Common mistakes made with Spanish Words

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Learn the frequent mistakes in Spanish Words

In all languages, there are some words that lead to mistakes in writing or use due to their similarity in pronunciation. Since this problem also exists in Spanish, we have prepared a selection of words that frequently present problems to help you improve your Spanish.

  • Acerbo / acervo

    Do not confuse the two words:

    Acerbo: cruel, sharp to the taste.

    Acervo: a lot of small things, accumulation of goods.

    Example:

    Hicieron muchos comentarios acerbos que le molestaron.

    Esa nación tiene un gran acervo cultural.

  • Aterrizaje de emergencia

    Literal translation from English. In Spanish use “aterrizaje forzoso”.

    Example:

    Por un problema con un motor, el avión tuvo que hacer un aterrizaje forzoso.

  • Autodefensa

    The term “autodefensa” is a loan from the English term “self-defense”. Avoid it, and use “defensa propia”, the correct expression in Spanish.

    Example:

    El acusado usó el arma en defensa propia.

  • Baca / vaca

    Baca is a support that is attached to the roof of a car to transport things that do not fit in the trunk. Vaca is a cow.

    Example:

    La vaca da leche.

    Puse el equipaje en la baca del coche.

  • Bacalado

    The correct word is bacalao. *”Bacalado” is an error that occurs due to confusion with regular participles that end in “-ado”. The same occurs with: *”Bilbado”, used instead of “Bilbao”.

    Example:

    Este bacalao está congelado.

  • Baterista

    Baterista is the musician who plays the drums is batería. Use to say it in LAtin america.

    In Spain is more usual use Batería (like the instrument).

    Example:

    Juan es batería de un grupo de rock.

  • Beis / beige

    The Royal Academy of Spanish accepts both forms, though “beis” is preferred because is the Spanish adaptation.

    Example:

    Me gusta esa falda beis.

  • Bendito / bendecido

    The participle of the verb bendecir is bendecido. Use bendito for the adjective.

    Example:

    El Papa ha bendecido a todos los niños.

  • Blue-jeans, jeans

    The words used in Spanish to designate this type of trousers are vaqueros (in Spain) or tejanos (in Latin America).

    Example:

    Me he comprado otros vaqueros porque me gustaban mucho.

  • Cónyugue

    Incorrect. The correct form is cónyuge.

    Example:

    Vino acompañada de su cónyuge.

  • Caló, calé

    Caló: Language of Spanish gypsies.

    Calé: Individual belonging to that ethnic group known as gypsies.

    Example:

    No todos los gitanos hablan caló.

    Ese hombre pertenece a la raza calé.

  • Carácter

    This word becomes a false friend when we talk about cinema or theatre. We should use personaje.

    Carácter means strong personality.

    Example:

    En la película El señor de los anillos aparecen muchos personajes.

    Mi hermano tiene mucho carácter (tiene una personalidad muy fuerte)

  • Catástrofe humanitaria

    An expression that is frequently used but incorrect. Something “humanitario” (humanitarian) always strives for solidarity, so this adjective cannot be applied to “catástrofes” (catastrophes). Use una gran catástrofe.

    Example:

    Una guerra es siempre una gran catástrofe.

  • Cocreta

    Vulgarism. The correct form is croqueta.

    Example:

    Pide otra ración de croquetas.

  • Drugs

    In medical language this should be translated as “fármacos”. Never as “drogas”.

    Example:

    Esa empresa es una gran distribuidora de fármacos.

  • EE.UU.

    EE.UU. is the correct form of the abbreviation for “Estados Unidos” de América in Spanish. The first letter of “Estados” is duplicated since it is plural, followed by the period of the abbreviation, and the “U” of “Unidos” is also duplicated, followed by the period of the abbreviation.

    In Spanish, América, refers the whole continent, not the country of United States of America.

