I'm trying to write "the pupils became a little tense". Since it is in Spanish, the adjective becomes plural due to there being multiple pupils. So, I thought the sentence would be "las pupilas hizo un poco tensas". Not sure about hizo either. Anyways, "un poco" is the qualifying part, and it qualifies "tensas", which makes me wonder if "un poco" should be "un pocos"? Like this: "Las pupilas hizo un pocos tensas".

I am very new to Spanish, so take that into account, thanks.

1 Answer 1


Your example is not grammatically correct, but your question is not about the parts that are wrong. The correct form is a bit difficult to explain, so I'll leave that for an endnote. This would be it:

Las alumnas se pusieron un poco tensas. (*)

As you see, un poco does not vary. Although it's two words and looks like a noun phrase, it works exactly like an adverb (like those ended in -mente), and adverbs do not vary in number or gender. So you would say:

La alumna se puso un poco tensa. (singular, feminine)
El alumno se puso un poco tenso. (singular, masculine)
Los alumnos se pusieron un poco tensos. (plural, masculine)

Other adverbs referring to amount or intensity that you could use in this sentence are muy, bastante, extremadamente, ligeramente, etc. Again, they're all invariable.

If you were to pluralize un poco, you'd say unos pocos, since the articles do vary in number and gender. But this is not what you do with un poco when it's an adverbial phrase. Un poco means "a little, a bit, slightly", but unos pocos means "a few ([masculine] ones)".

(*) "Pupils" should normally be translated alumnas, assuming by "pupils" you mean "students" and not the eyes' pupils, and assuming also you want female pupils, not males or a mixed group (which would be alumnos). Pupilo (fem. pupila) means an orphan under a tutor. The verb is poner in its pronominal form (ponerse), which is unfortunately rather irregular.

  • What exactly does "poner" mean, and how is it used? Can it always be used as a Spanish word for become, or in the above case, became?
    – A. Kvåle
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 20:26
  • the verb "poner" in the past tense in spanish also means "became" but only for things that happened for a short period of time(temporal).
    – Mike
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 20:52
  • Ponerse means "to turn, to become". It's a pronominal verb, used together with a pseudo-reflexive pronoun. This is no place to explain, but if you search for the term you'll find many examples. Also, if you know another Romance language (such as French or Italian), they also have pronominal verbs. German also has them, though not by a special name (the verbs which appear cited with sich in dictionaries).
    – pablodf76
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 21:15
  • @A.Kvåle The best way to understand poner, when it comes to changes in a situation, is get. Examples: this is getting hard = esto se pone / se está poniendo difícil.
    – Schwale
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 23:25

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