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Counting in Spanish: a guide to numbers in Spanish

Do you need help with counting in Spanish? You have come to the right place then!

You probably already knew the basic numbers in Spanish (that is, from 1 to 10) even before taking your first formal Spanish lesson ever.

But you would be surprised at how much you still can learn about counting in Spanish. After all, intermediate students sometimes get them wrong.

And not to mention the ordinal numbers (that is, ‘first’, ‘second’, etc. in Spanish). What happens after 10?

Even native speakers will struggle with those weird names such as vigésimo, trigésimo, quincuagésimo, etc.

So are you ready to expand your knowledge on counting in Spanish? Let’s go!

Counting in Spanish

Cardinal numbers in Spanish: uno, dos, tres, etc.

Cardinal numbers are used to express amount: un libro, dos libros, tres libros, etc.

They always refer to a noun, but can be used alone when, by context, it’s clear what we are talking about:

—Tengo diez entradas para ir al cine el jueves. ¿Cuántas necesitas?
—Solo dos.

From 0 to 15

These are the ones you learned back in high school! I know you can tell them by heart, can’t you? 😉

0 = cero4 = cuatro8 = ocho12 = doce
1 = uno5 = cinco9 = nueve13 = trece
2 = dos6 = seis10 = diez14 = catorce
3 = tres7 = siete11 = once15 = quince

Uno and una have grammatical gender and agree with the noun:

—¿Qué te regaló Papá Noel para Navidad?
Una camiseta.

—¿Cuántos teléfonos tienes?
Uno.

Uno becomes un before a masculine noun: vivo con un gato y dos perros.

From 16 and 99

If not already with the sequence 13, 14, 15, this is when things start getting tricky!

From 16 to 29, numbers are written in a single word:

16 = dieciséis20 = veinte25 = veinticinco
17 = diecisiete21 = veintiuno26 = veintiséis
18 = dieciocho22 = veintidós27 = veintisiete
19 = diecinueve23 = veintitrés28 = veintiocho
24 = veinticuatro29 = veintinueve

—¿Cuántos años tienes?
Veintinueve. ¿Y vos?

—¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños?
— El diecinueve de septiembre.

From 31 to 99, numbers are written separately in two words joined by y:

30 = treinta (treinta y uno, treinta y dos, treinta y tres, treinta y cuatro, etc.)
40 = cuarenta (cuarenta y uno, cuarenta y dos, cuarenta y tres, etc.)
50 = cincuenta (cincuenta y uno, cincuenta y dos, etc.)
60 = sesenta (sesenta y uno, sesenta y dos, etc.)
70 = setenta (idem)
80 = ochenta (idem)
90 = noventa (idem)

● Remember that when numbers end with uno/una, they agree in grammatical gender with the noun. Uno becomes un before a masculine noun:

Este mes me comí treinta y una monedas de chocolate. Una cada día!

Mi tío ya tiene cincuenta y un años, pero todavía tiene un espíritu joven.

From 100 to 999

This is one of those mistakes that Spanish learners make from time to time. We use cien only when referring to the exact number 100:

Esta iglesia se construyó hace cien años.

For all other cases, we use ciento:

Estos zapatos de tango cuestan ciento veinte euros.

De Santiago de Chile a Viña del Mar hay ciento treinta kilómetros.

El presidente tiene cincuenta por ciento de imagen negativa.

● When we talk about unspecified amounts, we use cientos:

Había cientos de autos en la exposición de autos clásicos.

This is the full list of numbers:

100 = cien, ciento
200 = doscientos/as
300 = trescientos/as
400 = cuatrocientos/as
500 = quinientos/as
600 = seiscientos/as
700 = setecientos/as
800 = ochocientos/as
900 = novecientos/as

The names are masculine, but numbers from 200 to 999 agree with the noun they refer to:

Para la pizza se necesitan trescientos gramos de harina.

El teatro tiene capacidad para seiscientas cincuenta personas.

● Hundreds and tens aren’t joined by y:

450 = cuatrocientos cincuenta (not y cincuenta)
743 = setecientos cuarenta y tres (not y cuarenta y tres)

Counting in Spanish from 1,000 to 999,999

Things get easier again! The word mil always stays the same:

1000 = mil
2000 = dos mil
5000 = cinco mil
10000 = diez mil
100000 = cien mil
500000 = quinientos/as mil

● When we talk about unspecified amounts, we use miles:

Miles de personas participaron de la manifestación.