    Example:

    George Washington fue presidente de Estados Unidos

  • El cólera / la cólera

    El cólera is a masculine noun that refers to a contagious epidemic disease (cholera).

    La cólera is a feminine noun that means anger, rage, irritation. (expression: “montar en cólera”)

    Example:

    El cólera acabó con la vida de muchas personas.

    Cuando ve las facturas de teléfono le embarga la cólera.

  • El cava / la cava

    El cava (masculine) refers to sparkling wine.

    La cava is a wine cellar.

    Example:

    Trajeron otras 30 botellas de ese cava.

    Visitamos varias cavas catalanas.

  • Electo / elegido

    Normally the irregular participle electo functions as an adjective and goes with a noun:

    Evo Morales es el presidente electo de Bolivia.

    Elegido usually works as a verb.

    Example:

    España ha elegido un nuevo presidente.

  • Elegistes

    The form of the second person singular (tu) of the indefinido (past tense) is sometimes confused with the second person plural (vosotros) form “elegisteis”. We should remember that the correct form is elegiste.

    Example:

    ¿Por qué elegiste el coche rojo y no el azul?

  • Exit / éxito

    “Exit” should be translated in Spanish as “salida”. Éxito means success. Thus it is a false friend.

    Example:

    Su nuevo libro ha tenido mucho éxito.

  • Finés / finlandés

    The term finés can be used both for an inhabitant of Finland and the language spoken in that country, while finlandés can only be used for the inhabitant, never for the language.

    Example:

    Los finlandeses hablan finés.

  • Gótico

    Artistic movement of the Lower Middle Ages. It is also used as a loan from the English Gothic which refers to a kind of macabre tale. Avoid this second use so as not to create confusion.

    Example:

    En España hay muchas catedrales góticas.

    Me gusta leer relatos macabros.

  • Güisqui

    Although the Royal Academy accepts this spelling, we recommend using the English whisky.

    Example:

    Póngame un whisky con hielo.

  • Guardia / guarda / guardián

    Guardia: Is a person who belongs to an official body. A policeman or policewoman.

    Guarda: Private security guard.

    Guardián: Person or animal responsible for protecting or caring for others.

    Example:

    Si te pierdes pregunta a un guardia de tráfico.

    En esa discoteca siempre hay un guarda.

    Tiene un buen perro guardián.

  • Hacha

    Feminine noun, though it is preceded by the article “el”. In the plural, use “las” and the indefinite articles “una” and “unas”.

    Example:

    Compró el hacha demasiado grande.

    Tiene en casa unas hachas enormes.

  • Hambre

    Feminine noun, though preceded by the article “el”.

    Example:

    El hambre es muy duradera en este país.

  • Hispanoamérica

    We should use this term to refer to those countries in America where Spanish is the official language.

    Example:

    México es uno de los grandes países de Hispanoamérica.

  • Indio / hindú

    Indio: Is used to refer both to inhabitants of India and to native Americans.

    Hindú: Person who practices the religion of the same name.

    Example:

    Hay indios musulmanes e hindúes.

  • Latinoamérica

    Countries in America that were colonized by European countries whose languages were derived from Latin (Spain, France and Portugal).

    Example:

    Brasil es el país latinoamericano con más extensión.

  • Límite

    Remains singular when used side-by-side with another noun.

    Example:

    Esos son casos límite (not límites)

  • Los monarcas / los soberanos

    This usage is incorrect when referring together to the king and queen (the married couple) of a given country.

    “Monarca” only refers to the person who is the head of state, whether king or queen. The same is true of the word “soberano”.

    Example:

    La ceremonia estaba presidida por el monarca y su consorte.

  • México

    Should be pronounced with a “j”, although it is spelled with an “x”.

    Example:

    México es un país muy bonito.

  • Malnutrición

    This is an Anglicism that appeared in French in the middle of the twentieth century and then came into use in Spanish. The Spanish term desnutrición is preferred.

