Quantifiers are words used to refer to unspecific amounts or quantities. They can be used as adjectives or pronouns, and some of them also work as adverbs. They answer the question(s) cuánto, cuánta, cuántos, cuántas (how much, how many) when the answer is not a particular number, but rather an approximate amount. Here’s an image to illustrate some quantifiers.
Table of Contents
For a review of grammar terms used in this post, make sure to check out the Unpacking the grammar section at the end.
How do quantifiers work in Spanish?
Quantifiers work to modify different types of words. Let’s see each case.
- As adjectives
When quantifiers function as adjectives, they are placed before the noun and agree in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) with it.
Quedan pocos boletos.
There are a few tickets left.
- As pronouns
Quantifiers can also function as pronouns. In this case, they will not be followed by a noun, but they will still agree in gender and number with the noun they replace.
¿Cuántos boletos vendiste? -Vendí muy pocos.
How many tickets did you sell? –I sold very few.
Furthermore, some of them can be followed by proposition de (of) to single out an approximate amount out of a group. This group is expressed by a noun (preceded by an article/possessive or demonstrative adjective) or a strong pronoun.
Algunos de los estudiantes sacaron 10 en la prueba.
Some of the students aced the test.
Muchos de nosotros estuvimos en el evento.
Many of us were at the event.
- As adverbs
When quantifiers function as adverbs, they modify verbs (actions), adjectives, or other adverbs. They only have one form, so they don’t change in gender and number. Also, not all quantifiers work as adverbs. The common ones are: poco (a little), mucho (a lot), demasiado (too much), and bastante (quite).
Sonríe mucho. Sonríe poco.
He smiles a lot. He barely smiles.
When used as an adverb to qualify a verb, it’s placed after the verb. But, when used to qualify an adjective/adverb, it’s placed before the adjective/adverb.
Mi hijo lee mucho. (verb + adverb) My son reads a lot.
Es bastante distraído. (adverb + adjective) He is quite distracted.
Habla demasiado rápido. (adverb-quantifier + adverb) He speaks too fast.
👉To learn more about the different functions of Spanish quantifiers, click the link!
Let’s move on to how to use each one of them!
These can be equivalent to a “few” or “little.” They refer to a lower amount than normal. They can be used as adjectives or pronouns, or adverbs:
Hay pocas casas en esta área. There are few houses in this area.
¿Cuántas personas hay? -Hay pocas.
How many people are there? -There are a few.
With uncountable nouns, you can also use “un poco” and it’s equivalent to “a little.” In this case, “un poco” is invariable.
¿Cuánta sopa quieres? -Quiero un poco.
How much soup do you want? – I want a little.
And you can also say “un poco de + noun” to be more specific.
Quiero un poco de sopa. I want a little bit of soup.
- As an adverb this quantifier is invariable: (un) poco.
Laura está un poco preocupada. Laura is a bit worried.
La niña comió poco. The girl ate little.
Un poco is used before an adjective to mean “a little/bit.”
Estoy un poco cansada. I am a bit tired.
Whereas, poco followed by an adjective or adverb is used as a negation; similar to the English prefix “un-” or “in-.”
Esta chica es poco profesional. This girl is unprofessional.
Claudia está un poquito cansada. Claudia is a little bit tired.
The expression “algo de” is equivalent to un poco de to mean “a little” or “a bit.” It can come before a noun.
Tengo algo de frío.
I am a bit cold.
Necesito algo de tiempo para terminar.
I need a little more time to finish.
“Algo de” can also come before an adjective to soften its meaning:
El chico tiene algo de tímido. The kid is a little shy.
⤷TIP In Latin America, algo is used as a synonym of un poco (a bit) and it works as an adverb.
Carlos es algo divertido. Carlos is a bit fun.
⤷TIP The intensifier muy (very/too) is often used with poco to enhance its meaning.
Comimos muy poco. Todavía tengo hambre. We ate very little. I’m still hungry.
‘Algún,’ ‘algunos,’ ‘alguna(s)’
Algún and alguna can be equivalent to “any.” And, algunos and algunas are equivalent to “some.” When they function as adjectives, they agree in gender and number with the noun they precede.
¿Tienes algún comentario? Do you have any comments?
¿Tienes alguna pregunta? Do you have any questions?
Escribí algunas líneas para ti. I wrote some lines for you.
⤷TIP Algún día is equivalent to “someday.”
Algún día viajaré a Egipto. Someday I will travel to Egypt.
- The negative forms of these quantifiers are: ningún, ninguna (any, no). Alternatively, the forms alguno, alguna can be used as negatives if placed after the noun. Compare:
|No tengo ningún comentario.||No tengo comentario alguno.|
⤷notice how the full form “alguno” is used
when placed after the noun
|I don’t have any comments.|
|No tengo ninguna pregunta.||No tengo pregunta alguna.|
|I don’t have any questions.|
Mucho, muchos, mucha, and muchas are equivalent to “many, much, a lot of.”
- They can function as adjectives or pronouns, so they agree in gender and number with the word they precede/replace. They refer to a greater amount than normal or needed.
Encontramos muchos libros viejos en el ático. We found many old books in the attic.
