Counting in Spanish: Cardinal and Ordinal Spanish Numbers

counting in spanish

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Whether you are visiting a Spanish speaking country on vacation, or simply dealing with a native speaker, counting in Spanish is something that all students need to learn as soon as possible, otherwise, communication is going to be difficult.

Maybe you will experience this when you go to pay for something at a store.

Or perhaps, when you need to tell the taxi driver your address.

It might even be something as simple as making small talk with locals,  with whom you don’t know how to say that you’ll be in their country for x number of days.

You get the point.

Counting in Spanish is something that should be mastered sooner rather than later.

The good news is that once you are aware of the rules (and know the exceptions) to follow, in most cases, Spanish numbers are a piece of cake.

This post will be split into two sections:

  • Cardinal numbers in Spanish (1,2,3 etc)
  • Ordinal numbers in Spanish  (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc)

Now, let’s start in 3….2….1….

Cardinal Numbers in Spanish

Spanish cardinal numbers (números cardinales) can be both nouns and adjectives, working pretty much as they do in English.

The good news is that for the most part, these numbers translate directly.

(There are specific rules to know, which we’ll cover later.)

For now, let’s look at the below table of numbers, which is self-explanatory.

Number Spanish English
0 Cero Zero
1 Uno/Una/Un One
2 Dos Two
3 Tres Three
4 Cuatro Four
5 Cinco Five
6 Seis Six
7 Siete Seven
8 Ocho Eight
9 Nueve Nine
10 Diez Ten
11 Once Eleven
12 Doce Twelve
13 Trece Thirteen
14 Catorce Fourteen
15 Quince Fifteen
16 Dieciséis Sixteen
17 Diecisiete Seventeen
18 Dieciocho Eighteen
19 Diecinueve Nineteen
20 Veinte Twenty
21 Veintiuno Twenty-one
22 Veintidós Twenty-two
30 Treinta Thirty
31 Treinta y uno Thirty-one
40 Cuarenta Forty
50 Cincuenta Fifty
60 Sesenta Sixty
70 Setenta Seventy
80 Ochenta Eighty
90 Noventa Ninety
100 Cien One hundred
101 Ciento uno One hundred & one
200 Doscientos Two hundred
201 Doscientos uno Two hundred & one
300 Trescientos Three hundred
400 Cuatrocientos Four hundred
500 Quinientos Five hundred
600 Seiscientos Six hundred
700 Setecientos Seven hundred
800 Ochocientos Eight hundred
900 Novecientos Nine hundred
1000 Mil One thousand
2000 Dos mil Two thousand
100.000 Cien mil A hundred thousand
1.000.000 Un millón One million
2.000.000 Dos millones Two Million

Below are some tips that should make it easier for you to remember Spanish numbers.

1) From 1 to 15, the numbers don’t follow any pattern, which means you need to memorize them (sorry, no shortcuts).

2) Next, you also need to memorize each multiple of ten: veinte (20), treinta (30) cuarenta (40), cincuenta (50), sesenta (60), setenta (70), ochenta (80) y noventa (90).

In case you haven’t noticed, these multiples (with the exception of veinte) use the suffix -nta, and look similar to the smaller numbers e.g. cuatro (4) cuarenta (40) (again, with the exception of veinte)

3) The numbers 16-19 follow a similar structure to English, since you’re going to use the digit “diez” with the other digit. Basically, the formula will be “diez” + y + “digit”.

For example, diez + y + ocho = which contracts to dieciocho. In English, it’s eight + ten = eighteen. (just the other way around).

4) Once we pass 20, the formula is simple. We simply use a multiple of ten (veinte, treinta, cuarenta, etc), add a “y” in the middle, and then the single number (uno, dos, tres etc). For example, 41 = cuarenta y uno.

That wasn’t too bad, was it?

Good.

Now, let’s talk about the number one

We mentioned that Spanish numbers can work as nouns or adjectives.

Luckily, this only affects the number one, and any numbers ending in one (21,31,151 etc)

Let’s see how it works.

If you already covered Spanish articles, then you should know that uno or una means “one”, depending on the gender of the accompanying noun.

It also works fine when used to replace another noun in a sentence.

  • I caught one of them – Atrapé uno de ellos
  • There was only one left – Solo quedaba uno/a

Un / una is a shortened version of the same, but in the adjective form, meaning it’s used with nouns to indicate how many of them you have.

It can be used the same way as “a/an” in English.

  • Atrapé un pez – I caught a fish
  • Había veintiúna personas en el autobús – There were twenty-one people on the bus

(side note: without getting into too much detail, you’ll notice that veintiúno & veintiúna changes to veintiún when they come before certain nouns.)

And that’s it.

