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I'd like information about the use of this plural, gentes in place of gente.

When is it countable?

What are the rules and use examples?

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About the noun gente, the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas says the following (bold mine for everything plural-related, I removed everything else):

gente.

  1. En el español general, este sustantivo femenino se emplea como nombre colectivo no contable (...) Como otros nombres colectivos, admite un plural expresivo, usado casi exclusivamente en la lengua literaria: «Fue ella quien me introdujo en las cosas, en las comidas, en las gentes de aquí» (Benedetti Primavera [Ur. 1982]).

  2. En el español de ciertas zonas de América, especialmente en México y varios países centroamericanos, se usa también con el sentido de ‘persona o individuo’, es decir, como sustantivo contable y no colectivo: «Luis era una gente muy caballerosa» (Prensa [Nic.] 3.2.97); con este sentido, su uso en plural es obligado cuando se desea aludir a más de una persona: «Alrededor de la tina, en la que podían caber cinco gentes, había muchas plantas» (Mastretta Vida [Méx. 1990]).

TL;DR: if you're using a regional variety of Spanish where "gente" means "person" and is countable, then the plural follows the usual rules; in any other case, saying "las gentes" is literary language and barely anybody does it unless you want to sound pompous.

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  • Never, the use of "GENTES" is never correct. You hear it a lot it rural areas in Mexico, but it is considered a vulgarism. – Mike Mar 1 '18 at 15:53
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    @Erin I am surprised to hear such a thing. It's not hard for me to pull up academic articles written by urbanites from across the Spanish-speaking world that use it. And since I can also find it in the medieval and golden age documents I work with, I find it hard to believe that it's not correct. As a simple example of where the plural is very necessary: la gente europea, las gentes europeas. One refers to the entirety of European people, the other to the individual populations (la gente española, la francesa, la alemana, etc) – user0721090601 Mar 1 '18 at 16:12
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    @Erin Usage for "Gentes" in Spanish is equivalent to usage for "Peoples" in English, that is, it's more widely used when speaking about different groups of people as a plural amount i.e. "Las gentes nativas a la región norteamericana tenían diferentes costumbres a las de las gentes de la región europea." – psosuna Mar 1 '18 at 18:11
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    @Gustavson I beg to differ. It is possible to use both as they are synonyms of one another. – psosuna Mar 2 '18 at 0:48
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    @Gustavson I also agree that "pueblos" is a more common term and a very common replacement for "gentes" in this context but the question is whether it is correct or incorrect and why. The fact that "gentes" is uncommon doesn't make it incorrect, regardless of how strange it sounds, albeit the strangeness of it is based on its lack of common use if anything. But, as walen said, it's purely literary and extremely uncommon in speech. And as Erin also said, it is a vulgarism if used to replace gente, which is already a proper plural for multiple persons. – psosuna Mar 2 '18 at 19:05

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