“An area I’m struggling with is how to say I’m wrong, I’m confused or I’ve made a mistake” – Real Fast Spanish Subscriber.
After receiving this question from a reader, I thought this would make for a wonderful topic for an article because the abstract idea of ‘being wrong’ isn’t easy to translate into Spanish.
Moreover, the English word ‘wrong’ could refer to a technical error, an error in judgement, or unethical behaviour. You might also need to say ‘I’m wrong’ in the present or ‘I was wrong’ in the past. And, importantly, each of these ideas will need a different word or construction in Spanish.
In addition, the opposite idea, ‘being right’, also needs careful attention when translated to Spanish.
So, in this article, you’ll learn all about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in Spanish including how to say ‘people’ are right or wrong, ‘things’ are right or wrong, how to say ‘I’ve got it right or wrong’ or ‘I’ve made an error’. And, ironically, you’ll also see how ‘being confused’ and ‘being clear’ require a difficult choice between a few important constructions.
How to say you are right or wrong in Spanish
Similar to how you can’t use ser or estar to say ‘I’m hot’ or ‘I’m cold’ in Spanish, you also can’t ‘be right’ in Spanish.
Instead, if you think someone has said something that is logically right or correct, you need to tell them they ‘have logic’ or they ‘have reason’ using the Spanish verb tener.
English: You’re right.
Español: Tienes razón.
If you want to do the opposite and tell someone they might have said something that was incorrect, you have two choices.
You can simply reverse the phrase from above:
English: You’re not right.
Español: No tienes razón.
Or, while it’s not possible to ‘be right’ in Spanish, you can tell someone that they ‘are wrong’ in Spanish as follows:
English: You’re wrong.
Español: Estás equivocado.
To decide between ‘no tienes razón‘ and ‘estás equivocado‘, you need to think about how polite you want to be.
If you want to politely tell someone they aren’t correct, you are much better off using ‘no tienes razón‘ because ‘estás equivocado‘ is much more direct.
Of course, just like English, it’s okay to say ‘I’m wrong’ with ‘estoy equivocado‘ because you aren’t going to offend yourself.
Here are some more examples:
English: She is wrong.
Español: Ella está equivocada.
English: You’re not correct and you know it.
Español: No tienes razón y lo sabes.
English: I’m sorry, I believe you are incorrect.
Español: Lo siento, creo que usted no tiene razón.
English: If I’m wrong about this, we are going to lose everything.
Español: Si estoy equivocado en esto, vamos a perder todo.
Note with this last example, you can say ‘wrong about’ with the Spanish preposition en.
How to say things are right or wrong
When it comes to things being right or wrong, you now have an important choice to make around whether an idea ‘is correct’ or whether an action, behaviour, or outcome is the ‘right thing’ to do.
If you are just talking about an idea, you have several options. You can say:
English: It’s true.
Español: Es verdad.
English: It is the truth.
Español: Es la verdad.
English: It’s true.
Español: Es cierto.
English: It’s correct / right.
Español: Es correcto.
Of course, you can easily negate any of the above sentences with no to form the opposite idea of being ‘incorrect’ or ‘untrue’.
In addition, you might also want to say that something was ‘right’ as in justified, or that something makes sense. For these ideas, you can use the following phrases:
English: It’s right / justified.
Español: Es justo.
English: It makes sense.
Español: Tiene sentido.
I find myself using this last phrase a lot in Spanish, either saying things do or don’t make sense. And, for fun, if you think that something really doesn’t make sense, you can use the following:
English: It doesn’t make any sense at all.
Español: No tiene sentido en absoluto.
In contrast, if you are talking about someone’s behaviour or the outcome of a big decision, you’ll need to use the following:
English: It’s the right thing.
Español: Es lo correcto.
English: What he did was the right thing.
Español: Lo que hizo fue lo correcto.
Slightly more colloquial, but extremely common, are the following phrases:
English: That’s right (That’s the way it is).
Español: Es así.
English: That’s right! (That is it!)
Español: ¡Eso es!
To understand this last phrase, imagine some asks “what is the name of that actress in the Spanish movie ‘Jamón Jamón’?”. Then after some thinking time, someone finally says “Penélope Cruz”. Then the person that asked the question could respond with “¡Eso es!” to indicate ‘yes that is it!’, ‘that is who I was thinking of’.
How to say you got it wrong (e.g. made an error)
If you want to say that you ‘were mistaken’ or that you had made an error in the past, there are two main ways you can do this. The first is:
English: I made an error.
Español: He cometido un error.
Take note that in English we ‘make’ errors but in Spanish, we don’t ‘hacer‘ errors, we ‘cometer‘ errors.