    Example:

    Muchos niños sufren desnutrición según UNICEF.

  • Medioambiente

    This should always be written as two words, medio ambiente. The adjective medioambiental, however, is one word

    Example:

    A todos nos preocupa el medio ambiente.

    Van a celebrar otra cumbre medioambiental.

  • Motriz

    “Motriz” is the feminine form of “motor” when used as an adjective, so expressions like “impulso motriz” are to be avoided.

    Example:

    Éste es el verdadero impulso motor.

  • Otro

    An incorrect construction in Spanish. “Un” / “una” / “unos” / “unas” can never precede “otro” or its derivatives.

    Example:

    Déme otra cerveza.

  • Pakistaní

    Terms used to designate the inhabitants of a country, region or city written with a “k”, such as “Pakistán”, “Pekín”, should be written with a “q” in Spanish:

    Example:

    Los paquistaníes son los habitantes de Pakistán.

  • Pamplonica

    Affectionate term applied to the inhabitants of Pamplona, but only used informally. To refer to the inhabitants of Pamplona we should normally use pamploneses.

    Example:

    A los pamploneses les gusta asistir a los sanfermines.

  • Parent / pariente

    The English word parents is equivalent of the Spanish “progenitores” or “padres”, but not to parientes, since pariente in Spanish includes all close relatives (aunts and uncles, cousins…).

    Example:

    En las bodas españolas se reúnen todos los parientes.

  • Pedigrí

    Spanish form of the English “pedigree”. Avoid it.

    Example:

    Tengo un perro con pedigrí.

  • Pograma

    Vulgarism. The correct form is programa.

    Example:

    No pude ver ese programa.

  • Quiosco / Kiosco / kiosko

    The first two spellings are correct, though in Spanish the use of quiosco is preferred. Never use “kiosko”.

    Example:

    Fui al quiosco a comprar el periódico.

  • Sí / si

    with an accent is used as the affirmative particle.

    Si without an accent is used in conditional expressions.

    Example:

    – ¿Has traído el coche? – , claro, si quieres te llevo.

  • Saga

    Although this word means “relato” (tale), “leyenda” (legend), it is sometimes incorrectly employed in place of “linaje” or “familia”.

    Example:

    Me gusta leer las sagas nórdicas.

    La familia de Alba tiene un antiguo linaje.

  • Scanner, escanner, escáner

    The form recognized by the Spanish Royal Academy is escáner.

    Example:

    He comprado un escáner.

  • Sefardita

    The correct form in Spanish is sefardí and the plural is sefardíes.

    Ejemplo:

    He comprado un libro de poemas sefardíes.

  • Talla

    Noun that can only be applied to people. For animals we use “tamaño”.

    Example:

    Trae otra camisa porque esta no le vale. Tiene una talla mayor.

  • Tarifa plana

    Avoid this Anglicism, a literal translation of “flat rate”.; Use Tarifa fija

    Example:

    He contratado una tarifa fija de Internet.

  • Texas

    Correct form of writing the name of this state in the southern United States. The classic Spanish pronunciation should be with a “j” be with a “j”.

    Example:

    Houston está en Texas.

  • Tour operator / tour operador

    Avoid these forms and use the term operador turístico.

    Ejemplo:

    Juan es operador turístico.

  • Visa

    In Spanish, use the term visado.

    Example:

    Solicité un visado para Estados Unidos pero no me lo concedieron.

  • Yudo / judo

    Both forms are accepted by the Royal Academy, though the former seems more appropriate since it conforms to Spanish phonetic rules. In both cases the first letter is pronounced as in the word “yo”.

    Example:

    El deporte que más me gusta es el judo.

If you want to learn as well the most common mistakes in Spanish expressions, the common mistakes in Spanish verbs or 8 Spanish grammar mistakes.

If you have more words that cause you problems or that can produce errors, write them in the comments! We will help you solve them!

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2018-12-19T21:28:30+00:00

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