“To err is human”. Historians don’t agree if this quote’s autor is Seneca, Cicero or St. Augustine, but everybody has used it. It’s the perfect excuse when we made a mistake. “Oh, teacher, I’m sorry, I failed this calculation, but, you know… errare humanum est”.
When we learn a new language, it’s not only normal to make mistakes, but it’s necessary. Even native speakers make them. As a Greyjoy character would say in Games of Thrones series: “you will rise again harder and stronger”.
However, this well-known quote continues as follows: Errare humanum est, perseverare autem diabolicum, et tertia non datur (To err is human; to persist is of the devil, and the third possibility is not given). On www.spanishviaskype.com, we don’t want you to persist in commiting such errors. So, today, we’ll analyse some of our A1 (Basic level) students’ real common mistakes.
Yo no trabajo el primero de enero = Incorrecto
Yo no trabajo el uno de enero = Correcto
(I don’t work on the 1st of January).
This is an usual mistake among English speakers students. In Spanish we use the cardinal numbers to express dates: hoy es miércoles veintinueve de julio.
There is a way to use primero with dates. But means “the first days of the month”: empiezo mi nuevo trabajo a primeros de septiembre (I start my new job in early September). Other options are a mediados de septiembre (in the middle of September) and a finales de septiembre (late September).
En domingo voy a la piscina siempre = Incorrecto
Los domingos voy a la piscina siempre = Correcto
I always go to the swimming-pool on Sundays.
Again, translations from English play a dirty trick on us. We don’t use any preposition before the days of the week, just the article.
Never? Well, never say never. We use the preposition “en” if we are talking about universal truths, old sayings or proverbs which often talk about frequently events that happen on these days: En martes ni te cases ni te embarques (don’t get married or go on board on Tuesdays); en domingo no se trabaja (people don’t work on Sundays).
El concierto está en el estadio = Incorrecto
El concierto es en el estadio = Correcto
The concert is at the stadium
Here we have a hypercorrection problem. Spanish teachers we always repeat as a mantra: “you always have to use the verb estar with locations”. That’s true but… of course, not always.
We need the verb ser if the located subject is an event: La boda es en la iglesia y la iglesia está en el centro de la ciudad (the wedding is in the church and the church is in the center of the town).
Mi semana es bien = Incorrecto
Mi semana está bien = Correcto
Mi semana es buena = Correcto
My week is good.
Again ser / estar troubles (maybe the king of mistakes in Spanish?, well por / para should be the queen, then). Here the problem comes with the adverbs bien and mal. These adverbs express a state; ¿Cómo estás hoy? Estoy bien (just today, tomorrow, who knows?). Remember, we should use estar for states, situations which can suffer a variation, moods, health status…
Mi semana es buena could be also right but it has a little difference in the meaning; using ser we are talking about the features, characteristic of my week; now the main point is not the change of state posibility, but describing my week.
As you can see, if you want to learn Spanish, you should accept you are going to make mistakes. You just have to learn from them. If you want to start correcting your own mistakes, try a free trial lesson via Skype here; you will not err.