The second and even better way to say that you have made an error is:
English: I got it wrong.
Español: Me he equivocado.
Note that the reflexive verb equivocarse roughly translates to “being wrong”. This might make it tempting to use equivocarse in the present tense. But, in the present tense, equivocarse behaves differently to the phrases I included in the first section of the article on people being right and wrong. That is why I left this verb out of that section.
In the present tense, equivocarse introduces an element of doubt which means it is much better you use it to ask the question:
English: Am I wrong?
Español: ¿Me equivoco?
But, you don’t need to ask the question this way, you can just as easily ask ‘¿No tengo razón?‘ or ‘¿Estoy equivocado?‘. That’s why I suggest you generally avoid equivocarse in the present tense.
But, you’ll definitely want to use equivocarse in the past with either the present perfect tense or the past simple tense because this verb is most commonly used this way.
Moreover, you’ll want to avoid using the phrases from the first section of this article for talking about mistakes in the past. This is because it doesn’t really sound right to say ‘estuve equivocado‘ in Spanish.
Here are a few more examples:
English: Who was calling?
Español: ¿Quién te ha llamado?
English: No one, they had the wrong number (they got it wrong with the number).
Español: Nadie, se ha equivocado de número.
English: I was wrong about you (I got it wrong with you).
Español: Me equivoqué contigo.
How to say you got it right
In the positive case, if you want to say you have ‘got it right’, you also have a few options.
Firstly, if you are talking in the context of ‘understanding something correctly’, you can say:
English: You got it right!
Español: ¡Lo has entendido bien!
English: If I’ve got it right, you are going to give me the car for two extra days at no additional cost.
Español: Si lo he entendido bien, me darás el coche durante dos días más sin coste adicional.
Next, if you are talking in the context of ‘getting the right answer’, you can say:
English: I got the right answer.
Español: Tengo la respuesta correcta.
English: Which are the questions he answered correctly?
Español: ¿Cuáles son las preguntas que respondió correctamente?
English: He got questions 4, 5 and 6 correct (he answered questions 4, 5 and 6 correctly).
Español: Respondió a las preguntas 4, 5 y 6 correctamente.
Lastly, you might also want to say that you ‘did it right’ or you ‘did the right thing’. You can express these ideas as follows:
English: I got it right / I’ve done (it) well.
Español: Lo he hecho bien.
English: I did the right thing.
Español: Hice lo correcto.
Note this use of the direct object pronoun lo with correcto to mean ‘the right thing’. You can read more about this use and other important uses of lo here.
How to say you are confused
I mentioned earlier that there is an unkind irony in Spanish around confusion such that it is confusing to express your confusion.
In Spanish, you’ll find two adjectives confundido and confuso that both translate to the adjectives ‘confused’ and ‘confusing’ in English. You’ll also find the verb confundir which means ‘to confuse’.
In addition, the usage of these words varies quite a lot across the Spanish speaking world.
When I write these articles, I usually refer to a number of resources including online and offline dictionaries, forums, textbooks, frequency studies, my personal experience with the language, and I seldom publish an article without discussing it with one of my Spanish friends or colleagues, including natives from both Spain and Latin America.
And, after all of the research and conversations, this section was still particularly hard to write because I couldn’t get any clear consensus.
So, with this in mind, let’s dive into the details.
The word confundido is first and foremost the past participle of confundir. Moreover, if you search on the Diccionario de la lengua española (which is the official online dictionary produced by the Real Academia Española in Spain), you will only find confundido as a past participle. There isn’t an entry in the dictionary for confundido as an adjective.
This means that you can use confundido in a phrase relating to a past event, either with the verb confundir or as passive construction. For example:
English: That conversation confused me.
Español: Esa conversación me ha confundido.
English: He was mistaken for his twin brother.
Español: Fue confundido con su hermano gemelo.
This second example is particularly enlightening for one of the subtleties at play here: the difference between ‘mistaken’ and ‘confused’ in Spanish.
In English, you can easily swap ‘mistaken’ and ‘confused’ in this example with the twin brothers. But you can never use confuso in this context in Spanish.
In addition, despite the Real Academia Española not including an entry for it, you can use confundido as an adjective, and at least in Spain, it is best used as the translation of ‘mistaken’. For example,
English: I’m mistaken.
Español: Estoy confundido.
Moreover, in this context, confundido is synonymous with equivocado (noting the use of equivocado from earlier in the article).
In contrast, confuso only acts as an adjective in Spanish and means ‘confusing’ in the sense of ‘perplexing’, ‘baffling’, or ‘bewildering’. For example:
English: I’m confused (perplexed, baffled or lost).
Español: Estoy confuso.
English: I think he is really confused.
Español: Creo que está muy confuso.
