In short – the Spanish translation of both ‘a moment’ AND ‘one moment’ is actually ‘un momento’. What makes this expression such a tricky customer for learners of Spanish is the fact that we’re taught that ‘one’ is ‘uno’, so it´s tempting to incorrectly say ‘uno momento’.
But why exactly is this incorrect?
Stick around and find out all there is to know about ‘un momento’!
‘Un momento’ or ‘uno momento’
Is there a situation in which ‘uno momento’ can be used?
The answer is an unequivocal NO.
That’s because ‘uno’ is NEVER used before a noun.
Let’s dive in a little deeper …
We actually ALWAYS use ‘un’ (an apocopation of ‘uno‘) BEFORE singular masculine nouns, while ‘uno’ is used either when counting OR as a pronoun.
Erika’s top tip – just remember that if you´re referring to a SINGULAR noun, you´ll need to use ‘un’ or ‘una’.
Here are some examples –
Solo un pastel grande; con ese alcanza para todos.
Only a large cake, that’ll be enough for everyone.
‘Uno’ is shortened to ‘un‘ here (note that the next word is a noun)
¿Cuántos pasteles compraste para la fiesta?
Solo uno grande; con ese alcanza para todos.
How many cakes did you buy for the party?
Only a big one; that’ll be enough for everyone.
‘Uno’ is a pronoun here
It’d be incorrect to say:
uno pastel grande.
Uses / Meanings of ‘un momento’
‘Un momento’ can be used in the following ways –
- As a synonym of ‘a moment’
- As a synonym of ‘one moment’
As a synonym of ‘a moment’
‘Un momento’ is the Spanish equivalent of ‘a moment’.
‘Un’ is an article and ‘momento’ a noun.
Fue solo un momento, pero sentí que duraba para siempre.
It was just a moment, but I felt like it lasted forever.
Andrea – ¡Estoy bromeando!
Karimé – Por un momento pensé que hablabas en serio …
Andrea – I’m kidding!
Karimé – For a moment there I thought you were being serious …
En una llamada telefónica
Dame un momento, por favor, alguien está tocando la puerta.
In a phone call
Give me a moment, please, someone’s knocking at the door.
Piénsalo un momento antes de tomar la decisión definitiva.
Think about it for a moment before you make your final decision.
As a synonym of ‘one moment’
You can also use ‘un momento’ as you would the English ‘one moment’, as in the expression, “One moment, please”.
Un momento, por favor, señor, enseguida lo atiendo.
One moment please, sir, I’ll be with you right away.
Karlo – ¿Qué pasa con Diego?
Yolanda – No sé; es como si hubiera cambiado totalmente de un momento a otro.
Karlo – What’s the matter with Diego?
Yolanda – I don’t know; it’s like he totally changed from one moment to another.
‘Un momento‘ pronunciation
Although ‘momento’ is very similar to the English word ‘moment’, the pronunciation is a little different.
- ‘Un’ sound like ‘oon’
- The syllables in ‘momento’ are pronounced as follows: ‘moh-mehn-toh’
/ oon moh-mehn-toh /
Similar expressions to ‘un momento’
‘Un momentito’ means ‘a little moment’, and if you travel to Mexico, you’re sure to encounter this phrase sooner or later.
Diminutives are very much ingrained in everyday Mexican Spanish, and this is no exception.
¡Qué tal*, señora! Deme un momentito, ya casi tengo listo su pedido.
How are you doing, ma’am! Give me just a second, I almost have your order ready.
*Erika’s top tip – If you’re a bit bored of saying ‘hola’ (or ‘hi’) everytime you greet someone in Spanish, you can always throw a friendly ‘qué tal’ into the mix.
En un santiamén
You may also hear Spanish speakers use the – extremely popular – phrase ‘en un santiamén’.
It’s kinda like saying ‘in an instant’ or ‘in a jiffy’ and it´s actually a shortened version of the Latin prayer ‘In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen’ (or ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen’).
Back in the day, churchgoers were given certain prayers as penitence, but they would recite them so fast that they’d end up finishing them with ‘santiamén’ instead of ‘Sancti. Amen’.
So, ‘santiamén’ became synonymous with something happening in an extremely short amount of time!
No te preocupes, ¡el dolor va a pasar en un santiamén!
Don’t worry, the pain will pass in a jiffy!
Hopefully from now on you’ll steer well clear of this common mistake!
And if you ever do slip up, well, you can always correct yourself … it’ll probably only take ‘un momento’ of your time!
Ready to level up your Spanish skills even more? Well, head on over to our article on ‘buenos’ vs ‘buenas’ next.