'unos cuantos' and 'poco'
how do i know i need to use 'unos cuantos' and not 'poco'? is there a real different between them, i mean that if i use 'pocos' in a sentence could someone say that i should have used 'unos cuantos'?
There is a distinction. I use "unos cuantos" as "a few". Example: Tengo unos cuantos libros. I have a few books. I use "pocos" as "few". Example: Tengo pocos libros. I have few books.
There is also a distinction as to the amount. "Unos cuantos" can mean something like, "Do you have many books?" And you answer, "I have a few." as you point to a large pile of books. You have surprised the questioner by saying you have a few when, in fact, you have more than he expected. It can also mean "Quite a few" as in "Tengo unos cuantos libros." meaning "I have quite a few books." meaning more than just a few. So, the meaning of "unos cuantos" can be quite variable. "Pocos" would be "few" in all cases. But, I am not an hispanohablante so beware! lol
You beat me to it! That's what I get for getting a cup of coffee and THEN settling down to write a response :)
pocos = few
unos cuantos = a few
Hay pocas personas en Alaska. There are few people in Alaska.
Hay unas cuantas personas en Alaska. There are a few people in Alaska.
The difference is subtle, but pocos puts the emphasis on how few, whereas unos cuantos is a bit more optimistic.
You have to ask yourself this question: Can you count it (the noun)? If the answer is yes, then use unos cuantos, unas cuantas, unos pocos (in plural), unas pocas (in plural)
- Tengo unas cuantas monedas (I have a few coins)
- Tengo unos cuantos zapatos (I have a few shoes)
- Tengo unas cuantas revistas (I have a few magazines)
- Tiene unos pocos periódicos viejos (He has some old newspapers)
- Tenemos unas pocas cosas en la casa (We have some stuff in the house)
But if you can't count this noun that you are talking about, then use "poco", "poca".
Some examples of things that you can't count are: queso (cheese), leche (milk), dinero (money), as in:
- ¿Tienes un poco de leche? (do you have some milk?)
- ¿Gustas un poco de queso? (would you like some cheese?)
- Él tiene poco dinero (he has little money)
I like this explanation. It makes sense to me and helps me wrap my brain around it when speaking.