This is the second in a series of blogposts on how to write an A or A* Spanish controlled GCSE written assessment.

If you missed the first one, then click here.


In this blog post I will talk about using a key Spanish verb TENER (to have) idiomatically. Idiomatically is defined in the Collins English dictionary as “linguistic usage that is grammatical and natural to the native speakers of a language.” This is why idioms and idiomatic usage are marked highly by GCSE Spanish examiners.

Accordingly, it makes sense to have a good variety of TENER phrases in your written piece. But how can you do this? One of my maxims is to keep things simple, and with this in mind, I suggest that you introduce two or three TENER phrases into your work.

Here are some examples:-

Tengo … años (I am … years old). Notice in Spanish you are actually saying “I have..years”

Even better though, with additional complexity, try:-

Cuando tenga ….. años – this means “when I am …years old”. For the sharp eyed, you will see that “tengo” has changed to “tenga”. For the grammatically minded, “tenga” is a subjunctive. This grammatical feature is highly prized by the GCSE examiners. Use it! It is easy to get into a flowing and well crafted piece.

Tener has lots of idiomatic usages.

Why not work these into your assessment?

tengo hambre – I am hungry

tengo sed – I am thirsty.

tengo razón – I am right

tengo suerte – I am lucky

A real favourite of examiners is a phrase like “si yo tuviera suerte…” meaning “if I was lucky”. Use it in your assessment. See the glint in the examiners’ eyes!

So – use the verb TENER idiomatically in your Spanish controlled written assessments – it’s one of the keys in getting an A or A*.

Steven French Languages is based in Harpenden, Hertfordshire and specialises in GCSE and A level tuition in both French and Spanish.


How to get the coveted A* in the written Spanish GCSE assessment?

It is worth repeating – how do you get an A* in the written Spanish GCSE assessment?

I am going to write a series of short blog posts to answer this thorny question.

I am tutoring a number of pupils at the moment and they and their parents and guardians are asking this.

Three tips to secure the A* in the Spanish GCSE written assessment.

1. Be well prepared and do what you are asked to do. Write 250 words if you are asked to write 250 words.

2. Structure, structure, structure! If you asked to write using 5 bullet points, answer all of the bullet points. 5 paragraphs at 50 words equals 250 words. Easy to say – but can YOU do it?

3. Keep the work as accurate as you can – follow the language teacher’s mantra. Check verbs (are they in the correct tense and person?), check adjectives (do they agree?), check masculines and feminines (are they right?).

Well, that’s all there is to it! Well…. perhaps not. But the essence is here…lo esencial!

So there you have it – a short blog on the three key points to secure an A* in the Spanish GCSE controlled written assessment.

In the following blog posts, I will get down to the “nitty gritty”.

¡Hasta pronto!

Steven French Languages is based in Harpenden, Hertfordshire and specialises in GCSE and A level tuition in both French and Spanish.

The internet is a marvellous place. Sometimes a little wild. Sometimes a little OTT (over the top for non native English speakers).

Here is an infographic I have found on the which shows the likely dominance of three languages in the future.


Read. Ponder. React.

English, Spanish and Chinese are essential. Why not try an online lesson?

We all need a bit of help sometimes.

Here are nine and three quarter tips on how to turbo boost your Spanish.

1. all words ending in -tion in English end in -ción in Spanish.

2. all words ending in -ity  in English end in -idad in Spanish

3.  all words ending in -ción are feminine

4. all words ending in -idad are feminine


5. all words ending in -ma are masculine

6. most words ending in -e are masculine

7. all words ending in -sis in English have the same ending in Spanish

8. all words ending in -sis in Spanish are feminine

9. most words ending in -i, -l,-r or -u are masculine in Spanish

9 3/4 mano, meaning hand, looks masculine but is, in fact, feminine.

Why 9 3/4 – because the last point is not quite as useful as the others!

¡Hasta pronto!

Here is a list of the top ten mistakes made by Spanish speakers, in my experience, when speaking English.

Ten top mistakes in English by Spanish speakers

The mistakes are in no particular order :-

1. Saying “espain” rather than pure Spain (i.e. without the e at the beginning)

2. Not saying a pure b or v sound

3. Saying “joung” instead of young

4. Not writing with double letters when necessary (e.g the incorrect spelling of necessary!)

5. Not using his or her correctly

6. Missing out it in expressions like “it is necessary”

7. using an i instead of a y in words like system

8. Pronouncing w as in whiskey as “guiskey”

9. Not using the verb “to be correctly in phrases such as I am …years old

10. Saying “it depends of” rather than the correct “it depends on”

Most of these mistakes result from Language 1 influences (i.e. Spanish as the maternal tongue)

So there it is – the top ten mistakes to try and avoid in English if you are a Spanish speaker.

