositions to express “for”. Of course, learning two words to say the same thing is not the hard part. However, the problem comes when “por” and “para” have different uses and different meanings. Don’t worry, there is a post on that matter too.

Another common Spanish grammar problem regarding the prepositions is the difference between the preposition “a” and the preposition “en”. Do not worry. For this one, I will write the correct use here. The preposition “en” is usually incorrectly used with verbs of movement, while people should in fact use the preposition “a” instead.

  1. Questions

One common error among foreigners learning Spanish is about the words “qué” and “cuál”. The direct translation for “qué” is what and for “cuál” is which. However, it is not always the case, and this is where things get a bit complicated. Do not panic, there will be a post about these two soon, so you will never confuse them again.

  1. Me acuerdo but Recuerdo

While learning Spanish, probably at least once have used “recordar” instead of “acordarse”. They both mean the same thing. However, people tend to mess up their structure, like for instance say “no me recuerdo” instead of “no me acuerdo”. The verb “recordar” is a transitive verb and is usually followed by a direct object (to remember something- it’s the same as in English). For example: “No recordaba su nombre.” (I did not remember her name.).

The second verb, “acordarse” is an intransitive reflexive verb which can not be used without the reflexive particle “se” and it is usually followed by the preposition “de”. For example: “No me acordaba de su nombre”.

  1. When to use subjuntive verb tenses

Something really annoying about the Spanish language is the fact that you have to distinguish reality from dreams and aspirations really well. To be honest, that is not so fun if you happen to be a dreamer. One problem that I imagine everybody has come upon at least once is whether to use el subjuntivo or el indicativo. It often gets so complicated that even natives have a hard time finding the differences between real and imaginary. However, you should not worry, because you have this posts and more will come aboout this matter soon.

  1. Letters with similar sounds, which should I write?

There are some other aspects that natives find troubling. Spanish learners out there, you should not be worried if you also mess them up. It is usually really hard when it comes to the letters “b” and “v”. They sound so similar to natives that they usually misuse them. If they are typing they might often use the excuse that the two letters are next to each other on the keyboard to mask their mistake. However, here you can read some tips about choosing between “b” and “v”.

Natives also have a hard time distinguishing between “ll” and “y” and this time there is no excuse regarding the keyboard. They are far enough apart for them to decide upon which one to use. The problem again is, due to the letters having the same pronunciation. There is no need to worry, because this error will be explained in a post and it will  ensure that you will not confuse them again.

Pronunciation also causes a problem in writing when it comes to the letter “h”. Both natives and Spanish learners alike have a hard time knowing when to and when not to use the letter “h”. As you know, most of the time it is silent, except for when it is used in letter groups such as “ch”. Also, it is sometimes confused with the letter “j” which is pronounced “h”. And to think that Spanish seemed easy!

  1. Graphic accents

When you thought that there could be no more problems with the Spanish language, graphic accents decide to ruin your day. There is no need to panic, because even natives have a hard time knowing when and where to put them. However, accents are a really important matter and this is why they deserve a separate post. Do not worry, because you will get the hang of them very soon. Here I give you some tips to use them properly.

7. Passive instead of reflexive

Many students rely in English structures to create their Spanish. Actually, you can hear many Asian students saying that Spanish and English are alike. It can be true if you compare them with Japanese and other Asian languages, but Spanish and English are still very different. For example, in English passive voice is much more common than in Spanish.  In this article I give you some ideas about the use of SE.

Finally, there are many more errors that people make in Spanish. This list can become endless. For example, there are cognates and perfect cognates which are commonly confused and people also have problems when it comes to the past tenses and when to use each one of them. However, these problems will be detailed along with methods on how to avoid them, so there is no need to despair, because this whole blog is about helping you overcome those errors.

Due to the fact that learning how to avoid these errors takes time, I have a quick shortcut for you. You might not even be aware of your mistakes until someone shows them to you. This is why you need to have a proofreader look over them.

It is not just that you want a perfect text, but sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry. Just think about writing your PHD thesis in Spanish and in a rush you insert a word written incorrectly. It might mess up the whole thing. Just like a semicolon is enough to cause your program to not work, in the same way a graphical accent can mess up everything.

A proofreader can easily identify those errors as he or she has a lot of experience in the field. Sometimes using the wrong word might cause your entire text to sound odd and it is really unpleasant for the reader. Errors might also make your piece of writing appear as if it’s from someone who lacks proper education. If you want to make sure that a bad message or impression doesn’t come from reading your text, it is better that you rely on a specialist than take the risk. As you may know, academic publications usually take a long time to answer. It is disappointing when they reply that you need to improve your writing to even be considered  as an option.

This blog is meant for you to try to avoid relying on a proofreader by teaching you about the main mistakes while learning Spanish and it also provides some tips and tricks to help you avoid them. In addition, you can find tips about writing and how to improve your creativity. Also, it has some tips and tricks for people who work from home. You should really check out those other sections as well. Surprises await at every corner.

Finally, if you are in  desperate need of a proofreader or someone to translate your essay in Spanish for you, then fortunately there is a solution. Do not worry, there is time to learn Spanish and get better at it. It is just that sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry, right?  So, try to avoid mistakes in Spanish, learn how to overcome them, and rely on a Spanish proofreader when in need.

I am a freelance copywriter from Spain