Common mistakes when speaking Spanish



Learning a new language is always a challenge! So well done if you are trying to learn Spanish. Nevertheless, on this journey, you will come across words that mean something completely different from what you may imagine, along with many other curiosities. In this post, we are going to talk about some of the most common mistakes people make when speaking Spanish and we will show you how to avoid them. Maybe you can even correct somebody after reading this post!

Common Spanish mistakes

1. “Finito

A common mistake is saying “finito” when we want to say “that is enough” or “that is it”. Well, unfortunately, “finito” doesn’t exist in Spanish in this context, it means “finite” (limited in size or extent). “Finito” means “finished” in Italian. Although Spanish speakers will know what you mean when you say “finito”, it isn’t the correct word. So, how do we say “that is it” then?

SOLUTION: “Ya está” (yah ehs-tah) or “eso es todo” (eh-soh ehs toh-doh)

2. “No problemo”

In this case, there is no such thing as the Spanish phrase “no problemo”. Again, people will understand you, but it isn’t the correct way of saying “no problem” in Spanish.

SOLUTION: “No hay problema” (noh ay proh-bleh-mah) or “no pasa nada” (noh pah-sah nah-dah).

3. “Completo”

When asking for a full tank of petrol, many people tend to say “completo”. The word “completo” exists, yes. But it is used mainly when somewhere is full of people, for example, if a restaurant is fully booked we would use “completo”.

SOLUTION: When speaking about liquid, we use “lleno” (yeh-noh). Although “completo” can be used as a synonym of “lleno” in some situations, it can never be used when talking about liquids. 

4. “Estoy caliente”

Ok, be very careful because this means something completely different from what you think you are saying. “Estoy caliente” (ehs-toy kah-lyehn-teh) does translate as “I am hot”, yes. But, let’s just say that it is best to save this sentence for your private life rather than saying it to your neighbour or a stranger. We can say “mi café está caliente” (mee kah-feh ehs-tah kah-lyehn-teh), for instance, which means “my coffee is hot”.

SOLUTION: “Tengo calor” (tehng-goh kah-lohr) means “I am hot” or “Hace calor” (ah-theh kah-lohr) means “it is hot”. 

5. “Yo soy 28 años”

In English when talking about age we use “to be” whereas in Spanish we don’t, we use “to have”. We say “I have 28 years” when telling someone how old we are in Spanish.

SOLUTION: Yo tengo 28 años

spanish language

6. The word “años”

It is extremely important to pronounce the word “años” (ah-nyohs) correctly, if not we are saying that we have X amount of anuses. You wouldn’t be the first person to have wished someone a Happy New Anus on New Year. “Feliz año nuevo” (feh-leeth ah-nyoh nweh-boh) is “Happy New Year”.

SOLUTION: The letter “ñ” is equivalent to a “ny” sound in English. It is pronounced the same as we would pronounce the “gn” in “lasagna”.

7. Using “ser” and “estar” incorrectly

Unfortunately, both “ser” (sehr) and “estar” (ehs-tahr) mean “to be”. Normally, if we use them incorrectly we will still be understood, but sometimes we may be saying something completely different. For example:

-María es aburrida (María is boring)

-María está aburrida (María is bored)

-María es buena (María is nice)

-María está buena (María is hot/sexy)

SOLUTION: “Ser” is used for a permanent situation that can’t change automatically or overnight, nationalities, jobs, time, etc. If someone is boring, they aren’t going to stop being boring overnight. Whereas “estar” is used for temporary situations, feelings, locations, etc. If you are bored, you aren’t bored forever. It is just a temporary feeling and that is why we use “estar”.

8. Muy / Mucho

I have always heard a lot of people use “muy” (mwee) and “mucho” (moo-choh) incorrectly. For example, “mucho feliz” “mucho caro” would be incorrect because you are saying “a lot happy” and “a lot expensive”, instead of “very happy” or “very expensive”.

SOLUTION: “Muy” in an adverb that means “very” and will generally be followed by an adjective (a descriptive word – i.e. big, small…).

-Mi casa es muy grande (My house is very big)

“Mucho” means “a lot (of)/many” and will be followed by a noun (the car, the dog…). The word “mucho” when meaning “a lot (of)/many” varies depending on the gender/number of the noun: mucho, mucha, muchos, muchas. For example: 

-“Hay muchas playas en España” (There are a lot of beaches in Spain) – The word “playas” is femenine plural, so we use “muchas”

-“Hay mucha comida en mi plato” (There is a lot of food on my plate) – The word “food” is femenine singular, so we use “mucha”

“Mucho” can also mean “very much” and in this case, it will always be just “mucho” and may be followed by a noun or a verb (action word)

-Me gusta mucho la playa” (I like the beach very much) 

-No me gusta mucho leer” (I don’t like reading very much)

9. Word order

In Spanish nouns and adjectives are said backwards compared to in English. In Spanish, we say “the table black” (la mesa negra) or “the house big” (la casa grande).

SOLUTION: We just have to think backwards sometimes when trying to say something in Spanish. In English, we say the adjective (i.e. blue) and then the noun (i.e. dress) whereas in Spanish we say the noun (el vestido) first and the adjective (azul), so “the blue dress” in Spanish would be “the dress blue” (el vestido azul).

10. Capital letters

This doesn’t have anything to do with speaking Spanish, but we thought it was worth mentioning.

In Spanish only people’s names, surnames, names of places, rivers, mountain ranges, names of newspapers and magazines, book titles, films… are spelt with a capital letter. So, if you want to write “I am English” it would be “(yo) soy inglés”. We don’t use capital letters in Spanish for nationalities, days of the week, months…

So, here are some tips to help you speak Spanish even better! It is never too late to learn a new language. Good luck!