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3 Things Spanish Natives Screw Up

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Yes of course, we make mistakes when speaking our own language. So it is expected that you, a Spanish learner, will make mistakes too. Let's look at three common mistakes made by natives:

1) Assigning gender to an adverb:

 Sandra está media loca.

Correction: Sandra esta medio loca.

Sandra is fairly crazy.

In this sentence medio is an adverb that modifies the adjective loca. Adverbs have no gender or number in Spanish. The confusion is that sometimes the word medio also works as an adjective. In necesito media sandía (I need half a watermelon), media is an adjective modifying the fruit, a noun. Adjectives do have gender and number in Spanish, adverbs do not.

2) Incorrect 3rd person plural of haber when it is not an auxiliary verb:

En esa esquina siempre habían muchos accidentes.

Correction: En esa esquina siempre había muchos accidentes. 

In that corner there were always many accidents.

The verb haber is impersonal here, there is no subject to the sentence. Accidentes is the direct object, not the subject. When the verb haber is defined as 'to occur' or 'to exist', the singular form is always used. Think of it in the present tense: hay una persona, hay tres personas. Hay means both 'there is' and 'there are'. It doesn’t change. Había is simply the past of hay

* It is easy to confuse this use of haber with its other use: habían does exist but as an auxiliary verb. Look at this sentence in the past perfect: Ellos nunca habían bailado tango antes de venir a Argentina. They had never danced tango before coming to Argentina.

3) Omitting the preposition “a”:

No van aceptar la propuesta.

Correction: No van a aceptar la propuesta.

They are not going to accept the proposal.

The omission of the preposition “a” when indicating the future tense is relatively common among natives, even in writing. Especially when the verb that follows begins with “a”. Probably the mistake lies in assuming that there should be a contraction, or in thinking that the vowel should not be repeated, as it is sometimes the case in Spanish. The truth is that it is not strange to run into this mistake, even when the verb that follows doesn’t start with “a”. There is a rock band called No Te Va Gustar (You are not going to like it), without the “a”. As an aside, it is a good band, despite the missing preposition! Check them out. But remember, always use “a” after the verb “ir” when indicating the future tense.

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~I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been teaching Spanish to people from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!~

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