Numbers in Spanish

       

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Let's start with the good news: there is (almost) no difference between the way that we write numbers in Spanish and the way we write them in English. The bad news is that when we use numbers in conversation, they definitely aren't pronounced the same way. But whether you've picked it up from Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer you probably already know at least a handful of Spanish numbers. Keep reading to learn more.

Cardinal Numbers

A "cardinal number" is just a fancy term for a numbers we use in counting things (or indicating times, dates, or ages). Let's take a trip through the Spanish cardinal numbers from cero (0) to un trilión (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) noticing some interesting quirks along the way.

Fun Fact: Cinco is the only Spanish number word with the same number of letters as the number it represents.

The first 10 numbers (as well as zero) all have unique names:

cero

uno

dos

tres

cuatro

cinco

seis

siete

ocho

nueve

diez

zero

one

two

three

four

five

six

seven

eight

nine

ten

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

The next five also have unique names:

once

doce

trece

catorce

quince

eleven

twelve

thirteen

fourteen

fifteen

11

12

13

14

15

*Note: There are two acceptable options for writing the numbers 16 through 19. The "old-school" way is to simply say "ten and six," "ten and seven," etc. The newer method is to combine those words into one word. At that point the "z" in diez becomes a "c" and the "y" becomes an "i." Both versions are pronounced the same way. The shorter, combined word is preferred nowadays.

After that the numbers come in combinations. You are literally saying "ten and six," "ten and seven," "ten and eight," etc.:

dieciséis / diez y seis*

diecisiete / diez y siete

dieciocho / diez y ocho

diecinueve / diez y nueve

sixteen

seventeen

eighteen

nineteen

16

17

18

19

Veinte means "twenty" and from that point on the pattern is very similar to sixteen through nineteen: you are literally saying "twenty and one," "twenty and two," etc.:

*Note: Once again it is also preferable to condense these numbers down to one word by replacing the trailing "-e" and the "y" with an "i." Twenty two, twenty three, and twenty six will also need an additional accent mark.

veinte

veintiuno / veinte y uno*

veintidós / veinte y dos

veintitrés / veinte y tres

veinticuatro / veinte y cuatro

veinticinco / veinte y cinco

veintiséis / veinte y seis

veintisiete / veinte y siete

veintiocho / veinte y ocho

veintinueve / veinte y nueve

twenty

twenty-one

twenty-two

twenty-three

twenty-four

twenty-five

twenty-six

twenty-seven

twenty-eight

twenty-nine

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

After veinte comes treinta and the same pattern is followed:

*Note: After the twenties we no longer condense our numbers into one word.

treinta

treinta y uno*

treinta y dos

treinta y tres

etc.

thirty

thirty-one

thirty-two

thirty-three

etc.

30

31

32

33

All of the numbers in the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties work the same way as in the thirties:

cuarenta

cincuenta

cincuenta y uno

sesenta

setenta

ochenta

ochenta y cinco

noventa

forty

fifty

fifty-one

sixty

seventy

eighty

eighty-five

ninety

40

50

51

60

70

80

85

90

Technically ciento means "one hundred" in Spanish, but its shortened form, cien, is preferred when there are exactly 100 of something:

ciento / cien

ciento uno

ciento dos

ciento tres

etc.

one hundred

one hundred one

one hundred two

one hundred three

etc.

100

101

102

103

You may have noticed there is no longer any y." This is because the "y" is only used to separate the 10's place from the 1's place. If there is nothing in the 10's place, we don't use "y."

ciento diez

ciento veinte

ciento veintiuno

ciento treinta y cinco

etc.

one hundred ten

one hundred twenty

one hundred twenty-one

one hundred thirty five

etc.

110

120

121

135

Ciento is followed by:

doscientos

doscientos cincuenta

trescientos

cuatrocientos

quinientos

seiscientos

setecientos

ochocientos

novecientos

two hundred

two hundred fifty

three hundred

four hundred

five hundred

six hundred

seven hundred

eight hundred

nine hundred

200

250

300

400

500

600

700

800

900

"One thousand" in Spanish is mil. And we don't say "un mil;" it's simply mil:

mil

mil quinientos

dos mil

tres mil

etc.

one thousand

one thousand five hundred

two thousand

three thousand

etc.

1.000

1.500

2.000

3.000

After the thousands comes the 10s and 100s of thousands:

*Note: In compound numbers, Use ciento if the number that follows is smaller than 100. Use cien if the number that follows is larger than 100.

diez mil

cien mil*

ciento treinta mil

doscientos mil

trescientos mil

etc.

ten thousand

one hundred thousand

one hundred thirty thousand

two hundred thousand

three hundred thousand

etc.

10.000

100.000

130.000

200.000

300.000

Next, a thousand thousand is a million or un millón. When we move from one million to two million, the millón becomes millones:

un millón

un millón doscientos mil

dos millones

tres millones

etc.

one million

one million two hundred thousand

two million

three million

etc.

1.000.000

1.200.000

2.000.000

3.000.000

*Note: This is not actually so much of a difference in languages as it is a difference in ways of counting very large numbers. Historically there is some disagreement even between English-speaking countries as to what exactly a "billion" represents.

