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  5. "Grandfather and grandmother …

"Grandfather and grandmother are eating a salad."

Translation:El abuelo y la abuela comen una ensalada.

June 4, 2018



Why is the el and la needed?


Spanish uses the definite article more than English does.

The definite article is needed when talking about a person. Additionally, unlike English, in Spanish the definite article is needed for each word when there are multiple nouns.

Here are some additional links with more information about definite articles. There is a fair amount of overlap, but that can help reinforce the info. : )







It should be added that in Spanish whenever a noun is the subject of a sentence the definite article usually must be included, or a determiner like esta, este, ese, nuestro, etc. There are a few exceptions

Elephants are big. = Los elefantes son grandes. Mexicans are nice. = Los mexicanos son amables.


Couldn't it be mi instead of el and la


Yes, that's what I meant by "a determiner like esta, este, ese, nuestro, etc."


Using Definite Articles With Nouns Joined by Y

In English, it usually isn't necessary to include "the" before each noun in a series. But Spanish often requires the definite article in a way that would seem repetitious in English.

La madre y el padre están felices. (The mother and father are happy.)

Compré la silla y la mesa. (I bought the chair and table.)


I want to know, too.


Because including the initial article is absolutely needed. After the 1st sentence in which the article is featured, it is Implied at all points afterwards.


Suppose I was talking to my Mother and she asked what Grandpa and Grandma were doing, would "Abuelo y Abuela comen una ensalada?" be incorrect?


Yes. You would be understood, but it would sound very awkward, much like it would sound awkward if you said it in English with the definite articles: 'Are the grandpa and the grandma eating a salad?' Although Spanish sometimes, even often, uses definite articles the same way as in English, there are differences, so literal translations don't always work well.


But in Tim's example, Abuelo and Abuela are formal addresses - the names or titles of the people in question. If I address my grandpa, I might say, "Grandpa, what are you up to today?"

We've been taught to say "El Señor Perez lee el periódico," yes, but I've never seen a sentence like "El Marco y la Maria tienen dos hijos" or "El Juan y el Roberto buscan la gata."


With the exception of papá and mamá, which are treated more like personal names, the definite article is almost always used before nouns of family relationship like abuelo, tío, etc. There may be some regional variations as in most things, but most usage overwhelmingly favors using the definite article.

As for using it before personal names like Marco, that is done in some places like Chile and Catalonia, but it isn't common elsewhere. You can use the definite article with nicknames. For example, Ernesto (Che) Guevara could be referred to as el Che.

By the way, my source for this is A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish.


I've got no problem with the correctness of the translation, but I hate trick questions, and Duolingo had never introduced to me the necessity of the articles here. I shouldn't have to get a question wrong in order to learn a new rule.


I agree. I thought it might be a "trick"question and initialy included el and la but took them out!


I just wish Duo would actually introduce and explain these concepts/rules. The only reason I understand any of the finer points is by coming to this forum after getting something wrong that the app did not explain at all.


The grandfather and the grandmother eat a salad. Makes them sound distant. Not like you're talking about your close relatives. Could be talking about a pair of grandparents on the other side of the world.


Using "the" in English makes them sound distant. But Spanish is not English. Using "el" and "la" is customary. That's why Spanish uses the articles here and English does not.


Then would you construct the following in Spanish? Describing a picture of a 3 generation family, how do you say The grandfather is tall The grandmother is short The father is fat The mother is skinny The son is ugly The daughter is pretty

Would you have to revert to "that" instead of "the", since "El abuelo" is shorthand, based on this sample, for "my/our grandfather"?

Because the meaning of sentence in English is that the speaker is talking about their own grandparents (which would be weird to use the possessive when talking to another relative).

Is there just no way to be that precise in Spanish and the possessive or non-possessive meaning is entirely dependent on the context in which it is said?

Going back to the previous example, imagine that the photo was not of your family, but you were looking at it with your own multi-generation family. Does "El abuelo se tiró un pedo" describe the funny look on the old man's face in the picture, or does the room now smell?


I also think this phrasing is odd, too. Either it should be names or it should be MY grandparents. Otherwise the English would be about "the" generic grandfather and grandmother.


I agree it needs defined as My or the, if it can't be shortened like in English just to grandfather and grandmother to specify they are your relatives.


