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I know that "ropa" is a collective noun, and it's the way to express clothes/clothing.

But I have 2 questions related to the usage of this always-singular noun =
What are the possible cases where it's not "ropa" anymore?

  • In some dictionaries, we find "ropas". It's rare, but it's given for instance in sentences like:

Las ropas de hombre no son nada nuevo para mí.

So, that would be the rule for the use of this rare "ropas" word?

(Source: see in "examples" here: https://www.spanishdict.com/translate/ropas)

Edit: "ropas" seem to exist in Spanish, not only colloquially, as a search with Google books give many examples:

Alonso de Freylas, ‎María Dolores Rincón González - 1999

Las ropas de seda se perfumarán como las piezas de seda

  • If I wanted to mean a single piece of clothing, in a non ambiguous way? How?

I would need also a precision about the use of una vs zero-article.
If I say "Quiero ropa", could it be also "Quiero una ropa", as "una" means an unspecified quantity?

  • Just a little comment, las ropas del hombre no son nada nuevo para mí sounds much better – Iria Jan 8 '20 at 13:11
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    I think the meaning is different? Ropa(s) de hombre is male clothes, and ropa(s) del hombre, means the clothes owned by a man. It's the way I understand that. It is wrong? – Quidam Jan 8 '20 at 13:20
  • my first language is spanish and it does not sound good at all to me, it may be a bad translation by google or any other tool. Ropa de hombre is fine, but ropas de hombre... I don't think so – Iria Jan 8 '20 at 13:21
  • But, could "ropas" exist in some very particular contexts? – Quidam Jan 8 '20 at 13:29
  • I think so but not in this case, this is a bad example. It would be slang anyway – Iria Jan 8 '20 at 13:30
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The fact that a noun is collective does not mean that it cannot be used in the plural.

"ropa" in the singular is indeed the usual form in Spanish. "ropas" is not incorrect but may sound weird. I think it will be used mostly in generic contexts:

  • Me gustan las ropas de colores vivos. (I like clothes in vivid colors.)

A more formal word, which is subject to the same conditions as "ropa", is "vestimenta".

In answer to your question:

If I wanted to mean a single piece of clothing, in a non ambiguous way? How?

you have the word "prenda", which may be considered a bit formal.

  • Absolutely "prenda" is the answer. Just wanted to add that at least in Colombia it is not formal but common language. When clothes are on sale it is very common to see ads like "lleve 4 prendas por el precio de 3" or something similar. Also sometimes it is used as "prendas de vestir" – DGaleano Jan 8 '20 at 14:56
  • @DGaleano It is also not formal in Argentina when used with cardinal numbers as you did. It may sound a little formal when used in the singular in a generic sense instead of using the specific noun: in everyday speech I'd say "qué linda camisa" or "qué lindo vestido" rather than "qué linda prenda". – Gustavson Jan 8 '20 at 15:16

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