Counting: The Cardinal Numbers

Spanish for Beginners

Spanish lottery ticket for lesson on Spanish numbers
Boleto de la Lotería Nacional de España. (Spanish National Lottery ticket.). Álvaro Ibáñez/Creative Commons.

Although Spanish numbers can be memorized in a straightforward way, their use can be confusing for persons new to Spanish. Numbers made up of more than one part are often formed differently than they are in English, and some Spanish numbers change according to the gender of the nouns they apply to.

Following are the basic Spanish numbers and patterns in which they are formed. Those that are in italics are forms that change according to gender, while the non-italic forms are fixed.

  • 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
  • 21. veintiuno
  • 22. veintidós
  • 23. veintitrés
  • 24. veinticuatro
  • 25. veinticinco
  • 26. veintiséis
  • 27. veintisiete
  • 28. veintiocho
  • 29. veintinueve
  • 30. treinta
  • 31. treinta y uno
  • 32. treinta y dos
  • 33. treinta y tres
  • 40. cuarenta
  • 41. cuarenta y uno
  • 42. cuarenta y dos
  • 50. cincuenta
  • 60. sesenta
  • 70. setenta
  • 80. ochenta
  • 90. noventa
  • 100. ciento (cien)
  • 101. ciento uno
  • 102. ciento dos
  • 103. ciento tres
  • 110. ciento diez
  • 199. ciento noventa y nueve
  • 200. doscientos
  • 201. doscientos uno
  • 202. doscientos dos
  • 203. doscientos tres
  • 251. doscientos cincuenta y uno
  • 252. doscientos cincuenta y dos
  • 300. trescientos
  • 400. cuatrocientos
  • 500. quinientos
  • 600. seiscientos
  • 700. setecientos
  • 800. ochocientos
  • 900. novecientos
  • 1.000. mil
  • 2.000. dos mil
  • 3.000. tres mil
  • 3.333. tres mil trescientos treinta y tres
  • 1.000.000. un millón
  • 1.000.000.000. mil millones

Shortening Uno and Ciento

Uno and numbers ending in -uno are shortened to un when they immediately precede a masculine noun. When standing alone (that is, being 100 exactly) ciento is shortened to cien before preceding a noun of either gender; the longer form is used within longer numbers (except when preceding mil).

  • Examples: un lápiz (1 pencil), una pluma (1 pen), cincuenta y un lápices (51 pencils), cincuenta y una plumas (51 pens), cien lápices (100 pencils), cien plumas (100 pens), ciento tres lápices (103 pencils), ciento tres plumas (103 pens), cien mil lápices (100,000 pencils), cien mil plumas (100,000 pens)

Gender of Numbers

As indicated above, the italicized portions of numbers vary according to gender. When a number ends in -uno ("one"), the form -un is used before masculine nouns, and -una before feminine nouns. The uno form is used only in counting. Accent marks are used where needed to maintain the correct pronunciation. The hundreds portions of numbers change in gender even when other parts of the number intervene before the noun.

  • Examples: un coche (1 car), una casa (1 house), veintiún coches (21 cars), veintiuna casas (21 houses), doscientos coches (200 cars), doscientas casas (200 houses), doscientos dos coches (202 cars), doscientas dos casas (202 houses).

Punctuation of Numbers

In most of the Spanish-speaking world, periods and commas within numbers are reversed from what they are in U.S. English. Thus in Spain 1.234,567 would be the way of writing mil doscientos treinta y cuatro coma quinientos sesenta y siete, or what would be written in the United States as 1,234.567.

In Mexico, Central America and Puerto Rico, numbers usually are punctuated as they are in the United States.

One Hundred

The dictionary listing for the number 100 is normally ciento. However, when counting out loud, the form cien usually is used.

Old Spelling

The numbers 16 through 19 and 21 through 29 used to be spelled as diez y seis, diez y siete, diez y ocho ... veinte y uno, veinte y dos, etc. You'll still see that spelling sometimes (the pronunciation is the same), but the modern spelling is preferred.

Other Details

Note that y ("and") is not used to separate hundreds from the remainder of the number; thus "one hundred and sixty-one" is not ciento y sesenta y uno but ciento sesenta y uno. Note also that mil is not made plural in numbers above 1,999. Thus 2,000 is dos mil, not dos miles. Also, 1,000 is simply mil, not un mil.

Pronunciation of Years

The years in Spanish are pronounced the same as other cardinal numbers are. Thus, for example, the year 2040 would be pronounced as "dos mil cuarenta." The English custom of pronouncing the centuries separately — in English we typically say "twenty forty" instead of "two thousand forty" — is not followed. Saying "veinte cuarenta" instead of "dos mil cuarenta" would strike native Spanish speakers as an anglicism.

Millions and More

Numbers larger than the millions can get problematic in both English and Spanish. Traditionally, a billion has been a thousand million in U.S. English but a million million in British English, and Spanish has followed the British standard, with a trillion being a thousand billions in either case. Thus 1,000,000,000,000 would be a billion in British English but a trillion in U.S. English. Precise Spanish, following the British understanding, uses mil millones for 1,000,000,000 and billón for 1,000,000,000,000, while trillón is 1,000,000,000,000,000. But U.S. English has influenced English outside the U.S. and Spanish as well, especially in Latin America, so there can be confusion both in Latin America and among English speakers outside the United States about exactly what a billion or billón is. To avoid confusion, the Royal Spanish Academy has suggested the use of millardo for 1,000,000,000, although the term has not gained widespread use except in reference to economic issues.