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“Close the light.”X
The first of our 10 common mistakes is “Close the light.” It’s easy to see how this happens, “close the light”, “close the computer”, it’s a direct translation from “cerrar”, but it doesn’t work! Use “turn off” or “switch off” instead.
“Close” and “open” are generally used for things like a door, a book or a box, don’t use them for electronic devices that need power, use “turn on” and “turn off”. the same for: Lights – Taps / Faucets – Engines – Televisions – You get the idea… “Turn on” / “switch on” and “Turn off” “switch off” are phrasal verbs. If you want to understand how to use them better check out the relevant topic on our courses.
“What is the number 14?”X
Often, in a class when students are working on a number of questions in a book, one will ask me, “What is the answer to the number 14?” (it could be any number) and then I have to explain two things, the answer to the question and that you don’t use the definite article “the” with cardinal numbers. “What is number 14?” sounds much better. Other serial crimes that are caused by the same problem, overuse of “the” include “I went to
the restaurant”, “I like the pop music.” or “ The women are complicated!.”
If you need to practice the relevant grammar, have a look at “Articles”.
“In the house of my fathers.”X
No, no, no and no.
Again, people will understand you but it definitely sounds wrong.
In English, for possessions we use and apostrophe (‘) and an “s”.
For example, “This is John’s book.” or “He’s Mark’s friend.” with plural nouns that end with an “s” we can (but don’t need to ) omit the second “s”. For example; My friends’ houses. (the houses that belong to my various friends).
The other problem here is “my fathers”.
People commonly have a mother and a father, together they are known as parents. If you talk about your fathers you are talking about men. If you want to talk about someone’s mother and father then you need to say “parents”.
It’s easy to see why this mistake happens, it’s a direct translation of “padres”, which in Spanish is great, but English is different!
“I have a new.”X
A new what? I would ask.
Again, direct translation from Spanish here results in incorrect English.
“News” is an uncountable noun, like water. It always exists with the “s” at the end. It doesn’t seem very logical, but this is English.
We can have “some good news”, “A bit of bad news.” or “an interesting piece of news” but we can’t have “a new”.
If you are interested to learn more about this subject you should study “Countable & Uncountable Nouns”.
“I visited my friend at your house.” X
I hope you didn’t, where was I when you guys were hanging out at my house? Again, this is a mistranslation, this time the confusion comes from “Su” from “usted” and “su” from “de el / ella”. This is overcomplicating things, keep it simple.
“I watch football because It likes me.”
What? no, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. Football doesn’t have preferences nor tastes, people do. This is a mistranslation of the way “gustar” works in Castellano. “Like” in English doesn’t work in the same way, it isn’t reflexive like “gustar”. This mistake can cause a lot of confusion. If you say that “Your dog likes me”, I think that you’re telling me about how my dog feels about you. Maybe my dog does like you.
“Like” works like “enjoy” (disfrutar).
“I like football” sounds great, just like “I enjoy football.”
“He has 25 years.”X
Where? This is perfect in Spanglish but just doesn’t work in English.
We use the verb “to be” a lot more in English for things that in Castellano use “tener” (have).
The other problem is that I can say “I’m 44” or I can say “I’m 44 years old” but I can’t say
“I’m 44 years.”
“He said me something interesting.”X
I hear this a lot. It doesn’t really cause any problems and nobody will misunderstand but it just sounds chungo.
There are lots of verbs that don’t work the same in English and Castellano, lots of verbs are reflexive in Castellano (“me dijo algo””Te explico una cosa.”) in a way that they aren’t in English. That is to say that we can’t put a personal pronoun (me, you, him, her, us) directly after the verb. Another verbs that causes the same problem is “Say”.
“Explain me something.”
Do say: “Explain something to me.”
“I must to go.”X
Nope! Nobody will misunderstand what you mean to say, but again, this is very Spanglish.
There’s a weird group of verbs called modal verbs. You probably already know modal verbs like “can”, “should”, “may” but there are lots more. Well they;
The infinitive is the “name” of the verb (e.g.. to be, to do, to have) but in this case we use it without the “to” (e.g.. be, do, have).
So I can say “I can swim.”
I can to swim.” is wrong
“I am agree.”X
And I ask “What is a gree?”
Mistranslation again, this time the difference between “Estar de acuerdo” (a state with the verb “to be”) and “agree” which is a verb, like “coincidir” or “concurrir” so we don’t use the verb “to be”.