If Grandfather and Grandmother were used for their names, would one still need the articles el and la?


I'm guessing no, since it would be like Ana and Diego... But without a modifier in English, that really is how it comes across. Grandma and Grandpa. Versus My grandma and grandpa. Versus The grandma and grandpa. This is a poor English sentence to begin with.


I second-guessed myself and forgot the articles..actually had typed them in and then removed them...arrrgggghhhh....el stupido...lol


Wouldn't they be eating two salads? ;-)>


They could be sharing one. The full-size salads at Panera are pretty big.


English is unique in its use of -ing words all the time. Don't expect other languages to have this.


Spanish has"estan comiendo," which clearly corresponds to the progressive "are eating," and is accepted here. But you're right, in Spanish, "comen" is also fine. German would simply use "essen."


what is wrong with "son comen"?


I am guessing that you probably are thinking of the present progressive "estan comiendo", which would be acceptable here, but "son comen" is definitely wrong. You need to use estar and not ser in the present progressive tense and you also need to use the past participle comiendo, not comen. "Comen" by itself would also be fine.

Off topic, but I don't understand why people downvote questions like this. You are learning, and your question is valid.


This can't be the correct English for what they're going for. The English implies it's "my grandmother" or "our grandmother," it would never be "the grandmother"


English does not use the definite article here. Spanish does. Why? Because they are different languages and do things differently.


If the English sentence said "The grandfather and grandmother are eating a salad," it would have made more sense to use "el" and "la," given that it implies that we know they are grandparents, but are not related to us; because it says "Grandfather and grandmother," it leads readers to imply that it's talking about our own grandparents, albeit in a formal sense (very few English-speakers still call their grandparents "grandfather" and "grandmother" by name anymore, or at least that goes for American English), and that's why a lot of people are getting the translation wrong.


Would same rules apply (using el and la) if the sentence was "Mom and dad are eating a salad"? If not, can someone explain the difference?


The definite articles are not used with mamá and papá, but they are used with abuelo and abuela as well as other nouns of family relationship like tío and tía. As for explaining it, that might require a linguist familiar with the etymology of Spanish words. Just accept it as normal Spanish usage.


To me Abuelo y Abuela are being used as NAMES so I capitalized them and did not put the definite article. I was marked wrong.


I feel the same way. I know that getting annoyed with a Spanish rule that I don't understand and think is dumb won't get me anywhere, but I haven't gotten over how annoyed I am with this sentence and those articles.


Why wouldn't abuelito y abuelita work here? Isn't that just grandpa and grandma?


Good question.
Roughly speaking, abuelo = grandfather, abuelito = grandpa, abuela = grandmother, abuelita = grandma.
In this exercise, Duolingo uses grandfather & grandmother and therefore expects us to use abuelo & abuela.

I think you could use abuelo & abuela even for grandpa & grandma, but using abuelito & abuelita for grandfather & grandmother would be going too far.


it is...but they didn't use those words...


They should say "the grandfather and the grandmother," then. "Grandfather" sounds like they're talking about my grandfather, not just any grandfather, so I didn't use the definite article, any more than I would write "el papa y la mama" eat a salad.


You can't always translate literally, and this is a perfect example of that. Spanish speakers are going to use the definite article in this kind of instance, and English speakers are not. That's just the way the languages work. You just have to accept it, kind of like how you have to accept that Spanish speakers will say, literally, I have hunger (yo tengo hambre), and English speakers will say I am hungry.


The original sentence, in English, is just odd. Should have a, the, my or your, etc. This is where language courses fail. Who talks like that?


are they eating the same salad?...or separate salads? how would you make that distinction?


Would the sentence be understood, if I omitted to say el and la before grandfather and Grandmother?


The sentence without "el" and "la" would be totally understandable, despite your anglification of Spanish.

The same is true if a native Spanish-speaker said "The grandfather and the grandmother..." It sounds odd, but is totally understandable.


'Comemos' is used with 'nosotros/as', or 'we'. Here you are not taking about yourself and someone else eating, which would be 'comemos', but about two other people, so 'ellos' and 'comen'.


