As you’re well aware of, mastering a foreign language is a difficult task. Have you ever thought, though, about the extent to which you have mastered your own? Of course, being a native speaker of any language essentially gives one the right to butcher it. Also, the errors made are usually not individual ones, but rather, mistakes made by the general populace, and therefore are validated. Although ‘Spain is Different’, in this case it isn’t, as Spaniards tend to make mistakes in their own language just as native speakers of any language do. Today we’re going to discuss some of the typical errors you’ll hear from time to time.



The “laísmo” in Spain

When it comes to mistakes made in Spanish, by far the most common error heard in Madrid is the incorrect use of la as the indirect object pronoun. Referred to as laísmo, this error is essentially limited to the central part of the country and not heard in Andalusia, the Canaries, or in Latin America. Many madrileños have inherited this error simply from hearing it, and in many cases are unaware that they make it. Aside from happening naturally, there are other cases where the speaker is unsure as to whether the verb is transitive (requiring an object) or intransitive (not requiring and object) and thus, don’t know which pronoun is correct. Perhaps the most common examples of laísmo are with the verbs dar, decir, and gustar:

Le dio un ataque de risa. not La dio un ataque de risa.

Le dije que abriese la puerta. not La dije que abriese la puerta.

Le gusta mucho la guitarra. not La gusta mucho la guitarra.


Mistakes with verbs in Spanish


The Imperative of Ir

Another common mistake made by Spaniards is to use the imperative incorrectly. Perhaps this is due to the abundance of irregular forms in this tense, or maybe it’s just a random error. Whatever the case may be, you’ll certainly hear it. Though not so typical in Madrid, many Spaniards don’t conjugate the second person singular form of the imperative of the verb ir (to go) properly. As opposed to saying ve, which is correct, due to the fact that the second person singular verb forms typically end in -s, many people incorrectly add an -s to the command form:

Ve a comprar el pan abajo. notVes a comprar el pan abajo.

Though this is easily recognized as incorrect by many, there is another error made when forming the imperative of the verb of ir which is not. Being that this verb is irregular, the second person plural form (vosotros) is id. The problem arises when the reflexive form is used and instead of simply adding the corresponding pronoun (os), thus forming idos, people say ‘iros’, which is incorrect.


A ver y haber


Haber and A ver

Lastly, a third common error has to do with the homophones haber and a ver. Due to the fact that the former and the latter sound exactly the same, people are constantly mixing them up when they write, despite the fact that the meanings are completely different. Haber is a verb which translates to ‘there is/are/was/were’, and also is used as an auxiliary verb to form perfect tenses; a ver is an expression which means ‘let’s see’. Although there is no possible problem when speaking, if the form written is not the adequate one it looks ridiculous. Of course, if you’re texting a friend, no worries, but if you’re drafting a business communiqué it would certainly be to one’s discredit to write the wrong form.


The Real Academia Española

Though correcting a native speaker when speaking is not recommended, there will be times when you have to prove that you’re right. The best — and perhaps only way to do so — is by using the Real Academia Española’s dictionaries. Not only does the RAE have  a standard dictionary, but they also have the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas, which will clarify any issue you may have. So, when in doubt, just check the RAE!