“Oh, right! My trip to Madrid! That happened in…”
Full stop. Freeze.
Now how the heck do you say “2015” in Spanish?
Even worse, how will you tell a Spanish speaker about that iconic event that happened in your country… back in 1937!?
It’s more common than we think. Language learners tend to learn how to count to 10 in Spanish and love to announce this accomplishment to the world but forget that most times we need more than that to reach a fluent level of conversation!
Think about it—how many times have you read a text out loud in Spanish only to find a scary number… and proceed to read it in your native language, as if it didn’t exist?
It seems too overwhelming to try to pronounce it or learn it in the first place, right? Darn you, big numbers!
That’s why we’ve created this guide to counting in Spanish with the help of cardinal numbers. We’d like to free you of frustration and fear!
Tip? You can save this page and return to it when you feel that you need to brush up on your numbers.
Here we go!
When to Use Cardinal Numbers in Spanish
“Cardinal numbers” is just a fancy name for the regular numbers we know and use, such as uno, dos and trés (one, two, and three). We use cardinal numbers in Spanish in the following situations:
- to tell the time when somebody asks “¿Qué hora es?” (“What time is it?”)
- to count
- to talk about measurements, amounts, prices, ages and weights
- to talk about dates, years and centuries
Notice how talking about dates in Spanish requires knowing cardinal numbers, rather than ordinal numbers, the ones we use in English!
Considering the various ways in which we use numbers in Spanish, you can see why it’s pretty much impossible to avoid numbers when learning the language. Not only should they be mandatory in your personal study plan, you should also go back once in a while and review them.
That’s why we’re here, and that’s what we’ll help you with in this post.
Oh, and… haven’t you heard? We included a surprise bonus at the end!
Cardinal Numbers in Spanish: The No-fuss Guide to Counting from 0 to 10,000
Today, you’ll learn how to count from zero to 10,000.
To check how the numbers are pronounced in different Spanish-speaking countries, just click on any hyperlinked number in Spanish to hear over on Forvo. We’ve also included plenty of relevant sentences as examples, so you’re not left wondering how to use numbers in real life!
For even more context, be sure to check out the authentic videos over on FluentU.
¿Estáis listos? (Are you ready?)
Back to Basics: Numbers 1-20 in Spanish
0 — cero
1 — un, uno, una
The first number in Spanish deserves its own explanation since it’s special: it has one feminine and two masculine versions! Remember to use un for a singular masculine noun (un coche — “a car”) and una for a singular feminine noun (una razón — a reason).
Uno is only used when actually counting, so it’s less common.
2 — dos
3 — tres
4 — cuatroa
5 — cinco
6 — seis
7 — siete
8 — ocho
9 — nueve
10 — diez
The numbers from 11 to 20 are quite irregular:
11 — once
12 — doce
13 — trece
14 — catorce
15 — quince
16 — dieciséis
17 — diecisiete
18 — dieciocho
19 — diecinueve
20 — veinte
Tengo dos (2) hijos. (I have two children.)
Es catorce (14) de noviembre. (It’s the 14th of November.)
El uno (1) de enero es el primer día del año. (The first of January is the first day of the year.)
Si aún no tienes dieciocho (18) años, no puedes comprar alcohol en España. (If you aren’t 18 years old yet, you cannot buy alcohol in Spain.)
Cuando tenía nueve (9) años me rompí el brazo. (When I was nine years old, I broke my arm.)
Es un teléfono muy barato. ¡Sólo cuesta cinco (5) euros! (It’s a very cheap phone. It only costs five euros!)
Into the 20s
The formula for counting from 20 to 30 is similar to what you might have noticed about numbers 16, 17, 18 and 19. To count beyond 20, you use a shortened version of veinte + y + number. Check it out in action:
21 — veintiuno
22 — veintidós
23 — veintitrés
24 — veinticuatro
25 — veinticinco
26 — veintiséis
27 — veintisiete
28 — veintiocho
29 — veintinueve
Él no para de hablar de sus aventuras de cuando tenía veintiocho (28) años. (He won’t stop talking about his adventures from when he was 28 years old.)
Tengo veintidós (22) dólares, pero la falda cuesta veintitrés (23) dólares. (I have 22 dollars, but the skirt costs 23 dollars.)
Mi padre se divorció cuando tenía veintinueve (29) años. (My father got divorced when he was 29 years old.)
El pasaporte es válido por otros veinticinco (25) días. (The passport is valid for another 25 days.)
Viajé a Argentina el veintiséis (26) de abril. (I traveled to Argentina on the 26th April.)
Todos tienen veinticuatro (24) horas en su día, pero algunos las usan mejor que otros. (All people have 24 hours in their day, but some use them better than others.)
