Is It Correct to Say ‘Uno momento’? – Spanish Grammar 101

Quick answer – 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 ‘uno’ is Spanish for ‘one‘, so it’s tempting to incorrectly say ‘uno momento’.

But why exactly is this incorrect?

Well, let’s get into the nitty-gritty!

Oh, and if you’re more visually inclined, definitely check out the video above for a quick overview ☝️

Un momento’ or ‘uno momento

So, is there a situation in which ‘uno momento’ can be used?

The answer is an unequivocal NO.

That’s because ‘uno’ (or ‘one‘) is NEVER used before a noun.

Let’s dive in a little deeper …

If you’re translating ‘one + noun’ into Spanish, you’ll ALWAYS use ‘un’ (an apocope of ‘uno) BEFORE singular masculine nouns, and ‘una’ before singular feminine nouns.

Here’s an example –

Solo un pastel grande, por favor; con ese alcanza para todos.

Just one large cake, please; that’ll be enough for everyone.

Uno’ is shortened to ‘un‘ here because the next word is a masculine singular noun.

It’d be incorrect to say –

Solo uno pastel grande.

So, if you’re translating ‘one moment‘ or ‘a moment‘ (so, ‘one (or ‘a’) + masculine singular noun’) into Spanish, you ALWAYS need to use ‘un’ –

FUE solo un momento, pero sentí que duraba para siempre.

It was just a moment, but I felt like it lasted forever.

Un momento, por favor, señor, enseguida lo atiendo.

One moment please, sir, I’ll be with you right away.

A shop assistant saying, "Un momento, por favor."

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 …

Expert tip – if you’re in Mexico and want to sound even more local, you can also use the diminutive: ‘un momentito’.

Diminutives are a fundamental part of everyday Mexican Spanish, and this one’s 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.

So, when DO we use ‘uno‘?

Well, ‘uno’ is used either when we’re counting (i.e., ‘uno‘, ‘dos‘, tres‘, ‘cuatro‘, etc.) and DON’T mention the noun, OR as a pronoun.

Counting is pretty straightforward, but its use as a pronoun is ever-so-slightly more tricky!

A boy counting some sheep; he's saying, "uno, dos, tres..."

So, we use pronouns to refer to a noun that’s already been mentioned, for example –

¿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’ works as a pronoun here and it refers to ‘a cake‘.

Rupert’s pro tip – this is actually one of the aspects of Spanish that really used to confuse me, particularly in the context of ordering food.

If you’re asking for something in a store or ordering food at a “puesto de comida”, you’ll often be asked ‘¿Cuántos quieres?‘ (if the item you asked for is masculine) or ‘¿Cuántas quieres?‘ (if the item you asked for is feminine), and if you only want ONE item, you’re gonna need to say ‘Nada más (or ‘sólo’) uno, por favor‘, ORNada más una, por favor‘.

Two things to note here: you DON’T use the masculine article ‘un‘ (as you’re not mentioning the noun!), AND if the item in question is feminine, you’re gonna need to say ‘una‘!

I honestly used to find it quite difficult to switch between the different articles and pronouns, but with enough practice you’ll definitely get the hang of it!

And if you want to expedite the learning process, you can always make some flashcards with the SUPER useful spaced repetition software ‘Anki’

Image of a flashcard to help with the Spanish pronoun "una"
Image of a flashcard to help with the Spanish pronoun "una" (reverse)

Before you go …

If you wanna really take your Spanish to the next level, don’t miss our articles on the following (super common!) mistakes –



¡Hasta pronto!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

And some cheeky vids ...

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