Suelo hacer algo in English.
Do you say ‘I used to walk’ to say ‘suelo andar’? Then this post is for you!
Suelo hacer algo in English. A very common mistake by Spanish speakers.
Over the past few weeks I have noticed that many students, independently of their English level, tend to use ‘used to’ when trying to explain that ‘suelo hacer algo’. I guess it has to do with the fact that its translation into Spanish is ´solía’ and they think that it can also be used to talk about the present.
This is wrong, however, as ‘used to’ can only be used to talk about actions that you frequently did in the past, but no longer do (you stopped doing them at some point in the past).
So, what should you use instead to say Suelo hacer algo? Allow me to give you a full explanation:
SUELO HACER – THE PRESENT SIMPLE AND ADVERBS OF FREQUENCY
You have probably worked it out by just reading the heading.
Indeed, we use the Present Simple Tense to talk about routines, repeated actions and habits (we also use it for states, such as live or work in a place). We add an adverb of frequency (sometimes, never, always, etc) to explain how often we do those things.
USUALLY (and its synonyms, such as normally or generally) is the correct word in English to say ‘suelo’ (it actually sounds weird in Spanish to say ‘habitualmente hago’). [Weird = strange]
Adverbs of frequency, like many other adverbs, go right before the main verb:
- He usually walks to work in the mornings. – Suele ir andando al trabajo por las mañanas.
- I usually have meetings first thing in the afternoon. – Suelo tener reuniones a primera hora de la tarde.
- She doesn’t usually call me if I’m with a customer. – No me suele llamar si estoy con un cliente.
- They don’t usually pay – No suelen pagar tarde.
- Do you usually ask him? – ¿Sueles preguntarle?
- Does she usually arrive on time? – ¿Suele ser punctual?
So this is how you say Suelo, suele, suelen etc. hacer algo in English: using the Present Simple plus an adverb of frequency.
Let’s move on to explain when and how do we use ‘USED TO’.
‘USED TO’ TO SPEAK ABOUT THE PAST
Now, let’s talk about ‘used to’ so you may see the difference.
‘Used to’ is followed by the infinitive of a verb without to. You don’t add and -s to the third person, because, as I mentioned earlier, we only use ‘used to’ to talk about actions we did in the PAST. They were habits in the past but we don’t do them anymore.
It’s meaning is always ‘SOLÍA’ and not ‘suelo’. It cannot be used in any other verbal tense (no present, no future).
- As a child, I used to play a lot of sports. – De niño, solía jugar a muchos deportes. (You don’t play a lot of sports nowadays).
- She used to work at the London office. – Solía trabajar en la oficina de Londres. (Now she works in a different office).
Please note that in negative sentences we use the auxiliary verb didn’t and get rid of the -d in ‘used’, and therefore say ‘didn’t use to’.
- I didn’t use to like apicy food. – No me solía gustar la comida picante. (but now I do).
- We didn’t use to work on Friday afternoons. – No solíamos trabajar los Viernes por la tarde. (but now we do work on Friday afternoons).
We also delete the -s in ‘used’ in questions.
- Did your family use to live in this neighbourhood? – ¿Solía vivir tu familia en este barrio?
- Did you use to study hard at college? – ¿Solís estudiar mucho en la Universidad?
I hope this explanation will help you to distinguish between ‘used to’ and ‘usually’ and that you will be able to correct this very common mistake.