Errar, fallar, equivocarse… (to make mistakes) it doesn’t matter the synonym you may chose. We never want to use them. Making mistakes is the main reason for not daring to speak in a foreign language. However, as we explained formerly here, even native speakers make multiples of them.
El dardo en la palabra, was a book in which Fernando Lázaro Carreter (one of the most important Spanish linguists in 20th century) collected a selection of articles. All of them showed one common mistake, made by journalists mainly, in a humorous way. He used to published his articles regularly in different newspapers, like El País, and students in philology, we were expecting them with anxiety.
Now, we will try to take over this task for Mr Lázaro Carreter, bringing here some of the most common mistakes of our students at B1 level, as we did with A1 level in this article.
Él fue el Primer Ministro para muchos años. = Incorrecto
Él fue el Primer Ministro por / durante muchos años. = Correcto
He was the Prime Minister for many years
Por and Para are a couple of prepositions that can make our students go crazy. Although para can be used to express time, it’s un plazo (a deadline): necesito el informe para el lunes que viene (I need the report for next Monday). On the other hand, por can be used for duration of time: voy a visitar Madrid por tres días (I am going to visit Madrid for three days). However, it’s more recommended the usage of durante.
La vida en Inglaterra es como viviendo en una caja – Incorrecto
La vida en Inglaterra es como vivir en una caja – Correcto
Life in England is like living in a box.
When a verbal form functions as a noun, mainly as the subject or attribute in a sentence, English language prefers the gerund, whereas Spanish opts for the infinitive: está prohibido fumar aquí (smoking here is forbidden).
Creo que no vaya a ganar – Incorrecto
Creo que no va a ganar – Correcto
No creo que vaya a ganar – Correcto
I think he’s not going to win / I don’t think he’s going to win.
At B1 level, we start learning the subjunctive; at least the basic usages. Verbs of opinions, such as pensar, creer, opinar, parecer (me parece) are followed by que + indicativo if the main verb is affirmative: pienso que en España hace buen tiempo (I think it’s a good weather in Spain). On the contrary, if the main verb is negative, the secundary clause will need a subjunctive tense: no me parece que el español sea una lengua muy difícil (I don’t think Spanish is a difficult language). However, if it’s the secundary verb, the one that is negative, it will not affect the mode of its; we’ll follow the previous rules: opino que no es imposible aprender el subjuntivo (in my opinion, it’s not impossible to learn the subjunctive mode).
Me parece bien que tenemos menos impuestos – Incorrecto
Me parece bien que tengamos menos impuestos – Correcto
I think it’s good to have less taxes.
We learnt before that we should use indicative if the verb of opinion is affirmative. Sure, but in this sentence we are not only giving an opinion with the form of an information; we actually are expressing a moral or ethical assessment. In these cases we’ll use subjunctive. These are expressions like parecer, ser or estar + adjective: me parece justo que seamos iguales (I think it’s fair that we are equal), es peligroso que veas tanta tele (it’s dangerous that you watch TV so much), está mal que hables así a tu madre (It’s wrong that you speak to your mother in that manner).
On www.spanishviaskype.com we want to help our students of Spanish to learn from their mistakes, figuring out why and where they erred. If you want to improve your level and stop making mistakes, don’t hesitate, try our Spanish for Different Levels Course. Do you want to take a trial lesson via Skype first, don’t worry you’ll get it totally for free. We assure you that it will not be a mistake.