Below is an audio version of this post.

Sp tag cloud

It is a fact of life that your maternal tongue will have a strong influence on your ability to speak a foreign language. I know, for example, that English, my maternal tongue, has always had an influence on my studies and use of both French and Spanish.

I have recently had the great pleasure to teach two Spanish speakers English on a one to one basis. For me it has been a most instructive exercise – I hope, also, that it has been instructive for them!

In this series of 10 posts, I will outline the top ten mistakes that, on this limited sample of two, I have noted that Spanish speakers make whilst learning English.

Top ten common mistakes by Spanish speakers – number 1

These blog posts are in no particular order, but perhaps one of the most noticeable features of a Spanish speaker speaking English is the influence of the native tongue in the following  examples when spoken:-






Spanish speakers will probably have already recognized the difficulties here – in fact I have deliberately put examples in this sentence!

The difficulty is the sound sp. In English it is a clear sound with no “e” at the beginning. Spanish speakers find this sound extremely difficult to copy.


Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

I always remember a friend who told me the story of when he was teaching English in Spain. He was trying to get the class to say the word “snake”.

He broke the word up into easier chunks.

“sss” he said. “sss” responded the class dutifully.

“nake” he said “nake” chimed back the class, again dutifully.

“Let’s put the word together,” my friend enthusiastically announced. He gave the example “snake”

The class then dutifully, but incorrectly, responded “ss e nake”! The desire to say the “e” sound was so strong that they put it in the middle of the word!

So, how to get round this problem – practise, be aware and copy. Easily said, more difficult to carry out.

Here are a few practice sentences. If you are a native Spanish speaker, perhaps you would like to say them out loud.

Also, to help even more, if you click on the sound file below, I have given British English examples for you to copy and practise with. Enjoy!

1. The Spaniard is from Madrid in Spain.

2. She is Spanish and speaks very good English.

3. The snake hissed at the Spanish teacher!

4. The lawyer from Chile enjoyed speaking English – but enjoyed speaking Spanish even more!

So there it is, potentially the number one most common mistake made by native Spanish people speaking English.

The sound clip is below.


QUERER is the fifty-sixth most common word in the Spanish language.

QUERER is an irregular verb in some tenses and, in the present tense, it is a radical changing verb.

“Quiero” means I love or I want. Technically speaking, this is the first person singular of the present tense. The first “e” from querer has been changed to “ie“. This is what is known as the radical change.

“Quise” means I loved or I wanted. Technically speaking this is the first person singular, preterite tense. In the preterite or past tense, the verb is irregular, meaning that it does not follow the normal grammatical pattern.

The fact that QUERER can mean “to want” and “to love” can seem to be quite odd to the English speaker. My Collins Spanish – English dictionary explains that when the verb is followed by a person it means ” to love”.  When it is followed by an object it means “to want”. Notwithstanding this, is there some cross-over in the Spanish speaker’s mind between wanting and loving? This is not the place to discuss this any further, but it is an interesting point.

Here are two examples of uses of parts of the QUERER. One example illustrates the use meaning love,  and one, the use meaning want.

Te quiero – I love you.

Quiero una casa moderna – I want a modern house

Here then is a tale of two meanings – “to want” or “to love”. QUERER , the fifty sixth most common word in the Spanish language encapsulates them both.


Dos is the fifty-fifth most common word in the Spanish language.

Dos is, in technical grammatical terms, is a cardinal numeral and an ordinal numeral. So, let’s unpack what these terms mean.

Firstly, dos can be translated into English as either “two” or “second”. When dos means “two”, it is a cardinal numeral. When dos means “second”, it is an ordinal numeral.

Here are etwo xamples of dos as a cardinal

dos más dos son cuatro = two and two are four

uno, dos, tres, cuatro = one, two, three, four

An example of dos as an ordinal

el dos de mayo = the second of May

dos de mayo

This picture is the “Dos de mayo” by Goya.

It hangs in the Prado in Madrid.



Dos, as the fifty-fifth most frequently used in Spanish, is a tale of two numbers, a cardinal and an ordinal. The same word in Spanish, different words in English – this is the beauty and interest of studying a language.