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  5. Do you eat “papa” or “papas?”

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lisa4duolingo

Do you eat “papa” or “papas?”


At least one of these potatoes is no longer in this form. It has been eaten.

Sometimes words are like potato chips – it is hard to stop at just one – and when I realized my reply to a user in another discussion thread had grown larger than a Russet potato in a field of small yellow ones, I decided to break it off and plant it in its own discussion thread. Below is my reply to generalmola who wrote:

Papas should be accepted since the noun is plural.

which must have been written after getting the translation for, ‟She eats chicken but she does not eat potatoes,” incorrect. (The translation given was, “Ellas come pollo pero no come papa.”)

My reply to generalmola begins here:

I am actually a bit surprised that "papas" isn't accepted as a correct answer, so much so that I searched Google's Spanish books corpus as well as Google pages and Twitter for "come papas" and "come papa." This is what I found:


No data for these two phrases appears before 1900, so years ranging from 1800-1900 were cropped out of the image.

Based off of the data you see above, I’m guessing that "come papas" shows a higher frequency because it also includes "come papa" whereas "come papa" may exclude "come papas." The search tools for Google's Ngram don't allow for elimination of words, but Google's advanced search does make that an easily accessible feature.

Despite the search limitations, Google and Twitter pages clearly show that "come papa" is more common, but "come papas" isn't so uncommon that it should be considered incorrect. If you feel strongly about this the next time "come papas" is marked wrong, generalmola, I would report it.

Addendum

After writing the above, I later became curious as to whether or not English uses "potato" more than "potatoes" in this context. Previously, I was under the assumption that the plural was the more common form of expression, and I was correct. See for yourself below:


The Google Ngram view of "eats potato" vs. "eats potatoes” vs. “eats potato chips." It is quite interesting, but fitting, that prior to the 1900s "potato," as a singular noun, was rarely seen in books. I initially did this search without "potato chips" but was curious to see if the increase in the singular of “potato” coincided with the advent of the potato chip, so I ran the search again, and clearly, it does.

My attempts to observe usage patterns for these two forms of potato (the singular and plural), did not take into account phrases such as "eats potato" chips, and who knows how many other possibilities I haven't thought up. Clearly, it is difficult to use these tools with precision, but they can still give you some insight as to how people may be using words and phrases.

As for actual common usage, I would venture to bet that in spoken form most English speakers say "eat potatoes" and that the phrase "eat potato," though used from time to time, has a slightly different meaning. It appears to be just the opposite in Spanish, but I still think both "papa" and "papas" should be considered correct answers for this prompt.

But what do you think? If you are a native speaker of Spanish or fluent or near fluent, what do you say – “come papa” or “come papas?” And if you do say “come papa” are you usually referring to one potato, more than one, or the collective, uncountable notion of a potato in general? Let us know by posting a comment!

May 5, 2016

11 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sainio

For the record, the course does accept both "papa" and "papas" as translations for this sentence, though that may not have been the case when original comment was written. (We also accept both "patata" and "patatas"..... figured I'd better get that one in before a "papa vs. patata" controversy breaks out. =) )

When the sentence is used in the opposite direction, we accept both "potato" and "potatoes" in the English translations.

May 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lisa4duolingo

Gracias for your quick reply, sainio. Clearing things up before unnecessary debates ensue is always a good thing, so, again, thank you for stepping up before any such discussion took root.

P.S. I notice you're still keeping one step ahead of me in Turkish. Tebrikler!

May 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/John00625

You need the 'a' article. It's El come un papa. not El come papa. But with the plural, then El come papas is correct because he eats potatos.

which must have been written after getting the translation for, ”She eats chicken but she does not eat potatoes,” incorrect. (The translation given was, “Ellas come pollo pero no come papa.”)

The correct translation for "ellas comeN pollo pero no comeN papas" is They(fem) eat chicken but they don't eat potatos.

Yo como un papa OR Yo como papas

Tu/Usted comes un papa OR Tu comes papas

El/Ella come un papa OR El/ella come papas.

Ellos/Ellas comen un papa OR Ellos/Ellas comen papas.

To answer your question, both are correct, but you need the article between come and papa and come papas is the plural form for SOME conjugations.

PS If i misspell anything in spanish (or english) or have bad grammar, please let me know! i can speak and read spanish but write in it poorly :p

May 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lisa4duolingo

Have you tried reading the discussion from which this post was launched, onthehype25? You may want to read that first. It's a bit of a long discussion, but generalmola's post is the first in the thread. Even if you decide not to, this post is more for gathering comments about usage, something really only native, fluent or near fluent speakers can answer.

I realize your bio states that you are bilingual from birth, but your statements contradict what others have said in that thread in addition to what the course developers have established as a grammatically correct sentence for teaching. So, I wasn't questioning whether or not the sentence was grammatically correct or for help on how to correct it. Also, for everyone's situational awareness, Spanish doesn't always use an article before a noun.

Thank you for contributing, though, onthehype25, and best wishes as you continue your study of languages here at duolingo.

May 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/John00625

It can differ from country to country, I'm half peruvian and that's how we say it in Peru. (I'm in the US currently now though) and yeah, I am really bad at writing in Spanish but I can speak it :p

May 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/John00625

And I finished reading the discussion linked above and I understand what you mean now. Papas should be accepted.

May 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PolyglotCiro

una papa

May 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/John00625

whoops , as i said

PS If i misspell anything in spanish (or english) or have bad grammar, please let me know! i can speak and read spanish but write in it poorly :p

May 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KevinJacks20

"Come papa" makes sense in English too (Hey dad, come here). So that may jack with your google search results.

May 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lisa4duolingo

Good point, KevinJacks20. I almost went with "comemos papa" and then at the last minute decided to keep it closer to the original prompt. Nevertheless, my results should be fairly accurate because I'm pretty sure I only searched Spanish pages, but I will go back to my notes to confirm that. Thank you for pointing that out. Typically, I am quite forthcoming with my methodology but don't know that such detail would be all that welcome in duolingo posts already on the long side, so in this forum I tend to omit them. Your comment emphasizes the importance of keeping good notes!

May 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lisa4duolingo

Reviewed my notes. Search was conducted as follows:

Google pages were filtered by language -- Spanish

Twitter results were not filtered by language. I opted against it because the numbers were so small and I wasn't thinking that "come papa" could also be an English phrase. This is a reminder that parameters should always be kept the same even if it takes an extra click of the button and/or you don't think they're going to make much of a difference. Interestingly enough, the results were quite different after adding a filter for Spanish. The results, in pie chart form, are below:

Truth be told, I initially had thought of using "comemos papa(s)," but at the last minute opted to go with "come papa" because it was closer to the original prompt. I violated the rule of "Go with your initial instinct first." I really should have used it because even with adding a Spanish filter, I can't rule out that some Spanish pages contain English and vice versa. Though "comemos papa(s)" could also be found on an English page, the chances are much less likely. Out of curiosity, I went back and ran "comemos papa(s)" through the Google search engine again, using the same parameters as those used yesterday. Take a look:

I can't attribute the difference entirely to the English phrase "come papa(s)," but clearly something is happening when the voice changes from third person singular to first person plural. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that while "papa" can sometimes refer to a class of food, when used as a singular entity -- papa -- the notion of a bunch of people eating a single potato would be rather rare. For 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person voices (I, you, he/she), this wouldn't be an issue.

Regardless, I think I've spent enough time attempting to dissect this potato, so I'm going to get back to learning Spanish, but a big thank you goes out to all of you who took the time to add comments to this post.

May 6, 2016
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