Today we learn the difference between countable and uncountable nouns in Spanish and see how to properly used them in a sentence. Get a look at the blog of El Rincón del Tándem Spanish school to learn more about Spanish words.
As in other languages, in Spanish, nouns are split into two categories: countable and uncountable. So, let’s see what differentiates one category from another and the reason why it is so important to distinguish countable from uncountable nouns to avoid grammar mistakes.
First of all, we should know that countable names refers to things and objects that can be counted. Uncountable names, also known in English as noun-count nouns or mass-nouns, refers to things that cannot be counted.
In Spanish, uncountable names usually includes specific groups:
– Liquids: agua, café, aceite, cerveza, leche, etc.
– Abstract concepts: paz, justicia, amor, paciencia, tolerancia, tiempo, oscuridad, etc.
– Characteristics and qualities: belleza, amabilidad, coraje, etc.
– Other things that cannot be divided into unit: harina, mantequilla, luz, azúcar, etc.
On the contrary, countable names include objects and entities that can be divided into units.
For instance: book, apple, tree, city, cat, etc.
Therefore, due to this main difference, uncountable and countable nouns work differently. Let’s see how to properly use them in a sentence by following some simple grammar rules:
Singular and plural form
To begin with, countable nouns exist both in singular and in plural form, while uncountable names are normally used only in the singular.
COUNTABLE: manzana/manzanas, personas/personas, concierto/conciertos, etc.
UNCOUNTABLE: coraje, valor, inteligencia, agua, tiempo, etc.
Article after the verb
Countable and uncountable names follow different rules when they are placed after a verb, working either as a direct or indirect object.
In the case of countable nouns, an article (definite or indefinite) or a number must go before:
Paco tiene dos coches = Paco has two cars
¿Me pasas un bolígrafo, por favor? = Could you pass me a pen, please?
Uncountable names that follow a verb, never take an article:
Estas plantas necesitan agua = These plants needs water
Estas galletas llevan leche y mantequilla = These biscuits contains milks and butter
Quantifying and measuring
To quantify countable nouns, we can use quantitative adjectives and numeral adjectives:
Hay muchas personas en la plaza = There are many people in the square
He comprado cinco manzanas y cuatro peras = I bought five apples and four pears
Although they cannot be counted, uncountable nouns can be quantified by using indefinite quantitative adjectives (mucho, poco, bastante, ect.)
Lucas tiene mucho tiempo libre en el fin de semana = Lucas has much free time in the weekend
Furthermore, when it comes with uncountable names that refer to food or liquids, we can measure them by unit of measures (kilo, litro, etc.) or referring to containers and packaging.
Let’see see some examples:
LITRO(s): de leche, aceite, cerveza, vino, etc.
KILO(S): de pan, pasta, harina, etc.
BOTELLA(S): de zumo, aceite, vinagre, vino, etc.
LATA(S): de atún, sardinas, cerveza, etc.
PAQUETE(S): de arroz, sal, azúcar, etc.
LONCHA(S): de jamón, de queso, etc.
COPA(S): de vino, de ginebra, etc.
Finally, in some cases uncountable names are used like countable in spoken language. That means, that we can find them with an article or a number, like in the examples below:
Siempre tomo un café después de la comida = I always have a coffee after lunch
Me gustaría tomar una cerveza = I would like to have a beer
In theses cases, we are omitting the unit of measure (a cup of coffee and a bottle of beer).
We hope you have enjoyed our blog about countable and uncountable names and learnt more about Spanish words. Our Spanish school El Rincón del Tándem invites you to keep working on your Spanish and take advantage of your spare time at home.
Although our Spanish school in temporarily closed, we continue teaching Spanish online. Get in contact with us to know more about this option.
Till the next blog!