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The Spanish verb contar translates to "to count". Which of the following would be a better way to express this in formal writing:

  1. Contar is the Spanish verb for count.
  2. Contar is the Spanish verb for "to count".
  3. Contar is the Spanish verb for counting.

I know a safer option is to just say, "Contar is the Spanish verb that means 'to count'." but I'd prefer to pick one from the above three options.

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    Three is right out, it doesn't even make sense. Two is the best. One is okayish, but "count" must be in quotes. For that matter, in all three, and the rest of your post, contar must be set in quotes or italics. Use–mention. – RegDwigнt Nov 2 '14 at 14:48
  • Thanks for the explanation and reference...could you please post this as an answer so I could accept it? – TheLearner Nov 2 '14 at 16:48
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    It depends on whether you think your audience will know what a verb is. If you say "Contar is the Spanish verb 'count'", the to complementizer is unnecessary, because you're specifying a verb. But your audience may not know that, and may recognize a verb only when it's cited with a to in front of it. Author's choice -- only the author knows who it's being written for and to. – John Lawler Jan 1 '15 at 16:17
  • @JohnLawler Please post your comment as an answer so I could accept it and close the thread. Thanks. – TheLearner Jan 2 '15 at 8:17
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As John Lawler observes in a comment above, the degree of specificity appropriate to your sentence depends on your audience's level of knowledge about language and the terminology used to describe it. In addition, you are constrained by your own preferences about word choice and word order. If it were my sentence, I would use one of the following wordings, depending on context and on how familiar my audience was with terminology related to parts of speech:

Simple: In Spanish, contar means "to count." Or: Contar in Spanish means "to count."

Slightly more detailed: The Spanish verb contar means to count. Or: Contar, a Spanish verb, means "to count."

Slightly more detailed still: In Spanish, the infinitive contar mean "to count." Or: Contar, a Spanish infinitive, means "to count."

  • @Mari-LouA: Thanks for letting me know. – Sven Yargs Mar 28 '15 at 17:39
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As "contar" is the infinitive, Contar is the Spanish verb for "to count" would be better. But can you contar conmigo?

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Contar is the Spanish verb for "to count" (or "count").

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I would prefer "Spanish contar means to count".

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