Think you’ve got the numbers covered in Spanish?
Can you count all the way to cien (100) and back again?
Well, there’s a little more to numbers in Spanish than you might expect.
There are plenty of little differences between the way we use numbers in English and in Spanish, and it’s easy to get yourself tied in knots trying to figure them out.
But never fear, because this guide will help iron out any questions you have about using numbers in Spanish.
But past the obvious scenarios of buying things, telling people how old you are and giving them your phone number (all very useful skills!), when else does knowing the numbers really help?
When It Counts to Know Spanish Numbers
Assuming that you’re not just sending out electronic calendar invites to everyone you want to meet up with, you’ll need some number knowledge to make arrangements. How are you going to decide what time and date to meet someone if you continually get 16 mixed up with 17 and don’t know how to reliably tell the difference between 6:45 p.m. and 6:15 a.m.?
You also might need to ask someone for directions on way to said meeting place (again, let’s assume you’re not using clever technology that allows you to avoid communication—I’m talking about you, GPS). Even giving and receiving directions requires some knowledge of the numbers, as people tend to use phrases like “la primera calle por la derecha“ (the first street on the right) or “está en el quinto piso“ (it’s on the fifth floor).
Okay, okay. You get it now. Numbers are important. And luckily for you, all you need to know about them is right here!
Learn 4 Ways to Use Spanish Numbers in Everyday Situations
1. Counting in Spanish
For a complete guide to counting, check out this post.
Remember how to count to 10?
1 — uno
2 — dos
3 — tres
4 — cuatro
5 — cinco
6 — seis
7 — siete
8 — ocho
9 — nueve
10 — diez
And from 11-20?
11 — once
12 — doce
13 — trece
14 — catorce
15 — quince
16 — dieciséis
17 — diecisiete
18 — dieciocho
19 — diecinueve
20 — veinte
Once you get past 20, it’s easy to create more numbers. To make 44, for example, you take 40 (cuarenta) and 4 (cuatro) and add them together with an y in the middle. So you get cuarenta y cuatro. Easy!
You’ll also need to remember that numbers 21-29 are each just one word, and the y becomes i, so it’s veinticuatro as opposed to veinte y cuatro.
Other numbers you’ll need are:
30 — treinta
40 — cuarenta
50 — cincuenta
60 — sesenta
70 — setenta
80 — ochenta
90 — noventa
100 — cien
Once you get past 100, you can just keep going. If you’re saying a number that is one hundred and something, cien changes to ciento. Cien is just for flat 100. So, for example:
163 = ciento sesenta y tres
To get other values in the hundreds,
200 is 2 + 100 = doscientos
300 is 3 + 100 = trescientos
353 = trescientos cincuenta y tres
You’ll also need the word mil (1000) once you start counting higher and discussing years.
And that’s it! You know how to count. Now it’s time to move on to the juicier numbers stuff.
2. Stating the Date in Spanish
When you say the date in Spanish, you say the day (día) first, then the month (mes) and then the year (año)—the word for year is not to be confused with ano, which is something quite different.
So for the 17th of June, 2015, you would say:
17 de junio, de 2015
In practice, you often miss the second de and just say:
17 de junio, 2015
If you want to add the day of the week, you’d add that first, so you’d say or write:
Jueves 17 de junio, 2015
But hang on a minute, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What were the days of the week again? And how do you say the months? And why isn’t there a capital J in junio?
Let’s start with the days of the week, which are:
Monday — lunes
Tuesday — martes
Wednesday — miércoles
Thursday — jueves
Friday — viernes
Saturday — sábado
Sunday — domingo
Note that unlike in English, you don’t need a capital letter to write the days of the week.
The months follow the same rule, no capital letters here either. They are:
January — enero
February — febrero
March — marzo
April — abril
May — mayo
June — junio
July — julio
August — agosto
September — septiembre
October — octubre
November — noviembre
December — diciembre
The year is easy, once you know the numbers. Which luckily you do.
Note that in Spanish you don’t shorten the date like we would in English, so 2015 is not veinte, quince (twenty fifteen). The year is always said as a number, so 2015 is dos mil quince, and 1987 is mil novecientos ochenta y siete. It can be a bit of a mouthful, so keep practising.