But, this use of confuso is dependent on the Spanish speaking region. And, in Latin America, it sounds strange to use confuso with people, instead, they use confuso with things (discussed in the next section) and only use confundido for people. For example:
English: I’m confused (in Latin American).
Español: Estoy confundido.
As you can see, it is confusing to say you are confused in Spanish because you will need to decide if you want to say you are mistaken or confused, and you’ll need to remember which adjective to use based on where you are in the Spanish speaking world.
How to say you clearly understand (e.g not confused)
Now for the positive or opposite case of ‘confused’.
If you are in the opposite state to ‘being confused’, in English, you generally say things like ‘I understand’, ‘I’ve got it’, or you refer to the idea itself of ‘being clear’ or ‘making sense’ (discussed in the next section).
In Spanish, this same thing happens. For example:
English: I understand / I’ve got it.
Español: Lo entiendo.
In addition, in English, we can also use the word ‘clear’ in certain phrases such as ‘are we clear?, ‘Have I made myself clear?’, or ‘I’m clear on what I need to do’.
Note that we generally avoid a simple ‘I’m clear’ in the context of understanding because this could mean ‘I have a clear schedule’, or if you were reversing a truck ‘Am I clear?’, ‘Yes, you’re clear’.
In Spanish, you also want to avoid a straight ‘estoy claro‘, instead there are a few phrases that work better:
English: I’m clear on what I’m going to do.
Español: Tengo claro lo que voy a hacer.
English: Have I made myself clear?
Español: ¿Me he explicado bien?
How to say things are confusing
An easier way to say you are confused is to refer to the idea itself.
Instead of saying ‘I’m confused’, you can say ‘it is confusing’.
In both Latin American and Spain, you can say something is confusing with the adjective confuso, or the verb confundir behaving like a verb like gustar.
English: It’s confusing.
Español: Es confuso.
English: It’s confusing to me.
Español: Me confunde.
English: This idea is confusing us.
Español: Nos confunde esta idea.
How to say things are clear
For the case of something ‘being clear’, there is one last final hurdle we need to cross to wrap up this article.
Should you say ‘está claro‘ or ‘es claro‘?
Well, this is probably the least clear idea in the whole article because Spanish natives and even Spanish natives that teach Spanish can’t reach a common conclusion on this.
So, I’m going to throw my own theory out there and then you can test it out on your adventures throughout the Spanish speak world.
The Spanish word claro can be an adjective or an adverb.
When claro acts an adverb, it means ‘clearly’, and in certain phrases is fully interchangeable with claramente. For example:
English: Can you please explain the solution to me clearly and slowly?
Español: ¿Me puede explicar claro y lento la solución?
Español: ¿Me puede explicar claramente y lentamente la solución?
When you use claro as an adverb and you want to combine it with the verb ‘to be’, then you need to use estar.
Therefore, after asking the previous question, if you got a really clear explanation, you could say:
English: The explanation is clear.
Español: La explicación está clara.
In this sentence, you are saying that the explanation is ‘clearly understood’, ‘clearly explained’ or ‘explained in a clear way’.
Then when you use claro as an adjective, you need to combine it with ser. After your clear explanation of the solution, you could also say:
English: The solution is clear.
Español: La solución es clara.
Now, in this sentence, you are saying that the solution is ‘clear’, ‘simple’, ‘unclouded’, or ‘straightforward’.
For less ambiguity, when you aren’t talking about abstract ideas like explanations and solutions, but instead you are talking about physical things, it is more obvious that you need to use claro as an adjective and hence use ser. For example:
English: After they removed the trees, the view of the mountains from our house is very clear.
Español: Después de quitar los árboles, la vista de las montañas desde nuestra casa es muy clara.
English: The path through the forest is clear.
Español: El camino por el bosque es claro.
Then, back to using claro as an adverb, in the context of expressing verification of facts or observations, you should again use claro with estar. For example,
English: It’s clear that we’ve made a mistake.
Español: Está claro que nos hemos equivocado.
English: It is clear that we need more food for the party tonight.
Español: Está claro que nos hace falta más comida para la fiesta esta noche.
As a reminder to use estar, you could think of these phrases as ‘clearly, we have made a mistake…’ or ‘clearly, we need more food…’.
While it isn’t fun to admit you are wrong, mistaken or confused, if you want to learn to use these phrases then at some point you will have to put them to use.
Pick a few phrases such as ‘es claro‘ and ‘está claro‘, or ‘me equivoqué‘ and ‘estoy equivocado‘ to see if you can use them well in your next Spanish conversation.
How else can you use these words and phrases to express being ‘clear’, ‘wrong’, ‘mistaken’, or ‘confused’ in Spanish?