A girl learning counting in Spanish - numbers in Spanish
Una niña aprendiendo a contar en español. – Foto de Yan Krukau en Pexels

Millón / millones

The word millón is used only in singular: un millón. To refer to more than one million, we use the plural form millones:

1000000 = un millón
2000000 = dos millones
10000000 = diez millones
100000000 = cien millones
1000000000 = mil millones

Millón is a masculine noun, therefore the hundreds behind it go always in masculine:

400.310.000 personas = cuatrocientos millones trescientas diez mil personas.
700.862.000 palabras = setecientas millones ochocientas sesenta y dos mil palabras.

When the words millón or millones are immediately followed by a noun, they carry the preposition de:

El último álbum ya vendió más de un millón de copias.

Casi quinientos millones de personas hablan español.

But not if there’s a number in between:

Se sacó la lotería y ganó un millón quinientos mil euros.

Finally, a reminder! One billion, billón in Spanish, is actually ‘one million million’ and not ‘one thousand million’. Therefore it’s written with 12 zeros.

1 000 000 000 000 = un billón

This is just one of several false friends that exist between English and Spanish.

It might be a little confusing, but fortunately you won’t be using this number that much 🙂

Let’s move on to ordinal numbers now!

Ordinal numbers in Spanish

Ordinal numbers refer to the position of something in a series:

La segunda temporada de “La casa de papel” es mejor que la primera, pero la tercera no la vi.

Most used ordinal numbers in Spanish are:

primero/asexto/a
segundo/aséptimo/a
tercero/aoctavo/a
cuarto/anoveno/a
quinto/a10°décimo/a

The masculine forms are written with the symbol °: 1°, 2°, 3°, etc.

The feminine forms, with the symbol ª: 1ª, 2°, 3ª, etc.

Primero and tercero become their shortened forms primer and tercer only before a masculine noun:

Este es mi primer trabajo, estoy un poco nervioso.

Mi novia está estudiando en tercer año de Medicina.

As you can see, ordinal numbers agree in gender and number with the noun!

Mis primeros anteojos me los regaló mi mamá.

Vivo en el séptimo piso, en la primera puerta.

And when it’s clear what we are talking about by context, it’s not necessary to repeat the noun:

El primer instrumento que aprendí fue la guitarra, y el segundo, (= the second one) el piano.

● In Spanish, cardinal instead of ordinal numbers are used to refer to the days of the month:

La independencia de Argentina es el nueve de julio (not el noveno de julio).

We are almost done! One final thing about ordinal numbers…

Counting in Spanish: ordinal numbers from 10° on

Here is when we enter uncharted territories…. even for native Spanish speakers! I can assure you that 90% of them don’t know ordinal numbers beyond 19°.

And to be honest, writing this article also helps me refresh my knowledge on them haha!

11°undécimo/a20°vigésimo/a
12°duodécimo/a30°trigésimo/a
13°décimo tercero/a40°cuadragésimo/a
14°décimo cuarto/a50°quincuagésimo/a
15°décimo quinto/a60°sexagésimo/a
16°décimo sexto/a70°septuagésimo/a
17°décimo séptimo/a80°octogésimo/a
18°décimo octavo/a90°nonagésimo/a
19°décimo noveno/a100°centésimo/a

Do we even use ordinal numbers from 10° on then? Well, only in formal Spanish, especially in written texts, to refer to events, anniversaries, and the position in a series:

En 2023 se realizó la cuadragésima sexta (46ª) edición de la Feria Internacional del Libro de Buenos Aires.

Se cumple el trigésimo séptimo (37°) aniversario de la muerte de Jorge Luis Borges.

Costa Rica ocupa el vigésimo tercer (23°) puesto en el ranking de países más felices del mundo.

Good news for you! Since ordinal numbers seem to be excessively long and complicated, when we speak we just change the order, so that we can use normal and friendly cardinal numbers.

So the sentences above would read as:

En 2023 se realizó la edición cuarenta y seis

Se cumple el aniversario treinta y siete….

Costa Rica ocupa el puesto veintitrés….

And that’s all for today!

Do you want to learn more Spanish?

I hope you have enjoyed this article about counting in Spanish!

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Thank you very much and until next time,

Kevin.

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