Today (during a spanish lesson I was doing on my computer) I was presented with:

Quiero comprar una medicina

And its translation as

I want to buy a medicine

The english translation is obviously a direct, literal translation of the spanish, and in this case fails in terms of english grammar. In english I would "Want to buy some medicine" (and in thinking about it I always consider medicine in english to be plural)

But as I am only learning spanish, I don't know if the reason the english translation is so bad is because of:

  1. That is not what you would say in spanish

  2. The translation itself was wrong (possibly because medicine is inherently plural, while medicinais singular?)

So which of these possibilities is more likely?

1 Answer 1


You can use Quiero comprar una medicina in Spanish. Nothing necessarily wrong with that (so discard option 1).

About option 2, you might be right, since you would say "I want to buy a book", and pluralize that with "I want to buy some books".

Imagine that you could be using that sentence when getting to the counter of the pharmacy and asking the pharmacist for a specific medicine or for help.

Quiero comprar una medicina. Fluidasa. Me la acaba de recetar mi medico para la tos.

The tint is that you would say

Hola, queria comprar unas medicinas que el medico me ha dicho que necesito.

Quiero comprar unos libros que necesito para el curso que viene.

A Spanish speaker would favor unas over algunas in that context, in spite of algunas/algunos being a possible translation for some too.

Algunos and unos are usually interchangeable, although there could be subtle differences for choosing one or another in a specific context.

Also, I wouldn't over think the translation the computer gave you. Maybe there are more accurate translations (is not a exact science, like math), but I would say that the translation the computer gave you is not necessarily wrong. Just, could be different, such as I want to buy a (specific) medicine.


Also, I remembered how it was for me when I was learning countable and uncountable in English, so I googled if there any tips about that difference between algunos and unos and I found this article. I hope it will be relevant and helpful.

  • My problem with the translation is more that is meant to be curated by a human. 99% of the time it makes sense, but for that other 1% I sit there thinking What are they actually trying to say?
    – Peter M
    Oct 27, 2014 at 18:18

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