"Are eating" should be están comiendo and not comen


The Spanish simple present doesn't work quite like the English simple present, so comen or están comiendo are both correct here. We tend to use the continuous present, 'are eating', much more than it is used in Spanish. When it is used in Spanish, it is usually done to indicate that the thing is being done right now at this very moment. While it can mean that in English, it can also mean something much more general. For example, we might say, 'I'm studying Spanish now', and the meaning might be either I'm literally studying it right now or that you have been learning Spanish for awhile now and are still learning it. For that latter type of general meaning, Spanish speakers will choose the simple present rather than the continuous present. So that's why 'are eating' can be translated as 'comen' and still be correct.


"The grandfather and the grandmother are eating … :" some unknown unrelated people being observed. But in English, when you address or speak of your grandfather as "grandfather", the meaning is different. "Grandfather and Grandmother are eating …" mean my/our grandparents. I don't think El abuelo carries the same meaning.


So, Grandmother and/or Grandfather are not the names I would call them? What would those be?


"Grandfather and grandmother" isn't idiomatic in modern English. Rewrite the English ("Grandma and Grandpa," "Our grandparents," etc.).


It sounds really formal & odd to refer to your grandparents that way, but OK.


Im NuyoRican and my family uses so much spanglish i cant get used to putting articles in front of Abuelo/Abuela it sounds so weird to me lol


The correct answer:

"El abuelo y la abuela comen una ensalada."

Seems to me would translate to:

"Grandfather and grandmother eats a salad."

Doesn't "eating" require a present participle form of the verb or the infinitive?


no, the present tense works here, although estan comiendo would be correct as well.


"Comen" is third person plural, so it would be "eat," not "eats." But Spanish often uses "comen" where English would use the progressive "is/are eating." In this case, "are eating," even though, Spanish has the progressive form "estan comiendo." Btw, Duolingo accepts "estan comiendo" here.


Why is comemos wrong? When to use comen vs comemos?


Comemos with nosotros/as (we). Comen with ellos/ellas/ustedes (they & you plural as in y'all/you guys/you lot). lol-trying to represent all English dialects.

SpanishDict provides very good conjugation information if you are still learning conjugations (and who isn't?).


why is it comen for they are eating and no estan comiendo?


Why are en and la needed?


I'm guessing you meant el and la. They are needed because when a noun is the subject of a sentence it usually must use either the definite article or another determiner (e.g. nuestro, este, etc.). There are some exceptions.


Why do we use el and la in this sentence but when speaking about two people we have to use los or las


You are referring to each of them individually here, so it is singular, which requires la and el. If you talked about them as the grandparents, then it would be plural and you would say los abuelos. Or if it was two grandmothers you could say las abuelas.

  • 1546

You are very patient in answering many questions of people who didn't read the comments before posting. Thank you for that as well as for your clear answers.


Thank you. Very kind. I scrolled through and I do seem very patient here. Sadly, I'm not always, but I will now strive to be the person I am in this discussion thread. I kinda like me here. lol


I have seen duo use los tios for aunt and uncle. Why couldn't los abuelos be used for grandmother and grandfather?


Duo is not suggesting that you can use tía and tío or abuela/abuelo interchangeably.

This defaulting to the masculine plural form happens if you are referring to multiple people in a group of mixed genders, and it applies to any group of people, not just aunts, uncles, and grandparents. If you have 4 aunts who are standing around the kitchen talking, you would say "Mis tías (not tíos) están hablando en la cocina." But if it was, say, those four aunts and their respective husbands, you would default to the masculine: "Mis tíos están hablando en la cocina."

Similarly, "my female friends" would be expressed as "mis amigas," while "my male friends" or "my group of male/female friends" would be expressed as "mis amigos."

In this sentence, abuela and abuelo are each identified separately, not as a pair, so you have to use both terms. If they were not mentioned separately, you would say "abuelos," meaning "grandparents."


I very much agree...its free so I don't complain about nuances


Why "the" in front of grandfather and grandmother?


It's another way Spanish differs from English. In Spanish abuelo/abuela and tío/tía require the definite article if there isn't another determiner already being used like mi, nuestro, etc. There are some regional differences, but this is pretty common in most Spanish-speaking areas of the world.


I wrote "abuelo y abuela están comendo una ensalada " but that is incorrect. Any clue why that is, please?


I recommend reading at least some of the comments in any given comment section before posting your own questions. Your question is already discussed extensively above, starting with the very top comment on the page.


