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What is the difference between "algo" and "alguna cosa", since they both mean "something"? How do you know which one to use?

¿Estás mirando algo en la tele? Are you watching something on TV?

¿Es alguna cosa de comer? Is it something to eat?

¿Ha visto alguna cosa? Have you seen something?

Hay algunas cosas que no te he contado. There are some things I haven't told you.

In addition, when should de follow algo?

Te compré algo de comer. I bought you something to eat.

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    Welcome to the site... While someone has the time for a full answer Algo is an undefined pronoun alguno/alguna is an adjective and they play different roles on the sentence. – DGaleano Mar 13 '18 at 19:57
  • Yes, welcome to the site. As @DGaleano mentioned, someone who has time for a more thorough answer (or more knowledge about the Spanish language than I do) may, in fact, be working on one as I type this. In the meantime, I found this link here from the StackExchange for English Language Learners. I don't know if the same thing is happening with "algo" and "alguna cosa," but stranger things have happened. The thread is titled, "What's the difference between something and some thing?" HTH. – Lisa Beck Mar 14 '18 at 2:30
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"algo" is much more usual than "alguna cosa" for at least the following reasons:

  • "algo" is shorter

  • "alguna cosa" tends to be more heavy-handed

  • "algo" can refer to something concrete or abstract. The use of the noun "cosa" may suggest the existence of something physical.

Therefore:

We do say: ¿Estás mirando algo en la tele?, but saying ¿Estás mirando alguna cosa en la tele? would be unnecessarily long as well as rather awkward.

The sentence ¿Es alguna cosa de comer? sounds a bit off, especially because of the preposition "de": "para comer" would be more idiomatic. Once again, ¿Es algo para comer? is both shorter and better. Similarly, I'd say Te compré algo para comer.

The question ¿Ha visto alguna cosa? sounds incomplete. It'd be more usual to find a relative clause or an adjectival structure after "cosa": ¿Ha visto alguna cosa (algo) en especial / alguna cosa (algo) que le llame la atención? I prefer "algo" in both cases, unless we need to emphasize the physical nature of the thing in question.

In the case of Hay algunas cosas que no te he contado, "algo" is not possible because it lacks the plural sense of "algunas cosas".

| improve this answer | |
  • Gustavson, if my edit (heavy-handed) isn't helpful don't hesitate to roll it back. – aparente001 Mar 14 '18 at 4:43
  • But "Hay algo que no te he contado" does work as a sentence -- which one would be chosen just depends on whether it's multiple things or not. Other than that I find this a wow of an answer, some subtleties here with clear, concise explanations. – aparente001 Mar 14 '18 at 4:46
  • @aparente001 Of course it works, but as you say "algunas cosas" suggests a plurality absent in "algo". – Gustavson Mar 14 '18 at 10:34

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