¿Cuántas novelas tienes? -Tengo muchas.
How many novels do you have? -I have many.
When used with an uncountable noun, only the singular forms mucho or mucha are possible:
Tomé mucha agua. I drank lots of water.
- When used as an adverb, only the form mucho is possible, and it is mostly used to modify verbs.
Anoche dormí mucho. Last night I slept a lot.
- Mucho can be used before comparative adjectives and adverbs to mean “much.”
Sus problemas son mucho mayores que los tuyos.
Her problems are much bigger than yours.
Esta película es mucho peor que la anterior.
This movie is much worse than the previous one.
Click here for a full list of Spanish comparatives used with mucho (p. 4).
Mucho cannot be used before an adjective or adverb to mean “very.” In that case, use its shortened version “muy” as in, Juan come muy rápido (Juan eats very quickly).
⤷TIP The intensifier muy (very/too) cannot be used with mucho. If you want to say “too/very much,” then use the superlative: muchísimo
Comimos muchísimo. We ate too much.
Varios and varias (several) also refer to a greater amount than usual. In many cases, it refers to an amount that is in between algunos (some) and muchos (many). In other cases, it’s used as a synonym of muchos (many). Oftentimes, this depends on the speaker.
Tenemos varias opciones. We have several options.
This quantifier means “enough, quite, a lot.” It only has a singular and plural form when used as an adjective or pronoun, or it’s invariable when used as an adverb.
Juan preparó bastante comida. Juan prepared enough food.
Vive bastante cerca de la universidad. He lives quite close to the university.
Hoy Raquel practicó bastante. Today Raquel practiced a lot.
Depending on the context, such as the tone and the attitude of the speaker, the meaning of bastante may be either “a lot” or “enough.” More precisely:
- It means “enough” when the interpretation alludes to a purpose or an outcome. In this case, it can be replaced by suficiente (enough).
Tenemos bastante harina para hacer un pastel.
We have enough flour to make a cake.
- It means “a lot” when expressing a relative quantity bigger than normal or expected. In this case it can be replaced by mucho (a lot).
Hace bastante frío para ser verano. It’s too cold to be summer.
Me gusta bastante (más de lo normal). I like it a lot (more than normal).
This one refers to an outstanding amount of things or people, equivalent to “too many” or “too much.” Its value is often negative, as it means “excessive.”
- When used as an adjective, it agrees in gender and number with the noun it modifies.
Kori gastó demasiado dinero en la fiesta. Kori spent too much money on the party.
Pasé demasiadas horas esperando. I spent too many hours waiting.
- When used as an adverb, only use demasiado, and it means “too (adjective/adverb).”
Es demasiado bueno para ser verdad. It’s too good to be true.
Or with verbs, it means “too much”:
Mi papá trabaja demasiado. Siempre está cansado.
My dad works too much. He’s always tired.
⤷TIP Demasiado cannot be combined with mucho to mean “too much,” instead simply use demasiado.
Comimos demasiado. We ate too much.
Todo(s) and toda(s) can mean “all, every, the whole of,” and they refer to all the elements in a general group or category. They function as adjectives or pronouns, so they have to agree in gender and number with the noun they modify/replace.
- When the noun is accompanied by a definite article or a demonstrative or possessive adjective, these quantifiers mean “all (of)…”
Todos los humanos tienen cualidades. All human beings have qualities.
Invita a todas tus amigas. Invite all of your friends.
⤷TIP When used with an expression of time (day, month, year, etc.) the singular means “the entire/whole,” whereas the plural means “each/every.”
Trabajé toda la semana. I worked the whole week.
Trabajo todas las semanas. I work every week.
- When the noun is preceded by an indefinite article it means “a whole…”
Rubén se comió toda una pizza. Ruben ate a whole pizza.
- When todo or toda are followed directly by a noun, they mean “every” or “any.”
Todo niño tiene derecho a una buena educación.
Every child has the right to a good education.
⤷TIP When the pronouns todos or todas refer to people, they mean “everyone.”
Todos vengan. Everyone come.
- Todo or toda can be used to modify an adjective or participle, in this case todo has to match the gender of the adjective and it is similar in meaning to “completely.”
Mi sobrina llegó toda cansada del torneo de basquetbol.
My niece arrived completely exhausted from the basketball tournament.
- Quantifiers answer the question(s) cuánto, cuánta, cuántos, cuántas (how much, how many) when the answer is not a precise amount.
- Quantifiers can be used as adjectives or pronouns.
- But only poco, mucho, demasiado, and bastante can function as adverbs.
- When they are adjectives, they agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to.
- Bastante(s) only has a singular and plural form, and varios and varias only have a masculine and feminine form.
- When they are adverbs, they do not change their form and they usually modify an adjective, an adverb, or a verb.
An adjective is a word that describes or qualifies a noun (person, object, animal, situation, place). For example,
An adverb is a word that describes or qualifies an adjective or a verb (action). For example,
He drives fast.
I am terribly sorry.
A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun (person, animal or thing. For example,
Marco is my friend. → He is my best friend.
Uncountable noun: a substance or concept that cannot be “counted” (e.g water, music…)