Three Common Mistakes that Intermediate Students Make

Mistake Number One:

One of the most common mistakes that Intermediate students of English make is with Possessive Adjectives or my your his her its our their

Many students have problems with su or sus. This is because in Spanish su is determined by the object and not the subject. In English it is the opposite.

For example:

Su casa

If the owner of the house is a man su is translated as “his.” However, if the house is owned by a woman, it would be “her.” If the house is owned by more than one person, the translation would be “their.” If you are talking to the subject of the house and using Usted, the translation would be “your.” Finally if the house were owned by a thing, it would be “its.”

Therefore:

Su casa/Sus casas (de él): his house/his houses

Su casa/Sus casas  (de ella): her house/her houses

Su casa/Sus casas  (de ellos/ellas): their house/their houses

Su casa/Sus casas  (de Usted/Ustedes): your house/your houses

Su casa/Sus casas  (de ello): its house/its houses

This is a little more confusing in Catalan, because the possessive adjectives change from masculine to feminine according to the object.

For example:

La seva casa (d’ell): his house

El seu cotxe (d’ella): her car

Therefore:

La seva casa (d’ell): his house

El seu cotxe (d’ell): his car

La seva casa (d’ella): her house

El seu cotxe (d’ella): her car

La seva casa (d’ells/elles): their house

El seu cotxe (d’ells/elles): their car

La seva casa (de vostè/vostès): your house

El seu cotxe (de vostè/vostès): your car

La seva casa (d’això): its house

El seu cotxe (d’això): its car 


Mistake Number Two:

Many students confuse the difference between “used to” (solía) and “to be used to” (estar acostumbrado a).  “Used to” is a semi-auxiliary and like “have to” or “ought to” Is followed by the verb.

For example:

I used to go: solia anar / solía ir

However, in the expression, “to be used to” the “to” is a preposition and prepositions are followed by the gerund.

For example:

I am used to going: estic acostumat a anar / estoy acostumbrado a ir

Because “used to” is in the Simple Past, it forms the negative and interrogative with “did.”

For example:

Did you use* to go?: Solies anar? / ¿Solías ir?

I didn’t use* to go: No solia anar / No solía ir

* (Notice the change from “used” to “use”)

“To be used to” uses the infinitive “to be” to form its negative and interrogative forms.

For example:

Are you used to going?: Estàs acostumat a anar? / ¿Estas acostumbrado a ir?

You aren’t used to going: No estàs acostumat a anar / No estas acostumbrado a ir


Mistake Number Three:

Many students have problems with the Present Perfect after “since” and “for.”  This is basically because in Catalan and Spanish the present tenses are used to express this idea.  With “since” it is a little easier because it is also used in the Catalan and Spanish translations.

For example:

I have been here since two: Estic aquí des de les dues / Estoy aquí desde las dos

However, “for” is not used in the Catalan nor the Spanish sentences.  This is confusing for the students.  The key word for them should be “Fa _____ que” or “Hace _____ que” and not for, which only appears in the English sentence.

For example:

Fa dos anys que estic aquí / Hace dos años que estoy aquí / I have been here for two years

 Written by Mike Dean Alger for Aston School