Cuanto, Cuanta, Cuantos, and Cuantas: Without The Accent
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In our last post we covered the various uses of the Spanish interrogatives cuánto, cuánta, cuántos, and cuántas, whose primary use is to express or ask about quantities. In this post we’ll cover the related words cuanto, cuanta, cuantos, and cuantas, which have a variety of uses depending on where they’re placed in a sentence.
In addition to clues from how they’re each used, the obvious way to tell the difference between these two sets of cuánto vs cuanto words is whether or not the as have an accent: the four versions of cuánto are Spanish interrogatives we saw in our last post, whereas the four versions of cuanto are the focus of this post.
Without a tilde, or accent, the words cuanto, cuanta, cuantos, and cuantas can be used in a variety of ways. Note that a straight translation to English is not always possible, since it really depends on how the word is used in context. What’s most important is to consider the intent of the word:
- as a pronoun
- as an adjective
- as a noun
- within certain idiomatic expressions
Let’s get started and look at each of these uses of cuanto without an accent in the following sections!
Cuanto as a Pronoun
Relative pronouns are words like whom, which, those, however, and whomever that replace a noun or aforementioned concept so that you don’t have to replace it. In these cases, cuanto will change in gender and number to reflect the noun it replaces.
- Que entren cuantos quieran. – However many people want to come in, can come in.
- Cuantos hicieron la tarea no fracasarán el examen. – Whoever did the homework will not fail the exam.
In these examples, cuantos is a pronoun representing a group of people. In the first example, it represents those who want to come in, and in the second example it represents those who did the homework.
Another pronoun usage is with unos cuantos, meaning a few. This form will always be used in the plural, but it should also change gender according to the people it’s referring to.
- Todos intentaron, pero solamente unos cuantos lograron entrar. – Everyone tried, but only a few managed to get in.
Cuanto as an Adjective
As we mentioned above, unos cuantos can mean a few. “A few” can be a pronoun, as it was used above, or it can also be an adjective. When unos cuantos is used as an adjective, it should change in gender not according to the noun it’s replacing, but rather according to the noun it’s modifying, which will always be the noun directly following it.
- Ella tiene unas cuantas preguntas sobre la presentación. – She has a few questions about the presentation.
Cuantos can also be used as a relative adjective when it goes right before a noun and means “however many.” Remember that because cuanto is an adjective referring to a noun, it will change to modify the noun that it precedes.
- He ido a cuanto restaurante me han recomendado. – I’ve been to all the restaurants they recommended to me. – I’ve been to however many restaurants that were recommended to me.
- Comparte cuanto tiempo libre tengas con tus hijos. – Share as much free time as you can with your kids. – Share however much free time you get with your kids.
- Te aconsejo tomar cuantas oportunidades te ofrezcan. – I advise you to take as many opportunities as you’re offered. – I advise you to take however many opportunities you’re offered.
Cuanto as a Noun
With the article el in front, cuanto can become a noun. Specifically, el cuanto means “the how much” or “the how many,” the same way that in English you might refer to your reason as “the why.” In this use the form never changes to feminine or plural, so you’ll only ever see it as el cuanto:
- Se saben el cuanto pero no se saben el cuando. – They know how many, but they don’t know when.
Cuanto in Idiomatic Expressions
Sometimes cuanto without a tilde can be used in an expression to mean different phrases. Here are a the most common idiomatic phrases with cuanto:
En cuanto a – In regard to, In terms of, As far as
- En cuanto a tu aumento de sueldo, tendré que pensarlo. – In regard to your raise, I’ll have to think about it.
En cuanto antes – The sooner (i.e., the sooner the better)
- La presentación es para la próxima semana, pero en cuanto antes la hagamos, mejor. – The presentation is for next week, but the sooner we do it, the better.
En cuanto – No sooner, Once, As soon as
- En cuanto llegue a casa, te llamo. – As soon as I get home, I’ll call you.
En tanto en cuanto – Insofar as, To the extent that
- El presidente tiene poder en tanto en cuanto es justo. – The president has power insofar as he is just.
Cuanto, cuanta, cuantos, and cuantas are all used to talk about quantity, with a number of specific uses depending on where they’re placed within a sentence. These unaccented words can therefore appear as pronouns or adjectives, as a noun, or within a handful of idiomatic expressions. It’s important to keep these uses distinct from the accented forms of cuánto used as Spanish interrogatives.
We started this post off by considering the different forms of cuanto as pronouns, where these words replace their nouns entirely. Translations varied between versions of however many, or a few for the two plural versions of unos cuantos.
We then saw how to use the four forms of cuanto as adjectives, where these words precede a noun to give it some relative quantity. In this use, the translations also become versions of as much as or however many, and a few for the two plural versions of unos cuantos.
We saw how to use the singular masculine form of el cuanto as a noun to express “the how much” or “the how many.”
Finally, we saw an assortment of idiomatic expressions based around the unaccented forms of cuanto, cuanta, cuantos, and cuantas, with meanings like as soon as, as much as, as soon as possible, and more.
We hope this post has been useful for showing the various uses of cuanto, cuanta, cuantos, and cuantas, and particularly for considering the various ways you might translate their use into English. Fortunately they’re all used for expressing quantity in different ways, so it’s just a matter of practice to work them the right way into your sentences.