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Quick answer
"Una" is a noun which is often translated as "one", and "unas cuantas" is a phrase which is often translated as "a few". Learn more about the difference between "una" and "unas cuantas" below.
A feminine noun is almost always used with feminine articles and adjectives (e.g. la mujer bonita, la luna llena).
1. (time)
a. one
Es la una de la tarde.It's one in the afternoon.
b. one o'clock
Tengo una cita a la una.I have an appointment at one o'clock.
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unas cuantas
A phrase is a group of words commonly used together (e.g once upon a time).
1. (adjective)
a. a few
Había unas cuantas personas dentro de la iglesia, pero la mayoría esperaban a la novia fuera.There were a few people inside the church, but most of them were waiting for the bride outside.
b. some
Han sobrado unas cuantas croquetas. ¿Por qué no te las llevas?There are some croquettes left. Why don't you take them with you?
2. (pronoun)
a. a few
¿Has estado muchas veces en París? - Solo unas cuantas.Have you been to Paris many times? - Just a few.
b. some
¿Se han secado todas las plantas? - Todas no, pero sí unas cuantas.Have all the plants dried up? - Not all of them, but some have.
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
¿Cabemos todas en el minibús? - No, unas cuantas tendremos que tomar un taxi.Is there room for all of us in the minibus? - No, some of us will have to take a taxi.
No todas las madres asistieron a la reunión de la escuela, solo unas cuantas.Not all of the mothers attended the school meeting, just a few of them.
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