There are more numbers than “uno, dos, tres, cuatro” in Spanish.
Oh, and dale isn’t a number.
Or maybe you learned some numbers from The Offspring song “Pretty Fly for a White Guy.”
Don’t know what I’m talking about? I’ll refresh your memory. The last line of the chorus goes: “uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, cinco, seis.”
And you’ve probably realized by now, that Spanish counting does not involve saying five—or cinco—twice.
So what does it involve? And why should you care?
All in good time, people. Let’s start with the “why?” question.
Why You’ll Need to Know Spanish Numbers
Learning to count is one of first things that people learn in any language, be it their first, third or twentieth, which kind of suggests it’s important. And, of course, knowing how to say numbers helps in many basic situations.
You’ll need to know the numbers to buy things, unless you rely on the universal system of pointing, nodding and smiling. However, that usually results in you having no idea how much you’re paying for anything. You’ll also need to know the numbers to talk about some of the other basic stuff you learned in beginner Spanish class, like your age, your address and your phone number.
Numbers also tend to pop up in places that you might not expect. The number of a bus, for example, a train platform or your place in a line. Just trust us, you definitely need to get your numbers right. And though you might think counting in Spanish is easy, there are a few tricky little rules you need to get your head around if you want to avoid making mistakes.
Let’s Start Counting in Spanish!
Now that you understand the importance of these number-oriented Spanish lessons, I’ve got all the information you need to get started learning Spanish numbers and counting systems. Of course, we’ll start off with the basics.
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Basic Numbers in Spanish: 1-20
Let’s start at the very beginning and count to veinte (20) in Spanish.
1 — uno
2 — dos
3 — tres
4 — cuatro
5 — cinco
6 — seis
7 — siete
8 — ocho
9 — nueve
10 — diez
11 — once
12 — doce
13 — trece
14 — catorce
15 — quince
16 — dieciséis
17 — diecisiete
18 — dieciocho
19 — diecinueve
20 — veinte
Note the accent on dieciséis. If you’re not sure how to pronounce these numbers, this video sums it up pretty nicely.
Also notice that dieciséis (16) is made up of diez (10) and seis (6), which together make 16. Clever, huh? This gives you a clue as to how to make the other two-digit numbers. First you just write out the base number (for example, 10, 20, 30, etc.). Next you write y (and) to serve as your connector, and then you write the second digit in the number (for example, 1, 2, 3, etc.).
This also helps us in the next section.
Basic Numbers in Spanish: 21-30
For the following set of numbers, follow the pattern I just showed you.
To make 21, you’ll take veinte (20) and add uno (1). Bam! You’ve got it: veinte y uno. All put together, it’s spelled veintiuno. Like with dieciséis, the sound of the y mixes with the e at the end of veinte, making the correct spelling veintiuno rather than veinte y uno.
So, 21-30 look like this:
21 — veintiuno
22 — veintidós
23 — veintitrés
24 — veinticuatro
25 — veinticinco
26 — veintiséis
27 — veintisiete
28 — veintiocho
29 — veintinueve
30 — treinta
Note the accents on veintidós, veintitrés and veintiséis which clue you in to their proper Spanish pronunciation. Here’s a video to help with pronunciation if you’re not sure how to proceed.
Basic Numbers in Spanish: 31-100
Let’s keep rolling! Since you know the pattern for these 2-digit numbers now, all you need is the vocabulary for the big base numbers. Then you’ll assemble everything in-between following that pattern.
Other numbers you’ll need are:
40 — cuarenta
50 — cincuenta
60 — sesenta
70 — setenta
80 — ochenta
90 — noventa
100 — cien
And now you can make any number up to 100. To make numbers past 30, you have to write out the y. So 33 is treinta y tres. It is not treintaitres.
Also note the 1-letter difference between sesenta (60) and setenta (70). This is one that continues to confuse people at even the advanced level (yes, I’m speaking for myself here), so it’s worth repeating over and over until you really get it.
Once you’ve practiced that over and over again, try counting yourself to sleep every night in Spanish, counting your steps as you walk down the street in multiples of 100 or watching this video and enjoying its funky music, you’re ready to move onto bigger numbers.
Bigger Numbers in Spanish: 100-200
So if cien = 100, 101 must be cien y uno, right?
101 is ciento uno.
Why? First of all, cien is only used to say 100 even. Second, there’s no y used because the y is only used to separate the tens from the ones (42 = cuarenta y dos) but not the 100s from the 10s (142 = ciento cuarenta y dos).
So, following this pattern, 104 is ciento cuatro. 147 is ciento cuarenta y siete not ciento y cuarenta y siete.
To put it another way, the y that you added in from 1-100 (16-99 for pedants) is still the same, but you don’t add another y to your number phrase when you get past 100.
