Are you making these common Spanish errors?
There’s a lot more to Spanish than saying “Hola” and “Gracias por la cerveza” with perfect pronunciation. Just like Spanish speakers make some regular pronunciation mistakes in English, at Confidence Learning Services we also see English speakers make some regular mistakes in Spanish, both when it comes to pronunciation and usage of particular words. Here’s a set of seven words that seem similar, or are even derived from the same word root, but have different meaning and are often used incorrectly by Native English Speakers.
Spanish Error #1: “El Cuento” is actually “A story / tale”
Don’t mix this word up with the word for “account” or “bill” – when using this word as a noun, it usually means a story or a tale. Some examples:
Ricardo lee un cuento de pirata. Los cuentos son casi tan antiguos como la vida misma.
Ricardo reads a pirate story. Stories are almost as old as life itself.
Spanish Error #2: Contar (una historia) is actually “To tell a story/to recount something”
Be especially careful with this word and “cantar” which is “to sing.” English is not always as particular about vowel usage, so sometimes we can get a little lazy with our vowels in English and it will not affect our meaning. Spanish, however, places a lot of emphasis on vowel usage, so it’s important to get it right. If you say you’re going to “cantar” and then proceed to tell a story, everyone will be very confused.
This verb gets even more confusing thanks to its stem-changing nature.
Contar (Present Indicative)
That’s right, “yo cuento” has a different meaning than “el cuento”, and “él cuenta” has a different meaning than “la cuenta” (coming up).
Let’s look at some examples.
Su padre les cuenta un cuento antes de dormir.
Los testigos cuentan los hechos a la policia.
Te cuento todo.
Their father tells them a story before they sleep.
The witnesses relate the facts to the police.
I’ll tell you everything.
Spanish Error #3: “Contar” (el dinero) is actually “to count”
English speakers learning Spanish may struggle with the multiple meanings of this already difficult verb, although many English words also have multiple meanings. While the same word can mean “to tell a story”, it can also mean “to count,” and this time the meaning is entirely dependent on context. The verb conjugations remain entirely the same.
La niña sabe contar hasta veinte.
Contamos el dinero cuando vamos de compras.
The girl knows how to count to twenty.
We count money when we go shopping.
Last, we can use the phrase “contar con” to mean “to count on.”
Cuentan con la tecnología.
They count on technology.
Spanish Error #4: “La cuenta” (bancaria) is actually “An account”
This word is used to represent an account, like a bank account or a customer account.
La compañía acaba de adquirir dos cuentas nuevas.
El saldo en la cuenta del banco está $4000.
The company just acquired two new accounts.
The balance in the bank account is $4000.
Spanish Error #5: “La Cuenta” (cálculo) is actually “A sum”
Yet another meaning for this tricky noun! “La cuenta” can also mean the sum or result of a calculation.
El alumno debe realizar una cuenta de dividir y una de multiplicar.
The student should calculate the result of division and multiplication.
Spanish Error #6: “La Cuenta” (restaurante) is actually “The bill/check”
Did you think we were done with “la cuenta”? Yes, another meaning for this word is “bill” or “check”, when referring to a bill in a restaurant or hotel. Otherwise, a bill is typically “una factura” while a check from a checkbook is typically “un cheque.”
El mesero nos traiga la cuenta.
The waiter brings us the bill.
Spanish Error #7: “Cantar” (canción) is actually “To sing”
Finally, as mentioned before,”cantar” means “To sing” as in “to sing a song.”
Las mujeres cantan canciones lindas.
The women sing beautiful songs.
Are these words and phrases clear to you now? We hope so. Want to learn more Spanish, or just get some personal advice about what to study next?
Contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477 to set up your free Spanish consultation with a certified instructor. We’ll help you identify some goals and resources you can use to achieve them, all at no cost to you.