Counting in Spanish: Your Ultimate Guide from 1 to 1 Billion
Addresses, time, dates, cooking, measurements. All of these have something in common.
Knowing how to count in Spanish is a vital skill as almost everything has numbers in some way.
Lucky for you, we’ve created this straightforward guide to give you everything you need to know about counting in Spanish.
- Counting in Spanish
- Rules for Spanish Counting
Counting in Spanish
The first thing you need to know is the first 20 numbers in Spanish as they will be a base for the rest of the numbers.
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. This idea of combining numbers will be a common theme throughout this post.
For these numbers, you’ll take veinte (20) and add which ever number you need. The e in veinte will change to an i.
So, 21-30 look like this:
Note the accents on veintidós, veintitrés and veintiséis which clue you in to their proper Spanish pronunciation.
Let’s keep rolling! Since you know the pattern for these 2-digit numbers now, all you need is the vocabulary for the tens!
The tens are:
Note that in order to make numbers past 30, you have to write out the y. So 33 is treinta y tres.
Cien is only used to say 100 even.
There’s also 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.
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
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:
Beyond one thousand, you just use the appropriate number to signify how many thousands you have. So 2.000 is dos mil. 3.006 would be tres mil seis (no y required after mil!)
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.
Note that 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.
You can now use these rules to count up to a million!
Millions and Billions
A million in Spanish is un millón or 1.000.000.
4.000.000 is cuatro millones (note how millones becomes plural and drops the accent).
4.000.800 is cuatro millones, ochocientos.
How about something crazy like 6.986.410? Seis millones, novecientos ochenta y seis mil, cuatrocientos diez.
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?
Rules for Spanish Counting
Cien vs. Ciento
Cien is used as an adjective before nouns, such as: cien naranjas, cien días. Also when 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. (A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.)
Numbers Ending 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. For example, 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.
Numbers Ending in ientos
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).
The best way to pick up on these rules and counting in general is to immerse yourself as much as possible and listen to how natives pronounce things.
You can use FluentU to watch authentic content and use the learning tools like subtitles, flashcards and quizzes to practice what you’ve learned.
FluentU is available as an app for Android and Apple.
So there you have it, it’s as easy as one, two, three, or uno, dos, tres.