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How to use mucho and poco with nouns

Alejandro Navarro • Jan 2, 2023 • 2 minutes
Updated Oct 9, 2023
How to use mucho and poco with nouns
The Graf Method for Spanish Language

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In this volume, we discuss the alphabet, definite and indefinite articles, and verbs ser and estar, among other topics.

As we move through our shared times, those of us born a few decades ago try to share our cultural references with the younger ones among us. The persistence of Will E. Coyote is lost to many of them, for example, as are the many sketches and characters of Sesame Street, en español, Plaza Sesamo. 

Count von Count, en español, El Conde de Contar, was a vampire obsessed with counting. He sang in a deep, menacing voice, and he sang either about numbers or about counting. That was it. 

As kids, we learned how to count, then how to do our basic operations and then we moved on to bigger problems. At the same time, we started dealing with the concept of non-count nouns and the proper way of quantifying, understanding, and expressing certain things. 

At their core, non-count nouns are an abstraction, a shorthand version of something that may well be measured and counted in units: 9 semanas, 850 metros cuadrados, 150 millones de dólares, 100 camisetas, 50 pantalones, 30 chaquetas, 400 pares de zapatos y 37 sombreros. 

Each one of these units can be expressed as an abstract or generic term: tiempo, espacio, dinero y ropa, or time, space, money, and clothes. Instead of using numbers, which are not always available to us, as we don’t always know what the square area of a place is, or how many pieces of clothing a person has, what the specific bank account balance for a person is or similar information. 

What we can do is observe, make an assessment, use our non-countable nouns and make statements that convey whether we are dealing with a lot or a little of something. 

El apartamento tiene un área de 850 metros cuadrados. El apartamento tiene mucho espacio. 

Pedro tiene 150 millones de dólares. Pedro tiene mucho dinero. 

Juan tiene 100 camisetas, 50 pantalones, 30 chaquetas, 400 pares de zapatos y 37 sombreros. Juan tiene mucha ropa.  

Tengo 9 semanas para leer El viejo y el mar. Tengo mucho tiempo para leer un libro de 127 páginas. 

Other concepts such as luck, fear, anger, trust, certainty - suerte, miedo, rabia, confianza, certeza - simply cannot be measured, and we simply use mucho and poco to describe them. And we obviously adjust for gender, mucha and poca. 

Here are some more examples: 

- En Colombia comen mucho arroz. 

- Estados Unidos consume mucha gasolina. 

- Juan mira mucha televisión. 

- Lupe come mucha pizza. 

- Tomás toma mucho café. 

- El aire acondicionado consume mucha electricidad. 

- Por la mañana hay mucha niebla. 

- La familia de Lucía tiene mucha tierra. 

- Ayer cayó mucha nieve. 

- María tiene mucha fuerza. 

- Josefa tiene mucho sueño.

- Los británicos tienen poca confianza en Liz Truss. 

- Rosa tiene mucha suerte. 

- Muchas personas tienen mucha rabia. 

- No tengo mucha certeza de lo que ocurrió entre ellos. 

- Ayer hizo mucho frío. 

- En Barranquilla, Colombia hace mucho calor. 

- Julia toma mucha agua. 

Notice how you can measure temperature, -7 Fahrenheit would be Mucho frío and 105 Fahrenheit would be Mucho calor. You don’t need a thermometer to tell you that it’s cold or hot, but an interesting thing about the adjectives mucho and poco (and their feminine versions mucha and poca) is that they are relative to whoever is speaking. 

For the common person, spending 5.78 million dollars on a home is… mucho dinero. For Amazon founder Jeff Bezos this is 10% of what he has reportedly spent on luxury properties across the US. Bear in mind that he can only sleep in one place at a time. Para Jeff, 5.78 millones es… poco dinero. 

Así es la vida.  

Alejandro Navarro
Alejandro Navarro

Alejandro Navarro is a former Spanish language instructor at Berges Institute.

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