The main difference between saying the date in English and in Spanish is that in English we use ordinal numbers for the date – it’s the 17th, 1st or 3rd of the month – whereas in Spanish you just say the number – 17, 1 or 3. This makes things easier, as long as you remember the rule.
To ask about the date say:
¿Cuál es la fecha? (What is the date?)
And answer by saying:
Es el 17 de junio, 2015. (It’s the 17th of July, 2015.)
Or whatever day it is. Don’t forget to add the “es el” at the beginning. The date is masculine, so it’s never “Es la 17 de junio.”
So now you know the date, but what about the time?
3. Telling the Time in Spanish
The time in Spanish is fairly similar to English but with a few slight differences that may lead you astray.
To ask what time it is, say:
“¿Qué hora es?” (What time is it?)
To answer, say:
“Son las ______” (It’s ______o’clock) — for example, “Son las cinco” (It’s five o’clock)
Note that when it’s one o’clock (1:00 p.m. or 1:00 a.m.), we use es instead of son, because una is singular. So, you would say:
“Es la una.” (It’s one o’clock)
Unlike the date, the time is always feminine, so it’s “es la una“ or “son las dos,” never “es el uno” or “son los dos.”
As you know the numbers 1-12, you can already say the time when it’s on the hour without a problem:
It’s 2 p.m. = Son las dos
It’s 4 p.m. = Son las cuatro
Note that if you want to distinguish between whether it’s a.m. or p.m., you can add de la tarde (p.m., afternoon) or de la noche (p.m., nighttime)—for example, “son las dos de la tarde” (it’s two in the afternoon)—or de la mañana (a.m.)— for example, “son las dos de la mañana” (it’s two in the morning).
You might also need:
Midday — Mediodia
Midnight — Medianoche
Quarter past _____ — _____ y cuarto
Half past _____ — _____ y media
Quarter to _____ — _____ menos cuarto
Here are a few examples to get you started working with all these numbers:
It’s 5:15 (quarter past 5) — son las cinco y cuarto
It’s 5:30 (half past 5) — son las cinco y media
It’s 5:45 (quarter of six) — son las seis menos cuarto
Notice that to say 5:45, you can use cinco con cuarenta y cinco or you have to count backwards from 6 o’clock to say seis menos cuarto (quarter of six).
To talk about times that aren’t made up of quarters or halves, you just use the numbers we already know.
5:05 — cinco y cinco
5:20 — cinco y veinte
5:40 — seis menos veinte
5:50 — seis menos diez
Also note that many Spanish-speaking countries use the 24 hour clock, so they’re more likely to say “son las catorce” (it’s 14:00) than they are to say “son las dos de la tarde.” This can also differ between individuals within each country, just as it does in many English-speaking countries.
Good practice for telling the time can be found on websites like this one and this one.
4. Using Ordinal Numbers in Spanish
The last thing to know before you have conquered everything about Spanish numbers, is how to make ordinal numbers—first, second, third, etc.
As mentioned earlier, we don’t use ordinal numbers for the date in Spanish. But you do need them to talk about floor numbers, directions and who has won competitions (she won first prize, for example).
The ordinal numbers in Spanish you’ll need to know are:
first — primer(o/a)
second — segundo(a)
third — tercer(o/a)
fourth — cuarto(a)
fifth — quinto(a)
sixth — sexto(a)
seventh — séptimo(a)
eighth — octavo(a)
ninth — noveno(a)
tenth — décimo(a)
Note that as these words are adjectives (because they describe a noun), you have to make them masculine or feminine depending on what you’re talking about.
So it’s el primer piso (the first floor) because piso is masculine.
And ella es la primera means “she’s the first” because primera is feminine and we’re talking about a girl. For a boy, we’d use él es el primero.
These ordinal numbers can also be plural. So you could say “son los primeros a ir de viaje en nuestro familia” (they’re the first ones to go on holiday in our family) if you’re talking about a male group or a mixed male and female group. If you’re talking about an all female group, you would say “son las primeras.“
So why don’t you be the primero(a) of your friends to learn how to say all of that by heart.
And don’t forget to buy a watch, too, so you’ll be ready for the next time someone asks “¿Qué hora es?”
Go on, you can do it ahora! (now!)