30s, 40s and Beyond
The logic that applied to the 20s also applies to the 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond until 100. The first and most important step is knowing the following numbers by heart:
30 — treinta
40 — cuarenta
50 — cincuenta
60 — sesenta
70 — setenta
80 — ochenta
90 — noventa
Once you get comfortable with these numbers, you’re free to apply the following logic: main number + y + secondary number. For instance:
41 — cuarenta y uno
73 — setenta y tres
32 — treinta y dos
54 — cincuenta y cuatro
82 — ochenta y dos
99 — noventa y nueve
Tengo noventa y nueve (99) problemas, pero el dinero no es uno. (I’ve got 99 problems, but money isn’t one.)
Mi abuela tiene ochenta y cinco (85) años, ya no puede correr rápido. (My grandma is 85 years old, she can’t run fast anymore.)
Mido un metro ochenta (1,80). (I am 1.80 meters in height.)
Yo peso setenta (70) kilogramos. (I weigh 70 kg.)
Noviembre tiene treinta (30) días. (November has 30 days.)
¡No tenemos tiempo! El autobús sale dentro de treinta (30) minutos. (We don’t have time! The bus departs in 30 minutes.)
Exploring the 100s in Spanish
On its own, the number 100 is cien. However, when you want to associate this number with others, you do not use y. Instead, you use ciento:
102 — ciento dos
130 — ciento treinta
150 — ciento cincuenta
The happens with all the hundreds. Here they are up to 900:
200 — doscientos
300 — trescientos
400 — cuatrocientos
500 — quinientos
600 — seiscientos
700 — setecientos
800 — ochocientos
900 — novecientos
To name any three-digit number, simply note the number in the hundreds digit then add the rest of the number after it as you learned earlier in this post:
201 — doscientos uno
354 — trescientos cincuenta y cuatro
402 — cuatrocientos dos
560 —quinientos sesenta
806 — ochocientos seis
910 — novecientos diez
Hay ciento noventa y cinco (195) países en el mundo. (There are 195 countries in the world.)
Aquí están las llaves de la habitación doscientos cuatro (204). (Here are the keys for room 204.)
Mi película favorita en español es “Celda doscientos once” (211). (My favorite movie in Spanish is “Cell 211.”)
Novecientos (900) euros por mes? El alquiler es caro aquí. (900€ per month? The rent is high here.)
Invité a trescientas (300) personas para la boda. (I invited 300 people for the wedding.)
Un año tiene trescientos sesenta y cinco (365) días. (A year has 365 days.)
It’s Over 1,000!
Way too often, language learners focus on numbers from one to 10 and completely disregard larger numbers. When they do that, they might go completely blank when they need to talk about the current year or previous years in which a historical event happened or even when they last went on vacation!
Any other number beyond 2,000 is also often avoided.
That’s unnecessary, since these numbers are actually pretty easy to remember in Spanish. Just use the regular numbers from one to 10 and add the word “mil”!
1,000 — mil
2,000 — dos mil
3,000 — tres mil
…and so on!
4,000 — cuatro mil
5,000 — cinco mil
6,000 — seis mil
7,000 — siete mil
8,000 — ocho mil
9,000 — nueve mil
10,000 — diez mil
Estamos en dos mil diecinueve (2019). (We’re in 2019.)
Tengo mil y una (1,001) razónes para no creerte. (I have 1,001 reasons not to believe you!)
Se cree que hay siete mil noventa y siete (7,097) lenguas en el mundo. (It’s believed that there are 7,097 languages in the world.)
Si tuviera diez mil (10,000) dólares, renunciaría a mi trabajo mañana. (If I had 10,000 dollars, I’d quit my job tomorrow.)
¿Cuáles son tus planes para dos mil veinte (2020)? (What are your plans for 2020?)
Un cocodrilo puede pesar hasta mil cuarenta y tres (1,043) kilogramos. (A crocodile can weigh up to 1,043 kg.)
Bonus: The Best Strategies to Learn Numbers in Spanish!
That’s right! Here are some study tips to help you learn numbers in Spanish and actually use them, rather than avoiding them like the plague.
Choose Relevance, not Cramming
Tempted to memorize lists? There’s a better way!
It’s way smarter to start by answering these questions:
- How old are you?
- What’s your year of birth?
- What’s the current year?
- What’s your height/weight?
- What’s your ID/passport number?
- What day is it today? Tomorrow? Yesterday?
Think about the most relevant events in your life, positive and negative. These could be your favorite vacation, the year you got married, your worst break up, moving to a new city, finishing college or anything else that has meaning to you. Make a list of these events and note down the year or date in which they happened.
