More Common Mistakes in English
(…that can easily be corrected)

The relationship between English and Catalan and English and Spanish is not the same as the relationship between Catalan and Spanish. Many times there is not a direct translation for expressions from language to the other. The student has to use an Equivalent Translation, and this causes many problems for students.  One of the most common of these problems occurs with expressions in Catalan and Spanish that use tener / tenir but that in English use the verb to be.

For example:      

The correct way to say “Tengo hambre” or “Tinc gana” in English is:

I am hungry


I have hunger (Or worse…I have hungry)

If you translate the sentence, I am hungry, directly into Catalan, it is “estic famolenc” or if you translate it directly into Spanish, it is “estoy hambriento.”  Both of these are correct technically, but they sound very strange.  The same is true if you translate them directly into English as “I have hunger.”

The most common mistake with these expressions is when students try to translate “Tinc vint anys” or “Tengo veinte años” directly into English as I have twenty years. This sounds very strange in English and many native speakers will not understand what the student is trying to say.

Fortunately it is easy to correct these common mistakes.  In fact, there are three steps that the student must follow in order to avoid making them.

1) The student must remember that these are equivalent translations.

2) The student must memorize the English equivalents so they are automatic

3) The student must remember that “to be” is conjugated differently from other verbs:

For example:

Tengo prisa / Tinc pressa                          I am in a hurry

No tiene prisa / No té pressa                   He / She isn’t in a hurry

¿Tienes prisa? / Tens pressa?                   Are you in a hurry?

Here is a list of the most useful of these constructions:

To be _____ (years old)                                        tener ___ años / tenir ___ anys

To be cold                                                               tener frío / tenir fred

To be hot                                                                 tener calor / tenir calor

To be hungry                                                           tener hambre / tenir gana

To be thirsty                                                            tener sed / tenir sed

To be afraid                                                             tener miedo / tenir por

To be in a hurry                                                      tener prisa / tenir pressa

To be right                                                              tener razón / tenir raó

To be lucky                                                             tener suerte / tenir sort

To be sleepy                                                           tener sueño / tenir son

To be successful                                                     tener éxito / tenir èxit

To be careful                                                           tener cuidado / tenir compte

Written by Mike Dean Alger for Aston School

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