"grand-father "and "THE grand-father" are not the same : the first one is the way you call someone and the one with "the"describes that person; no?


If you are talking about your grandparents why would you use el and la?


That's just what they do in Spanish. The same thing happens with tío and tía, but not papá and mamá. You might also use something else like mis abuelos or sus abuelos. You also don't need to use it if you are calling out to a grandparent, i.e. addressing them directly.


Thanks for your reply. I think the confusion comes from the type of English in this particular case: you usually refer to a more 'common' (or spoken) language, whereas for this sentence, you imply a 'formal' type of English. It seems to me it's more a matter of register, no?


Why must El and la be used when the end of each word shows the gender?


Because that is what they do in Spanish with abuelo/abuela and tío/tía.


Well.... because of how the sentence is written " Grandfather and grandmother..." not "THE grandfather and THE grandmother" I wrote " un abuelo y una abuela" it turned out that it's wrong?!?...


Make sure you read through the previously posted comments; it's very possible someone has already covered your question. Holds true here:

Bob46196 has explained: With the exception of papá and mamá, which are treated more like personal names, the definite article is almost always used before nouns of family relationship like abuelo, tío, etc.

Check out the full discussion in this thread.


This is the first time I've heard duolingo pronounce "y" as "y griega". What does this mean? Is it just the name of the conjuction instead of how it's pronounced?


I heard it do this once this week in a word bank activity. "Y griega," as you've spelled it, is the way the letter y is pronounced in Spanish, like when you're reciting the alphabet. "Y" the way we hear it in sentences, pronounce like "ee," is the word "and."


Comemos means "we eat." Since two people are being referred to in the third person, we have to use the third person plural verb form.


Annoying to keep typing same thing for one letter being wrong!!


Are they sharing a salad or do they each have one? If they each have one would it be unas ensaladas?


No not confused tried to push the right answer it wouldn't let me


Is there any topic here on Duolingo which covers this grammar rule? It would be great to learn and practice it here as well as any other topic and not have to scrape for a rule in the comments


Which grammar rule are you referring to? If it's the rule about using the definite article, I've only once seen any kind of Duo topic on that, and all it said was to use the definite article when talking about things in general, and that's not even very accurate.

I'm the kind of language learner who really wants to understand these kinds of things, so I finally bought A New Reference Grammar to Modern Spanish.


Strange. I wrote 'Los abuelos …' and it was wrong. ¿Por qué?


Because the word "grandparents" doesn't appear in this sentence. If you had a sentence where the plural subject was "Mi gato y mi perro" and you translated it as "My pets," it would also be marked incorrect.

[Edit: Had a brain fart and suggested that Spanish would be translated into Spanish.] facepalm


it should be (el abuelo y la abuela son comiendo una ensalada) ??


If you want to use present progressive then you must use estar and not ser. And present progressive is not required here, although it's fine. Present indicative, the answer Duo gives, is okay too. It's used a bit differently in Spanish than the way we use it in English, so a literal translation isn't required.


I thought so, too..why did they use comen, which I thought was only for ellos/ellas/ustedes?


This is Ellos. If you had to replace Grandpa and Grandma with a pronoun, what would you use? You would use they or ellos.


no la or le needed!!!!!


Not in English, but apparently they are in Spanish. Trying to force English conventions onto another language is a habit you need to break immediately, or language-learning is going to be more difficult for you than it needs to be.


No one in modern English says "Grandfather and grandmother." They say "our grandparents" or "Grandma and Grandpa" or other nicknames.


why is adding ustedes wrong here?


There is no "you" being addressed in this sentence, so there is no place for "tú," "usted," or "ustedes."


comiendo should also be accepted!!!!


Comiendo is not even a choice here


I'm going to assume that you came to this sentence through a word bank exercise, but remember that these comment sections are for sentences, not specific activities. Clearly this person was given a "Translate this English phrase into Spanish" activity, attempted to use the present progressive "comiendo," and was marked wrong due to an error they made somewhere but which they attributed to their use of the present progressive.


Comiendo is accepted. I frequently use present progressive conjugations for "ing" phrases throughout the learning tree, and Duo always lets me. You must have had an error elsewhere in your sentence.


Your comments are very helpful but its not easy saying the grandfather and the grandmother.

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