A basic skill we need to know when learning Spanish is how to count and use numbers. In this blog, we focus on Spanish cardinal and ordinal numbers and how to use them.
Cardinal numbers are used for simple counting and show quantity also known as counting numbers. An important thing to remember is that cardinal numbers do not include decimals or fractions. Cardinal numbers can be both nouns and adjectives. Generally, Spanish numbers follow a pattern that will allow students to learn them easily with a few exceptions.
In Spanish, as in most languages, the numbers from 1-20 do not have a pattern; you must memorize them. Once you can retrieve these numbers quickly from your memory bank, it is time to move forward and learn more about Spanish numbers.
The numbers from 21 to 29 follow a pattern – use a combination of veinti- and a number from 1-9 (with no space in between).
Next, in order to finish the numbers through 100, you must learn the remaining multiples of ten: treinta, cuarenta, cincuenta, sesenta, setenta, ochenta, noventa y cien. Notice that most of the multiple of ten end in -enta except diez, veinte and cien.
Forming the numbers from 31 to 99 is super easy and continue to follow the pattern. You just use a multiple of ten plus the conjunction y and a number from 1 to 9, e.g. if you want to say 58 in Spanish, you say, cincuenta (50) followed by y and ending by adding ocho (8), becoming cincuenta y ocho. Here are some other examples.
|31||treinta y uno|
|42||cuarenta y dos|
|78||setenta y ocho|
The number 100 can be translated into Spanish as either cien or ciento.
You use “cien” when you have exactly one hundred of something:
|one hundred students||Cien estudiantes|
|one hundred dollars||Cien dollars|
On the other hand, we use ciento when talking about 101 or more than 101. e.g., 102 is ciento dos or 129 is ciento ventinueve.
Notice that “y” is not used to separate hundreds from tens. For example, 105 is ciento cinco NOT ciento y cinco or 199, ciento noventa y nueve NOT ciento y noventa y nueve
As well as being used to count, cardinal numbers are used in Spanish to talk about age, dates and tell the time.
In English, to divide large numbers, you use a comma every three digits to facilitate readability with a dot for decimal breaks. If you have an amount in English like this 5643287, it is commonly written like this 5,643,287.00 to improve readability.
This practice is different in many other parts of the world including Spanish-speaking countries. Commas and decimal periods are reversed! So the above number is written like this 5.643.287,00.
To tell the time in Spanish, you use the verb ser, a feminine definite article (la or las), and a cardinal number.
|It is 9:45 am||Son las nueve cuarenta y cinco de la mañana|
|It is one in the afternoon||Es la una de la tarde|
When talking about dates, use the masculine singular definite article (el) and a cardinal number. Notice that the names of the months in Spanish are not capitalized.
|Today is the 21st of November.||Hoy es el veinte y uno de noviembre.|
When writing a date in Spanish be aware that it is different than in English. In Spanish, you put the day first, followed by the month and then the year. The numerals can be separated by periods, dashes, or slashes.
For example, for March 30, 2017, you might write “30/3/2017” or “30-3-2017.” Note the order of the day and month are different than English
When asking someone’s in English their age, you ask, ”How old are you?”. Generally, the person answers by saying ”I’m _____ years old.”
In Spanish, you won’t use a form of ser (to be) or estar (to be) to say age. Instead, you use tener (to have) and años (years). When asking in Spanish you would ask, “¿Cuántos años tienes?” (informal) or ¿Cuántos años tiene usted? (formal)
|How old are you?||¿Cuántos años tienes?|
|I am twenty-two years old||Yo tengo veintidos años.|
Here is a quick review of the form of Tener conjugation to help you form the sentence with the proper conjugation.
|Form of Tener||Conjugation|
|Yo tengo||I have|
|Tú tienes||You have (singular informal, familiar)|
|Él / Ella / Usted tiene||He / She / You (singular formal) have|
|Nosotros tenemos||We have|
|Vosotros tenéis||You have (plural informal)|
|Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes tienen||They (male or mixed gender) / They (female)/ You (plural formal) have|
The last thing I want to touch on it ordinal numbers. I thought it was important for you to be familiar with the basics
Ordinal numbers are adjectives that must agree with the noun. In General, adjectives follow the noun in Spanish. However, numbers are one exception to this rule. In this situation, the adjective (number) goes before the noun.
|The fourth student||El cuarto estudiante|
|In fifth place||En quito lugar|