"Ellas comían tomate."
Translation:They were eating tomato.
You just did it..."tomato products". This is a case where what you would say in English is entirely different than in Spanish. Maybe in Mexico it sounds logical to refer to entire group of fruit products by a singular name, but in English, normal American English, this sentence is awkward at best..and plain wrong at worst.
I've always been hazy about when the Spanish present tense can be equally understood as the Spanish past tense. Is it just context? I get that it's a natural way for a native Spanish speaker to think, but as a student of Spanish, I feel at a loss. The only way that I can even start to translate it, let alone think it, is to remind myself to see if the past tense will work, as you have done here. Can anyone think of a clue to help me automatically start thinking that something is referring to the past, or does this only come naturally with practice?
Wismec, I agree, and yet it seems many students in this discussion are offering ways to make it acceptable. For students of English, it should be understood that we would not normally say this. Changing it to plural or adding a noun such as "products" sounds natural as others have suggested.
You guys are being ridiculous. They were eating pizza. They were eating cheese. They were eating tomato. These are all correct. You do not need to say "a" or "the" or make it plural. Imagine an unknown quantity of tomatoes diced or pureed. If you eat that, you're not eating one TOMATO or two TOMATOES, you're just eating tomato. Tomato in the morning, tomato in the evening, tomato at supper time. When tomato is on a bagel, you can eat tomato any time. :-)
I thought I was clear with the examples I gave, but since you are unconvinced I decided to look it up for you. https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/nouns-countable-un.htm explains the concept of "uncountable nouns". While the noun "tomate" is singular, the lack of an article ("un" or "el") makes it an uncountable noun. What I find ridiculous is that everyone who's posted agrees that it's improper English. This is why I don't trust democracy :-)
Your examples do not mesh with the reality of speaking English. He was eating a tomato. He was eating tomatoes. Your examples of Cheese and Pizza are entirely different. Just as Spanish has its oddities, so does English. At no point will you be clearly understand if you say "he was eating tomato"...the listener will be waiting for another word...tomato paste? tomato sauce? tomato what?
This sentence is clearly WRONG when it comes to speaking proper English.
I believe it is perfectly fine to use "tomato" or any other food product in the abstract. Details are sometimes uncertain or unavailable. By the way, does anybody have a problem with "They were eating squash, okra, watermelon, pumpkin....."?
Roar, you need to accept that English as its oddities. In this case....you are not going to ever say 'I used to eat tomato' and not get a weird look from a native English speaker. It is simply wrong.
Your reference to okra and squash are examples of more oddities. Get used to it. Languages are filled with all sorts of dumb oddities.
ngarrang and mlolliff, thank you for your intelligent comments.
It (the "correct" translation) sounds like something from Saturday Night Live!
Agreed. The "correct" translation is not anything that you would ever hear a native English speaker say.
It works in Spanish but the required translation absolutely does not work in English.
I agree with many of the comments, this translation does not work in English. IF the sentence had a noun at the end, such as; They were eating tomato sandwiches, then it would make more sense but, without a noun then the sentence needs an article before the word "tomato".
Despite all the comments about needing or not needing a defining article 'a' or 'the' in this sentence, no one has addressed my question regarding how to know when does Spanish require an article for the noun that English might not. There are many instances in which Spanish requires an article but English doesn't. How do we as learners know an article is required before a noun?