Now things get a little weird. Adding three zeros to a million in English gets us to a billion. But in Spanish it's a mil millón, or a thousand million*. This throws the rest of the chart out of synch with what we might expect as well:

mil millones

dos mil millones

un billón

mil billones

un trillón

billion

two billion

trillion

quadrillion

quintillion

1.000.000.000

2.000.000.000

1012

1015

1018

Cardinal Numbers as Adjectives

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If you're simply counting numbers (like in "Hide and Seek" while your friends are hiding) the list above is accurate. However, much of the time when we use a number we follow it up with a noun, e.g. "six cars," "24 tables," "38 houses," etc. When we do this we're actually using the number as an adjective and some interesting things need to happen.

First of all uno gets shortened to un when it comes before a masculine noun, and likewise numbers ending in "-uno" are shortened to "-ún" (note the accent mark). Ciento is also shortened to cien when (and only when) we're dealing with exactly 100 of something. For example:

un coche

veintiún coches

cien coches

ciento tres coches

Secondly, as with other adjectives, we need to make our numbers agree in gender with the nouns that they modify. However, this only happens with numbers ending in "-uno" and words ending in "-ientos" (all of the "hundreds" words from 200 to 900). For example:

masculine:

un coche

veintiún coches

cien coches

quinientos coches

feminine:

una pluma

veintiuna casas

cien casas

quinientas casas

Every part of a number that can agree with the gender of the noun should agree. For example 654,321 tables would be written out as "seiscientas cincuenta y cuatro mil trescientas veintiuna mesas."

Decimal Points and Commas

You may have noticed the strange looking decimal points in the right hand column above. This is not a typo. The majority of Spanish-speaking countries do the opposite of English-speaking countries when it comes to decimal points and grouping thousands: commas are used for decimal points and periods are used to separate the groups of zeros. The number "21.7" would be written "21,7" in Spanish and would be read "veintiuno punto siete."

Ordinal Numbers

While we use cardinal numbers to count things, we use "ordinal numbers" to put things in order (such as the order in which runners finish a race). Here are the Spanish ordinal numbers :

primero

segundo

tercero

cuarto

quinto

sexto

séptimo

octavo

noveno

décimo

onceavo / undécimo / decimoprimero

doceavo / duodécimo / decimosegundo

décimo tercero

décimo cuarto

etc.

---

vigésimo

vigésimo primero

vigésimo segundo

etc.

---

trigésimo

cuadragésimo

quincuagésimo

sexagésimo

septuagésimo

octogésimo

nonagésimo

centésimo

milésimo

último

 

first

second

third

fourth

fifth

sixth

seventh

eighth

ninth

tenth

eleventh

twelfth

thirteenth

fourteenth

etc.

---

twentieth

twenty-first

twenty-second

etc.

---

thirtieth

fortieth

fiftieth

sixtieth

seventieth

eightieth

ninetieth

hundredth

thousandth

last

  • When used as adjectives, all of the ordinals agree in gender with the noun they modify, therefore "-o" endings change to "-a" with feminine nouns. For example: la segunda casa, su tercera novia, mi última tarea.
  • The ordinals primero and tercero are shortened to primer and tercer when used with masculine nouns. For example; en primer lugar, en tercer grado. This is only true of primero and tercero.
  • When an ordinal prefix ending in "-imo" is combined with "octavo" one of the o's is dropped to avoid repeating the same sound, e.g. "decimoctavo."
  • Ordinals are not typically used with dates; use cardinal numbers instead: "Hoy es el quince de enero."
  • We often use a sort of shorthand abbreviation for ordinals in English — 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. We can do something similar in Spanish — 1º, 2º, 3º, etc. (or 1ª, 2ª, 3ª, etc. if feminine)

Fractions

We express Spanish fractions the following way:

un entero

una mitad

dos tercios

tres cuartos

cuatro quintos

cinco sextos

seis séptimos

siete octavos

ocho novenos

nueve décimos

nueve centésimos

nueve milésimos

etc.

a whole (1/1)

one half (1/2)

two thirds (2/3)

three quarters (3/4)

four fifths (4/5)

five sixths (5/6)

six sevenths (6/7)

seven eighths (7/8)

eight ninths (8/9)

nine tenths (9/10)

nine hundredths (9/100)

nine thousandths (9/1000)

etc.

From "un cuarto" on we're using the same words as we did for the ordinals.

Multiples

Note: Multiples can also have masculine and feminine forms: cuádruplo, cuádrupla.

We use "multiplicatives" to make multiples out of a number. Spanish multiples are similar to the English:

doble

triple

cuádruple

quíntuple

séxtuple

séptuple

óctuple

nónuplo

décuplo

etc.

double

triple

quadruple

quintuple

sextuple

septuple

octuple

nonuple

decuple

etc.

Percentages

Precentages are written the same way in Spanish as they are in English. When spoken, "percent" is por ciento.

6 por ciento

6 percent (6%)

75 por ciento

75 percent (75%)

99 por ciento

99 percent (99%)

Fun Numbers Facts

  • When writing checks in Spanish it is acceptable (and a good idea) to write "un mil" rather than the grammatically correct "mil" to ensure that no one alters the check amount.
  • Writing "two or three" in Spanish looks like this, "2 o 3," and could possibly be confused with "203." Because of this the "or" is somtimes accented to avoid confusion: "2 ó 3." (As handwriting is being replaced by technology, the need to do this is diminishing.)
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