2

Consider the following sentence.

El avión es más grande que el carro.

To me this is saying that a specific plane is bigger than a specific car.

If I wanted to say generally that "Planes are bigger than cars", would I use the same Spanish sentence above? Or would I need to modify it?

4

You're right. If you say

El avión es más grande que el carro

it seems that you're stating that a specific plane is bigger than a specific car. Yes, sometimes the singular will be valid, as in the following example:

El hombre es más inteligente que el mono

This case works because "el hombre" can be understood as "the human race". Nonetheless the use of the singular can lead to misunderstandings. In order to make the sentence applicable to any plane and any car, just write the sentence in plural:

Los aviones son más grandes que los coches

Another way to achieve this is to use the indefinite article:

Un avión es más grande que un coche


Note: I used coche because in Spain we don't use carro with the meaning of "car".

2

In Spanish, just as in English, we can use the singular to convey generic meaning (more usual in Spanish, less usual in English).

- El avión es más grande que el automóvil. (Here in Argentina we don't use "carro".) (The plane is bigger than the car.)

(I don't agree with @Charlie that "el avión/el automóvil" will always refer to a specific plane or car.)

We can also use the plural (always with a definite article), which is more usual in English (where the zero article will be used):

- Los aviones son más grandes que los automóviles. (Planes are bigger than cars.)

3
  • Yeah, I think it's probably good to emphasize here (or in @Charlie 's answer too, tagging him so he sees it) that the zero-article (or more broadly, any lack of determiner) cannot be used on the subject in Spanish preverbally. Even then, postverbally they tend to be reflexive, and are never (AFAICT) required. – user0721090601 Jul 29 '19 at 14:33
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    @guifa you've reminded me of the European Spanish translation of the "Reindeers are better than people" song in Disney's "Frozen". It goes like this: "Renos mejor que personas", completely lacking determiners. :-) – Charlie Jul 29 '19 at 15:41
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    @Charlie true but it also lacks verbs :-) – user0721090601 Jul 29 '19 at 15:48
1

Yes, out of context, "El avión es más grande que el carro" could be taken as a specific comparison, rather than the general statement you are after.

Here's how to express in Spanish "Planes are bigger than cars" out of context:

Los aviones son más grandes que los carros.

(It would be a mistake to say, "Aviones son más grandes que carros." If you've ever seen a stereotyped movie Russian character who talks without using any articles -- that's kind of what it would sound like.)

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