This can be a bit confusing, as in English we need the “and” to separate the hundreds from the tens. 154 is “one hundred and fifty four” in English, but in Spanish it’s “one hundred fifty and four” or ciento cincuenta y cuatro.
Got it? Try testing yourself with a few hard numbers:
Here are your answers (but no peeking until you’ve tried to get them on your own!):
185 = ciento ochenta y cinco
167 = ciento sesenta y siete
125 = ciento veinticinco
103 = ciento tres
199 = ciento noventa y nueve
You’ve got it! If not, try testing yourself on a few more and repeating over and over until you get it.
Bigger Numbers in Spanish: 200-1.000
To make 200, you just add 2 and 100. So you get doscientos. Note that you need to make your ciento plural by adding an s.
So, following this you can also make:
400 — cuatrocientos
500 — quinientos (this one is irregular, so learn it!)
600 — seiscientos
700 — setecientos
800 — ochocientos
900 — novecientos (another irregular one, but it’s still similar to 90)
1.000 — mil
Beyond one thousand, what happens? You just add one other number as appropriate to signify how many thousands you have. So 2.000 is—you guessed it—dos mil.
3.006 would be tres mil seis (no y required after mil!) So, try to guess what 7.642 would be. Siete mil seiscientos cuarenta y dos.
And what about 1.500? If you said, “mil quinientos,” you win! (You win metaphorically speaking, don’t expect a prize in the mail or anything.)
And if we go even bigger than that, how do you make 46.000? It’s just like in English: forty six thousand is cuarenta y seis mil.
And how do you make 46.155? Take cuarenta y seis mil, add 155 (which, as you know, is ciento cincuenta y cinco) and you get cuarenta y seis mil, ciento ciencuenta y cinco.
You can now use these rules to count up to a million!
Here’s a quick list of how to count in thousands:
2.000 — dos mil
3.000 — tres mil
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
Notice anything funny about the numbers above? After mil, in Spanish we use a period to separate our numbers, instead of a comma like we use in English. So 100,000 in English becomes 100.000 – cien mil (an explanation of why it’s cien and not ciento is coming up). We’ll stick to the Spanish way of writing these numbers from now on to avoid confusion.
Even Bigger Numbers in Spanish: Millions and Billions
So now it’s time for the million-dollar question! How do you make a million?
Money-making schemes aside, un millón is 1.000.000 (note the use of un, unlike mil).
4.000.000 is cuatro millones (note how millones becomes plural and drops the accent).
4.000.800 is cuatro milliones, ochocientos.
How about something crazy like 6.986.410?
Did you say? Seis millones, novecientos ochenta y seis mil, cuatrocientos diez.
You’ve got it! If not, try starting from the 100s and working backwards.
And a billion?
Well, that depends which system you’re using as there’s some debate about how many a billion actually is.
In the traditional U.K. system (also used in Spain and Spanish-speaking Latin American countries), a million millions (1.000.000.000.000) is un billón in Spanish.
In the traditional U.S. system (also used by Brazil and Russia), a billion is a more modest thousand million (1.000.000.000) and is mil millones in Spanish. It really is easier to become a billionaire in the United States.
Another term you might come across is un millardo, which is the same as the U.S. billion (1.000.000.000).
Officially, the whole world has now decided to go with the U.S. system, but in practice, how many millions there are in a billion varies wherever you are. If you need to be precise, it might be worth asking, ¿Cuánto es un billón?
Exceptions in Spanish Counting
Remember when I said I would tell you why it’s cien mil and not ciento mil? Has it been bugging you ever since? What’s the difference between cien and ciento?
Cien is used as an adjective before nouns, such as: cien naranjas, cien días. Also followed by the numbers mil, millón, billón:
We use ciento when attaching smaller numbers in the 10s and 1s:
It’s also used in expressions or refrains, usually coming from old Spanish:
Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando.
Beyond hundreds, there are a few more exceptions to be wary of.
We also have a special situation when we talk about numbers that end in uno. As we know, 1 = uno, but we don’t say: uno mesa as you might expect. First of all, mesa (table) is feminine, so we need to make our adjective (the number in this case) feminine.
So it’s una mesa not uno mesa.
When our noun is masculine, uno becomes un. So, for example, it’s un espejo (one mirror).
We also shorten other numbers that end in uno to ún (note the accent). So it’s veintiún espejos because espejos is masculine. It would be veintiuna mesas, because mesas is feminine.
When our number ends in ientos (seiscientos, for example), we also need to make sure that our adjective (the number) agrees with our noun (the thing we are counting).
As long as you treat the number like you would any other adjective when you’re counting, you won’t run into any problems. To read more about making adjectives agree, read this post.
So there you have it, it’s as easy as one, two, three, or uno, dos, tres.
For an extra challenge…try writing out the biggest number you can think of and working out what it is in Spanish. Then find someone to impress with your new skills!
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