3 more common mistakes Spanish speakers make in English

We are back with another list of mistakes that I have harvested from my recent classes. They say that your greatest teacher is your worst mistakes. So we should not see errors as problems but as opportunities. I promise you that if you make a mistake then thousands before you have made it too. There is no point in feeling embarassed or critical of yourself. Focus on the correction and repeat it out loud five times to help you remember.


  1. Reporting questions

Now this is a bigger grammar topic that we do not have space to go into in this post, but reported speech is an important grammar area at upper-intermediate level and especially for First Certificate training. One of the most common mistakes comes from reporting questions.

She asked how could it happen.

            She asked how it could happen.

What you have to recognise here is that the sentence is broken into two clauses:

[She asked][how it could happen]

And there is a hard and fast grammar rule in English to help us:

Question word order (QuASI) does not apply in a subordinate (second) clause. Therefore, for reported questions or indirect questions we use normal word order in the subordinate clause.


  1. Assist/Attend

A lot of English words do originally come from the Romance languages like French and Latin so a lot of the time you can find the same word with the same meaning. Unfortunately, sometimes the meaning of the word changes slightly in its transition and integration into the English language evolution. This is one of them.

I didn’t assist in class.

            I didn’t attend class.

In English attend means be present somewhere or ‘present at the side of someone’. Assist means to help someone do something. Hence the confusion.

The nurse assisted the old man in getting out of bed.

            The nurse was attending another patient when he fell.

You can see here that the words come very close to each other in meaning, which can be confusing, but assist will never mean to be present at a class/meeting/dinner.


  1. You have the reason

Spanish students will often make this mistake by translating ‘tienes razon’ but it does not sound good in English. Technically, it is not completely incorrect to tell someone:

You have good reason (for believing something)

But it is quite old-fashioned now and people do not say it often. Better to say:

You are right.

            That sounds about right.

            Sound good to me.

            I think that’s correct.

            That makes sense (to me).

You can use these expressions with much reason…. No, that’s not right. You can use these expressions without fear of making this very common mistake.

Repeat them to yourself ten times! Now go out and live your life and speak English!

Written by James R. McCance for Aston School

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