Can you see why this list is important? When learning Spanish, it’s crucial that you avoid overwhelming yourself by focusing on numbers and information that’s relevant to you, first!
What events and personal information are you likely to talk about in reality? What numbers do you reference more often in your native language?
The key point is that learning individual numbers that are relevant to your personal history is far more likely to be successful than forcing your brain to memorize a list of numbers that have no meaning.
Flashcards are a learner’s best friend whether you’re a fan of paper or digital tools. All you have to do is find the appropriate strategy for your style of learning!
You have two options here:
1. Direct translations: On one side of the flashcard, write the number in English. On the other side, of course, write the number in Spanish.
Study these flashcards regularly until you know the numbers by heart. Again, you could start with numbers that are relevant to yourself and your personal history, rather than studying all numbers at once.
2. Images rather than translations: On one side of the flashcard, place an image that represents a given number. On the other side of the card, write that number in Spanish. You now have visual cues rather than words in English, which is just as effective.
These days we have several apps that allow us to create and customize flashcards to our liking, making them more memorable, colorful, simple or meaningful to us personally. AnkiApp is a great example of this, but other options are Cram.com and Flashcard Machine.
Still craving some more flashcard wisdom? We’ve got you covered!
Use Spaced Repetition
Ask anybody what a good language learning strategy is, and repetition is sure to be first or second on the list. In fact, students, in general, believe that repeating until you drop is the best way to know something by heart.
That’s surely true, but even repetition needs its own strategy for long-term success!
See, most people will memorize a particular list for an hour, know it by heart for about two or three days and then never look at it again, convinced that they know everything there is to know.
Don’t fall for this trap! How many times have you crammed for an exam, only to leave the room and say “Wow, I don’t remember a thing anymore”?
Your brain only remembers what it thinks it will need frequently. It’s way too overwhelmed by other feelings, concerns and information to remember something you forced it to memorize days ago!
That’s why spaced repetition is effective. It invites you to hack your brain by understanding its flaws and using them to your advantage. In other words: work smart, not hard!
The trick? Start by studying your Spanish numbers. Try to memorize the most relevant ones.
Got it? Now allow your brain to almost forget them. When you feel that you cannot remember one or two numbers by heart anymore, it’s time to strike again. You’ll be defining spaced intervals to revisit your cards, preferably separating those you already know effortlessly from the ones you keep struggling with.
This means you’ll be systematically revisiting the numbers in Spanish, not memorizing a list!
If you’re interested in the concept, you can learn more about spaced repetition and how it can serve you in a video on YouTube.
Produce, Produce, Produce
“I keep listening to music in Spanish, watching movies in Spanish and reading classics in Spanish! So why can’t I speak fluently yet or remember very important words?”
Glad you asked! This is one of the most common complaints among language learners.
And the answer is: because all of those things you mentioned you do regularly are ways of consuming language, not producing language. And the only way to learn how to speak, write and remember new vocabulary is by… well, speaking, writing and remembering new vocabulary.
That isn’t intended to diminish or underestimate the importance of consuming language and language immersion, which are absolutely crucial for developing vocabulary, improving pronunciation, getting in contact with Spanish-speaking cultures and getting your brain used to a new language. However, purely listening and watching isn’t the way to become fluent.
For that reason, you should produce. That means speaking and writing with Spanish numbers! How? Well, see those example sentences we included throughout the blog post? We suggest the following practice:
- Start by selecting sentences from the examples that seem useful to you and that you’d actually use in your native language.
- Copy those sentences word by word on a sheet of paper. Then, read them aloud.
- Let a few days go by, then return to your practice. Now, try changing the numbers in the sentences then copying the sentences again. You’re free to change not just the numbers, but also words that seem irrelevant to your personal situation. Customize and, once again, read them out loud.
- Your goal is to be able to create sentences by yourself and write numbers in Spanish comfortably. You should now create sentences that are about your own personal history, referring to important vacations, events, memories or accomplishments.
An example would be: “Estudié derecho en dos mil uno (2001).” (“I studied Law in 2001”). It’s a simple sentence, and yet something you’d be likely to tell somebody either in a regular conversation or in a job interview.
- Repeat those sentences both in writing and speaking, as if you were talking to somebody. Try giving them different intonations and emotions, as that’ll help you remember them more easily!
Follow these steps to counting success!
Don’t forget that you’re learning Spanish for your own development, your own communication abilities and for your own use. That means you shouldn’t be afraid to select, customize and study what’s appropriate for you, even with something as seemingly simple as numbers in Spanish.
In other words… make it about yourself.
And don’t forget to have fun!
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