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In section 14 of the Ekzercaro of the Fundamento de Esperanto are these two sentences:

  1. Mi havas cent pomojn.
  2. Mi havas centon da pomoj.

I understand grammatically why the sentences are different. The meanings seem to be the same to me. Is that true, or is there some difference in meaning?

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I would say this is the same as the difference in English between “twelve apples” and “a dozen apples”, however in Esperanto these grouping words are completely regular so there are more of them.

On that basis, perhaps the difference is just that “cento da pomoj” is either less precise or implies that the apples are more bundled together as a unit, such as being in a bag or something.

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    I would certainly interpret 105 apples as ‘cento da pomoj’ as well. I'd be less inclined to say the same for ‘cent pomoj’ – miestasmia Oct 20 '17 at 17:07
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It becomes clear, more distinct when using the plural.

Mi havas plurajn cent pomojn. = I have several hundred apples. 
Mi havas centojn da pomoj. = I have hundreds of apples.

So cento is a package quantity, whereas cent is a multitude, number. For a single hundred English does not make a distinction. But there exist "hundreds of", "thousands of."

It accents the quantity instead of the apples. Useful for bragging, indicating a package size (seso da ovoj), or whatever. Just as for plural there is a distinction between "I have several hundred books" and "I have hundreds of books".

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  • Again, I understand the grammar. Maybe if I ask it this way: When would I choose the quantity version over the multitude version—when both are a possibility—and why? (Why convert a multitude like “cent” into a quantity like “cento” rather than just using the multitude in the first place?) And “there is no difference and no reason to choose one over the other” would be an acceptable answer. – Robert Fisher Nov 2 '17 at 13:57
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    It accents the quantity instead of the apples. Useful for bragging, indicating a package size (seso da ovoj), or whatever. Just as for plural there is a distinction between "I have several hundred books" and "I have hundreds of books". – Joop Eggen Nov 2 '17 at 14:02
  • You should update this answer with that. Although, as a native English speaker, I don’t intuitively feel that “several hundred books” or “hundreds of books” emphasizes the quantity more than the other. But I would, of course, accept that it does so in Esperanto. – Robert Fisher Nov 2 '17 at 14:11
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    @RobertFisher thanks. You are not the only one not feeling a difference in case of the existing English plural. But I leave my answer as discussion point. – Joop Eggen Nov 2 '17 at 14:21
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A = Accusative - with -n ending

G = Genitive - without -n ending


Mi havas [cent](numeral; not a noun) [pomojn](noun,A).

Mi havas [centon](nound,A) [da pomoj](noun,G).

So, the first "cent" is a numeral. It is not a noun and that's why there is no -n ending, even though it's technically an accusative, but except miliono, miliardo, etc. (which are nouns), there are no -n endings because there are no nouns.

The second sentence cento is a noun in accusative, so standard rules apply.

Check "Substantival (noun type) number words" section here: https://lernu.net/en/gramatiko/nombraj_vortoj

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    The question is explicitly was about the meaning rather than the grammar. – Robert Fisher Oct 23 '17 at 15:09

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