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5 mistakes natives make with the verb haber

This blog is the second one I’ve done focusing on errors that native speakers make. The first was about errors with object pronouns, and in this one I am going to talk about errors related to the verb haber.

We start with an easy one.

1-Habían muchas personas en la fiesta. Can you find the error? Exactly, it should be había, the verb haber is impersonal, therefore it does not matter if we are talking about something plural or singular, había una persona esperando, había muchas personas esperando.

If you are not sure, what I always tell my students when in doubt what it is going to help is thinking in the present tense. You would say hay una persona and hay muchas personas, right? You can’t even think of making the plural of hay, what would it be? Hays? So, if in the present you only use hay, in the other tenses we will also use only the singular too, había, hubo, habrá etc….

BUT WATCH OUT, this only happens when the verb haber functions as a VERB, not as an auxiliary. Because I assume you already know that we use the verb haber as an auxiliary in the compuesto, pluscuamperfecto… In those cases we do conjugate it depending on who we are talking about, I have eaten, he comido, has comido, ha comido, hemos comido etc.

2-The second error, and this one does occur when the verb haber works as an auxiliary, in the compuesto de subjuntivo. And instead of haya, hayas, haya, hayamos… there are people who use haiga, haigas, haigamos….

In other words, instead of Juan haya llegado sano y salvo they would say espero que Juan haiga llegado sano y salvo.

This error usually occurs in rural populations, among older people, who did not have the opportunity to continue their academic education.

-The other 3 errors that we have left are only apparent when writing because in oral language there is not much difference

3-One of them is confusing the words “hay”, which is the verb haber, “ahí” indicates a place more or less close, and “ay”, which is an interjection that can mean many things but usually pain.

At school they taught us something very useful that I still remember to recognize which is which

Ahí hay un hombre que dice ¡ay!

Ahí, is the place where the man is.

hay, it indicates that a man exists, a man is in that place.

¡ay! Interjection

I hope this helps you remember it too.

4-The fourth is to confuse the verb haber, with a ver, the preposition “a” and the verb “ver”.

For example, A ver, enséname que has comprado. NO haber, enséname que has comprado

Durante la excursión fuimos a ver los monumentos mas importantes. NO

                                Durante la excursión fuimos haber los monumentos mas importantes

But we would use the verb haber in phrases like,

Fuimos al supermercado ayer, tiene que haber muchas cosas en el supermercado

                Tenias que haber hecho lo que te dije.

5-And the fifth and last is the confusion of “a” as a preposition and “ha” as the auxiliary verb for the third person singular in the pretérito compuesto

For example Juan a ido when that phrase really needs the “h”, the correct thing would be sería  Juan ha ido.

And here are some common mistakes that Spanish speakers usually make with the verb haber, I hope this helps you and has motivated you, since, as you have seen, natives also make mistakes.

Por ejemplo Juan ha ido cuando realmente esa frase necesita la h,lo correcto sería  Juan ha ido.

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I would also like you to leave a comment and tell me 1- if you have ever heard these mistakes from a Spanish speaker and 2- if you have made any of them.

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