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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 with the same number of letters as the number it represents.

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

cero

zero

0

uno

one

1

dos

two

2

tres

three

3

cuatro

four

4

cinco

five

5

seis

six

6

siete

seven

7

ocho

eight

8

nueve

nine

9

diez

ten

10

The next five also have unique names:

once

eleven

11

doce

twelve

12

trece

thirteen

13

catorce

fourteen

14

quince

fifteen

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

sixteen

16

diecisiete / diez y siete

seventeen

17

dieciocho / diez y ocho

eighteen

18

diecinueve / diez y nueve

nineteen

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

twenty

20

veintiuno / veinte y uno

twenty-one

21

veintidós / veinte y dos

twenty-two

22

veintitrés / veinte y tres

twenty-three

23

veinticuatro / veinte y cuatro

twenty-four

24

veinticinco / veinte y cinco

twenty-five

25

veintiséis / veinte y seis

twenty-six

26

veintisiete / veinte y siete

twenty-seven

27

veintiocho / veinte y ocho

twenty-eight

28

veintinueve / veinte y nueve

twenty-nine

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

thirty

30

treinta y uno

thirty-one

31

treinta y dos

thirty-two

32

treinta y tres

thirty-three

33

 

etc.

etc.

 

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

cuarenta

forty

40

cincuenta

fifty

50

cincuenta y uno

fifty-one

51

sesenta

sixty

60

setenta

seventy

70

ochenta

eighty

80

ochenta y cinco

eighty-five

85

noventa

ninety

90

Note: The plural of cien is cientos (not cienes.)

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

cien

one hundred

100

ciento uno

one hundred one

101

ciento dos

one hundred two

102

ciento tres

one hundred three

103

 

etc.

etc.

 

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

one hundred ten

110

ciento veinte

one hundred twenty

120

ciento veintiuno

one hundred twenty-one

121

ciento treinta y cinco

one hundred thirty five

135

 

etc.

etc.

 

Ciento is followed by:

doscientos

two hundred

200

doscientos cincuenta

two hundred fifty

250

trescientos

three hundred

300

cuatrocientos

four hundred

400

quinientos

five hundred

500

seiscientos

six hundred

600

setecientos

seven hundred

700

ochocientos

eight hundred

800

novecientos

nine hundred

900

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

mil

one thousand

1.000

mil quinientos

one thousand five hundred

1.500

dos mil

two thousand

2.000

tres mil

three thousand

3.000

 

etc.

etc.

 

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

ten thousand

10.000

cien mil

one hundred thousand

100.000

ciento treinta mil

one hundred thirty thousand

130.000

doscientos mil

two hundred thousand

200.000

trescientos mil

three hundred thousand

300.000

 

etc.

etc.

 

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

un millón

one million

1.000.000

un millón doscientos mil

one million two hundred thousand

1.200.000

dos millones

two million

2.000.000

tres millones

three million

3.000.000

 

etc.

etc.

 

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 "billion" represents.

Bonus: see Long and short scales

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

one billion

1.000.000.000

dos mil millones

two billion

2.000.000.000

un billón

one trillion

1012

mil billones

one quadrillion

1015

un trillón

one quintillion

1018

Cardinal Numbers as Adjectives

Still have questions about numbers? Try out the Spanish Number Translator

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:

feminine:

un coche

una casa

veintiún coches

veintiuna casas

cien coches

cien casas

quinientos coches

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

first

segundo

second

tercero

third

cuarto

fourth

quinto

fifth

sexto

sixth

séptimo

seventh

octavo

eighth

noveno

ninth

décimo

tenth

onceavo / undécimo / decimoprimero

eleventh

doceavo / duodécimo / decimosegundo

twelfth

décimo tercero

thirteenth

décimo cuarto

fourteenth

 

etc.

etc.

 

---

---

vigésimo

twentieth

vigésimo primero

twenty-first

vigésimo segundo

twenty-second

 

etc.

etc.

 

---

---

trigésimo

thirtieth

cuadragésimo

fortieth

quincuagésimo

fiftieth

sexagésimo

sixtieth

septuagésimo

seventieth

octogésimo

eightieth

nonagésimo

ninetieth

centésimo

hundredth

milésimo

thousandth

último

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

a whole (1/1)

una mitad

one half (1/2)

dos tercios

two thirds (2/3)

tres cuartos

three quarters (3/4)

cuatro quintos

four fifths (4/5)

cinco sextos

five sixths (5/6)

seis séptimos

six sevenths (6/7)

siete octavos

seven eighths (7/8)

ocho novenos

eight ninths (8/9)

nueve décimos

nine tenths (9/10)

nueve centésimos

nine hundredths (9/100)

nueve milésimos

nine thousandths (9/1000)

 

etc.

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

double

triple

triple

cuádruple

quadruple

quíntuple

quintuple

séxtuple

sextuple

séptuple

septuple

óctuple

octuple

nónuplo

nonuple

décuplo

decuple

 

etc.

etc.

Percentages

Precentages are written the same way in Spanish as they are in English. The word "percent" is por ciento in Spanish.

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.)