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Ahorremos agua / Ahorremos el agua

Manzanas son frutas / La manzana es una fruta / Manzana es una fruta

Which of the above sets would be more appropriate? Spanish articles have always baffled me. To my ears, the sentences without any articles (i.e., the first ones) sound correct but I really need some expert opinion from native speakers.

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2 Answers 2

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From the second set of examples, only the second one is correct. Unless you're using proper nouns ("nombres propios"), you need to use articles to construct your sentences.

La manzana es una fruta.

Manzana is not a proper noun, so it needs the article. If an apple were to be assigned a name, say, its name is Ana (yeah, as in "Ana la Manzana"), then you could get away without articles:

Ana es una fruta.


Now, about the first set of examples...

They are both correct. The difference with the examples in the second set resides in the order of the sentence. For example, both of these are correct:

Llevemos manzanas (Let's bring apples).

Llevemos las manzanas (Let's bring the apples).

They express similar but distinct ideas; the first one states that we should bring apples, but it doesn't specify which apples (maybe they still haven't bought any?). The second assumes both the speaker and the listener know of which apples they are referring to. In fact, if the listener doesn't know of which apples the speaking is talking about, the most natural response would be "¿Cuáles manzanas?" ("Which apples?").

So, with that in mind, let's accept the following examples, which might make it clearer:

Llevemos manzanas para comer durante el viaje (Let's bring apples to eat during the trip).

Llevemos las manzanas que nos dio Roberto para comer durante el viaje (Let's bring the apples that Roberto gave us to eat during the trip).

Going back to the first set of you examples, the first one, "Ahorremos agua", is about saving water, in a very general context. Which water? Well, all of it.

The second example, "Ahorremos el agua", is about saving water too. Which water? It may be, for example, the water they currently have in a bottle while they're crossing the desert! Or, in a very general context, the water of the world (all of it), which would make it equivalent to the first example.

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“Llevemos manzanas” without the article is fine if we’re talking about apples in general. Then why shouldn’t “manzana es fruta” be correct if we are talking about apples in general, i.e., all apples being fruits? Won’t adding an article imply that we are talking about a specific apple in particular being fruit and not all of them? –  Amit Schandillia Apr 5 at 6:39
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Not quite, @AmitSchandillia. It's all in the order of the sentences. It's quite the same as in English, actually. Consider the Wikipedia article on apples. Notice how the article starts with "The apple"? It's still talking about apples in general, but the sentence must be started this way. I don't recall right now the specific grammar rules about this situation but I'll look into it once I have the chance. –  ArthurChamz Apr 5 at 15:14
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Well, I think I got it. Please see this Yale university pdf, specifically section 1 of Additional uses of the definite article THE. I know it's for English, but I'm quite sure it applies to Spanish the same way. In this example, it requires the article because it's referring to a class or type of thing (plants go into this category). –  ArthurChamz Apr 5 at 15:22
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So, in this sense, it's really not about the order, but because of this rule. I hope I'm not overdoing this and making it more complex. –  ArthurChamz Apr 5 at 15:24
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Don't mention it =) –  ArthurChamz Apr 5 at 15:49
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For the first set both are correct. Because water is uncountable. I can't find a counterexample for uncountable nouns.

For the second set only the second one is correct. For countable nouns you need an article. Another options would be (for plural): Las manzanas son frutas / Las manzanas son unas frutas.

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"Salvemos árboles". –  c.p. Apr 4 at 21:37
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I don't think water being uncountable has something to do with this. In fact, in the second set, manzana being countable doesn't have anything to do either. Consider "El agua es un compuesto químico". Here, the article is necessary even though agua is uncountable. –  ArthurChamz Apr 5 at 0:35
    
That still leaves me confused around when to use the article and when not to. :( –  Amit Schandillia Apr 5 at 6:37
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