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Coffee Kitten July 28, 2012 08:49 AM

Confusion: equivocado, equivoca, falso, mal
I came across a number of Spanish words which mean "wrong", and I don't know when to use which. These words are:
  • equivocado
  • equivoca
  • falso
  • inexacto
  • mal / malo
Here are some English sentences that I've translated from a textbook. The book simply recommended which word to use, but I don't understand how to make the distinction.

* Three of them are wrong.
Tres de ellos están equivocados.
(The phrase "están equivocados" was recommended; I also don't get why "estar" should be used in this case. Shouldn't it be "ser"?)

* Some firms always give wrong weights in their declarations.
Algunas empresas siempre dan pesos falsos en sus declaraciones.
(The term "inexacto" was also recommended.)

* He ordered the wrong article.
Él pid*o el articulo falso.
(I just made a guess that "falso" is to be used here.)

* You are wrong.
Usted se equivoca.
(The text simply recommended to use "se equivoca." I don't understand why...)

Meanwhile, an online translator suggested "mal" or "malo."

Any help in clarifying this is appreciated. Thanks in advance!

aleCcowaN July 28, 2012 09:27 AM

es correcto
está equivocado

Think of that like there's just one way (of a few) to be right and millions to be wrong, and what is wrong is in need of being corrected, so it's a temporary state. Another way to "feel it" is: correct is stable, wrong is in a state of flow.

wrong :ne: falso (fake)

Algunas empresas dan siempre pesos erróneos en sus declaraciones.

equivocarse ---> to make a mistake | to consider one thing to be another one

You are wrong (Literally: "Está/s errado" -you have considered some wrong notion to be right-) ---> Se/te equivoca/s -you are considering some wrong notion to be right- (a less abrupt -in Spanish- version of the previous one).

Three of them are wrong (Literally: "Tres de ellos/as están mal" speaking of things -items, answers, etc.-; "Tres de ellos/as cometen un error" for people) ---> Tres están equivocados/as (a less abrupt version -in Spanish of the previous ones).

Compare "You're wrong!" with "You are mistaken". "Equivocar/se" offers a theory about mixing up the right item or piece of information with the wrong one.

Coffee Kitten July 28, 2012 07:24 PM

Hmm, I'm not sure if I got the right idea. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

So should I use "errado" for the following instances?
  • You are wrong. There are only eight planets in the Solar System. Pluto is no longer considered a planet.
  • You are wrong. His wife is an engineer, not a doctor.
  • You are wrong. This cup contains sugar, not salt.
And should I use "equivocarse" for the following instances?
  • You are wrong. That planet is Mercury, not Mars.
  • You are wrong. The lady in blue is not Engr. Lopez. She is Dr. Santos. Engr. Lopez is the lady in green.
  • You are wrong. This is the salt shaker, not the pepper shaker.
And should I use "mal/malo" and "erróneo" for the following instances?
  • This is a wrong answer.
  • This is a wrong word.
  • This is the wrong person.
Thank you very much!

aleCcowaN July 29, 2012 06:54 AM

"Equivocado/a/s" is the right choice in all of them, if not the right translation, the polite one, as I explained above. In Spanish you don't tell people they are wrong unless you want to be impolite.

About the last group, "mal" and "malo" is not a choice because it changes the meaning.

This is a wrong answer:

Ésta es una respuesta equivocada ---> La capital de las Filipinas es Ciudad Quezón.
Ésta es una respuesta mala ---> Si gano Miss Universo voy a llevarle alegr*a a todos los niños pobres del mundo.

This is a wrong word:

Ésta es una palabra equivocada ---> puerter*a
Ésta es una palabra mala/una mala palabra ---> m*****

This is the wrong person:

Ésta es la persona equivocada ---> Bettina Williams (Whoopi Goldberg look-alike)
Ésta es una mala persona ---> Hitler

Coffee Kitten July 29, 2012 10:23 AM

I think I get it now. Thank you! :)

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