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Countable and uncountable


Excuse me. I would like to ask about the nouns. In Spanish, are there uncountable nouns? For example, cheese in Spanish is queso. And it is uncountable in English. Is it the same as it in Spanish? Can I say "los quesos"?

I am new here. I am so happy to find this great website. And nice to see you guys here. Thanks for your reply.

updated FEB 21, 2010
posted by Carrie0328
HI carrie, but you would probably want to ask for a piece of cheese: un trozo de queso, una ración de queso:) - 00494d19, FEB 21, 2010

6 Answers


Welcome to the forum Carrie. In spanish you can say los quesos, yes, it is countable.

Uncountable nouns are for example: agua, arena, dinero...

updated FEB 21, 2010
posted by Zizoun
Thank you so much! - Carrie0328, FEB 21, 2010

I believe cheese is an uncountable noun. Like milk where you have to state a volume or weight (a gallon/quart/liter, etc.) of milk; you need to say a pound/kilogram, wheel, etc. of cheese. (you don't say give me 2 cheese)

another example: (glass/ bucket/ gallon, etc. of water)

Like most uncountable nouns the plural exists to differentiate between types or classes. (limburger, roquefort, etc.=different cheeses).

rye, wheat, oat, fortified, Italian, French, leavened, unleavened, = different breads, but bread is uncountable. (You don't say give me 2 bread, but two loaves of bread).

updated FEB 21, 2010
edited by 0074b507
posted by 0074b507
I agree that cheese would be an uncountable noun. - --Mariana--, FEB 21, 2010

There is one little trick in spanish to recognize when is uncountable and when it is. If you can put the noun in plural and it sounds ok, it is countable.

For example, you go to the shop and you say, "ponme dos quesos" its completely correct. And they will give you two full units of cheese.

But in the same shop you can't order "ponme dos leches" you have to say "ponme dos botellas de leche".

Anyway I will put you a little description of queso and bread to get it cleared.

Sustantivos contables e incontables

Algunos sustantivos, como queso o pan, por ejemplo, se pueden interpretar como contables en unos casos y como no contables en otros. Así, queso es no contable en Me gusta el queso, y es contable en Compré tres quesos.

Some nouns, like cheese or bread, for example, can be interpreted by countable in some cases and by uncountable in another times. So, cheese is uncountable in I like the cheese, and countable in I bought three "chesses"

In this case the question was if its possible to say "los quesos" and indeed it is smile

updated FEB 21, 2010
edited by Zizoun
posted by Zizoun
Just out of curiosity, if I asked for 3 cheeses, how much would I get? What is a unit of cheese? Cheese is sold by the wheel, but a householder would certainly not want to buy an entire wheel of cheese. - 0074b507, FEB 21, 2010
Well, I guess that depends how much you like cheese :D But here in spain a wheel of cheese is normally around 1kg xD - Zizoun, FEB 21, 2010
I disagree that you can simply say "I'd like three cheeses." The vendor would ask what type of cheese and how much. - --Mariana--, FEB 21, 2010
But that would be the same as saying, i would like to have three units of cheese, is the same at the end... is not what the vendor asks, is about noun being countable or not. - Zizoun, FEB 21, 2010
Think it works for pre-cutted cheese? like saying give me 3 units of this cheese (pointing at units of 100gr) - Alrisaera, FEB 21, 2010
Precisely, my point. You must know/state or somehow convey the unit or volume desired, because it is uncountable. - 0074b507, FEB 21, 2010

You just have defined the size of the glass when asking for a glass of water. - qfreed 1

Water is different . You cannot say:

Deme un agua. Actually you do say it, LOL , you know , we are weirdos, what can I say? raspberryBut it means: deme una botella de agua.

However, when you go into a shop and ask for a cheese,:

Deme un queso por favor.

¿Un queso entero o medio queso?

No un queso entero.

You do not mention the measurement or anything.

updated FEB 21, 2010
posted by 00494d19
Do different merchants sell cheeses of different sizes or is a cheese a standard size? In the US bar shaped packages of cheese are commonly sold, but by weight. - 0074b507, FEB 21, 2010
What I am asking is: if you ask for queso entero do you know how much cheese that you are getting? How are they priced if there is no standard or weight/volume basis? - 0074b507, FEB 21, 2010
We had to struggle to get the FDA to manadate package size wts. so that comparisions on price/wt. could be compared. That avoids overpricing by changing packaging sizes. - 0074b507, FEB 21, 2010

Tricky, in Spanish queso can actually be countable or uncountable. You can say:

Quiero un queso (countable) quiero un trozo de queso (uncountable).

May be it is not customary to buy a whole cheese in your countries, but it is in Spain, I usually buy: medio queso.

Me encanta el quesogrin

Actually the cheese shown below, you can only buy it either as a whole or half a cheese.

alt text

updated FEB 21, 2010
posted by 00494d19
Interesting. I think that is still an arbirary unit of measurement, no different than asking for a half pound, quater pound, etc. You just have defined the size of the glass when asking for a glass of water. - 0074b507, FEB 21, 2010
Is there a relationship between a wheel of cheese and this mini wheel in Spain? A set diameter, thickness, etc.? - 0074b507, FEB 21, 2010
Hmmm Torta del Casar I love that one, that cheese is creamy inside. So once you open it, would be... uncontable! hehe :D - Zizoun, FEB 21, 2010

Look, in a spanish shop there are standing there units of cheese like this one.

If you just say "dame 3 quesos" you will get 3 of those, simply as that hehe.

updated FEB 21, 2010
posted by Zizoun
Exactly. The unit or volume must be known, just like asking for a glass of water, because the noun is uncountable without providing a unit of measurment. - 0074b507, FEB 21, 2010
Ok, an easier example for english people. You go to a bar and you order a beer, for us here you go to a shop and you order "un queso". The vendor will ask you what kind of beer and how big right?? same with the cheese - Zizoun, FEB 21, 2010
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