Remember – you only need to memorize around the first 20 numbers, and for the remainder, you’ll just notice the patterns and exceptions, followed by the multiples of ten or other “milestones” (20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 1000 and so on) highlighted above.

Ordinal Numbers in Spanish

While this section is probably less useful, you are bound to come across a situation that requires you to know ordinal numbers in Spanish.

You can think about these ordinal numbers as adjectives, used to express the position that an element can take in any certain list.

Whether you use them as words (first) or numbers (1st), they’ll be used the same away.

Now for the most important part of this section.

Unlike English, the fact that Spanish ordinal numbers work as adjectives means that they must match the number and gender of the noun that you use them with.

For the most part, matching the number/gender of the noun is simple and straightforward.

Simply change the masculine -o ending to the feminine ending -a.

For the plural form, you need to use an added -s.

Let’s see an example of this below.

English Masculine singular Feminine Singular Masculine Plural Feminine plural
First Primero Primera Primeros Primeras
Second Segundo Segunda Segundos Segundas
Third Tercero Tercera Terceros Terceras
Fourth Cuarto Cuarta Cuartos Cuartas
Fifth Quinto Quinta Quintos Quintas

You should know by now that Spanish rules are full of exceptions.

In this case, there is an exception when using the ordinal 1st and 3rd.

When paired with a singular, masculine noun, both of these numbers change to their respective alternatives: primer and tercer.

You can see an example of this below.

  • El primer día de la semana es el más importante de todos – The first day of the week is the most important of all
  • Vivo en el tercer piso, un gusto conocerte – I live on the third floor, nice to meet you

Ok, we’re almost done here.

Before you leave, I should mention how ordinal numbers in Spanish are written or typed.

In English, these numbers are shortened  (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc), but in Spanish, the same numbers are shortened with something called an ordinal indicator, that matches the gender of the noun.

We use (°) for masculine, and (ª) for feminine.

seen below:

  • 1º, 1ª or 1er
  • 2º, 2ª or 2do/2da
  • 3º, 3ª or 3er
  • 4º, 4ª, or 4to/4ta

For correctly writing plurals, you will need to add (os/as) according to the gender of the noun you’re counting.

  • 1º or 1os
  • 2º or 2as
  • 3º or 3os

I’ll be honest with you, this part is widely ignored by the vast majority of Spanish speakers (including me).

While it’s good to be aware of it, but I wouldn’t worry too much about this section.

English Masculine Spanish Feminine Spanish
First Primero / Primer Primera / Primer
Second Segundo Segunda
Third Tercero / Tercer Tercera / Tercer
Fourth Cuarto Cuarta
Fifth Quinto Quinta
Sexth Sexto Sexta
Seventh Séptimo Sétima
Eighth Octavo Octava
Nineth Noveno Novena
Tenth Décimo Décima
Eleventh Décimo primero Décima primera
Twelfth Décimo segundo Décima segunda
Thirteenth Décimo tercero Décima tercera
Fourteenth Décimo cuarto Décima cuarta
Fifteenth Décimo quinto Décima quinta
Sixteenth Décimo sexto Décima sexta
Seventeenth Décimo séptimo Décima sétima
Eighteenth Décimo octavo Décima octava
Nineteenth Décimo noveno Décima novena
Twentieth Vigésimo Vigésima
Twenty first Vigésimo primero Vigésima primera
Twenty second Vigésimo segundo Vigésima segunda
Thirtieth Trigésimo Trigésima
Thirty first Trigésimo primero Trigésima primera
Fortieth Cuadragésimo Cuadragésima
Fiftieth Quincuagésimo Quincuagésima
Sixtieth Sexagésimo Sexagésima
Seventieth Septuagésimo Septuagésima
Eightieth Octogésimo Octogésima
Ninetieth Nonagésimo Nonagésima
One hundredth Centésimo Centésima
One hundred first Centésimo primero Centésima primera
Two hundredth Ducentésimo Ducentésima
Two hundred first Ducentésimo primero Ducentésima primera
Three hundred Tricentésimo Tricentésima
Four hundredth Cuadringentésimo Cuadringentésima
Five hundredth Quingentésimo Quingentésima
Six hundredth Sexcentésimo Sexcentésima
Seven hundredth Septingentésimo Septingentésima
Eight hundredth Octingentésimo Octingentésima
Nine hundredth Noningentésimo Noningentésima
One thousandth Milésimo Milésima

It’s unlikely that you’ll need to use many of these numbers.

However, the regular rules apply and if using the larger ordinal numbers, then every digit an ordinal from left to right must respect the gender and number of the noun that it is being used with.

For example:

  • 56° will be read or written as Quincuagésimo sexto
  • 4637ª will be read or written as Cuatromilésima sexagésima trigésima séptima

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