Common preposition mistakes Spanish speakers make.
For Spanish speakers, English prepositions can be hard to learn. Sometimes they exist in English and not in Spanish, sometimes they exist in Spanish and not in English, and sometimes what seems like the obvious choice is not the right choice!
Luckily, most of the time, saying the wrong preposition won’t stop you from being understood. So, if you aren’t sure, just guess! Here is a quick guide to some common preposition mistakes.
What a nightmare! Prepositions of time, seem to be totally random – especially if we take very similar sentences likes this:
The party is on Friday
The party is at 9pm on Friday
The party is in May
The party is on May 5th
In General, in is for less specific times, on for more specific times, and at is for very specific times. Specifically…
In is for Months, Years, Decades, Centuries, and ‘the morning’ or the ‘afternoon’.
On is for days, specific dates, and ‘the weekend’.
At is for specific times, and ‘at night”.
The office Christmas party is always in December, on the last Friday before Christmas, at nine o’clock!
The Spanish ‘en’
When the correct preposition in Spanish is en, it can be difficult to choose the English preposition:
Estoy en el bus, en el sur de Londres. Te veo en casa!
I am on the bus, in the South of London. I will see you at home!
Generally in is used for locations, such as countries, cities or neighbourhoods. On is used for streets and some specific locations (‘on the corner’).
Another generalisation is that in is commonly used to show that the following noun surrounds it, but on tends to show that it sits on top.
Shall I serve the pasta in a bowl or on a plate?
Using ‘at’ for locations
Most of the time , you will use ‘in‘ or ‘on‘ for locations, however, native speakers will often use ‘at‘ when speaking about a general location, in which they are not necessarily inside.
I am in the swimming pool. – (in the water)
I am at the swimming pool. – (in the area of the pool, but not in the water).
I am in the supermarket. (definitely inside the building)
I am at the supermarket. (possibly outside the building)
There are also some location words that can only be used with at, such as ‘home’, ‘work’, ‘the party’, ‘the exit’, ‘my desk’, and a specific address, like ‘136 Oxford Street’.
Looking for / Looking at
There is a huge difference between this verb with different prepositions. Looking for means ‘trying to find’. Looking at means ‘staring at’.
I am looking for Mary – Estoy buscando Mary
I am looking at Mary – Estoy mirando a Mary
‘Since’ instead of ‘for’
Hispanophones often say ‘since’ when speaking about ‘X years ago‘. This is because they are translating from the Spanish word ‘desde‘, which generally means ‘since’. However, in English, ‘for’ should be used in this situation.
I have worked there for five months. (He trabajado alli desde hace cinco meses.)
I worked there for 5 months (Trabaje alli durante 5 meses)
Here’s an easy one to finish! In Spanish, ‘depends on’ is ‘depende de’. This false friend makes many Spaniards choose the preposition ‘of‘, however, it should always be on.
Whether or not you learn to use prepositions correctly depends on how much English you read.
Do you ever make any preposition mistakes? Are there any that you find it difficult to remember? Did you know all of these ones? Let us know and we will get back to you as soon as possible.