Cardinal Numbers 101+

While you may not think about it, numbers are adjectives too! Cardinal numbers are adjectives that answer the question, how many. They indicate a specific number of a noun but don’t have to match that noun in gender or number except for a few cases (uno , ciento ).

Cardinal numbers above 100 function a lot like numbers below 100 but for a few exceptions. Instead of using cien , the Spanish word for 100, you will use ciento .

Hay cuatrocientos noventa y dos dulces en el tarro.
There are 492 candies in the jar.
 
Invitamos a ciento cincuenta personas a nuestra boda.
We invited 150 people to our wedding.
 
Nací en mil novecientos ochenta y cuatro.
I was born in 1984.
 

To form numbers 101-199, combine the number for 100 (ciento) with any number below 100.

101
ciento uno
 
102
ciento dos
 
103
ciento tres
 
104
ciento cuatro
 
105
ciento cinco
 
120
ciento veinte
 
130
ciento treinta
 
140
ciento cuarenta
 
155
ciento cincuenta y cinco
 
169
ciento sesenta y nueve
 

Notice that you do not use y to separate the hundreds from tens. Y is only used in numbers 31-99 and other multiples of those numbers (131-199, 231-299, 331-399, etc.)

To form multiples of 100, most numbers are a combination of the numbers 1-9 + cientos, the plural form of ciento. There are, however, exceptions, so keep an eye out!

200
doscientos
 
300
trescientos
 
400
cuatrocientos
 
500quinientos  (irregular!)
600
seiscientos
 
700setecientos  (irregular!)
800
ochocientos
 
900novecientos  (irregular!)

To form numbers up to 999, apply the rules you have already learned.

115
ciento quince
 
237
doscientos treinta y siete
 
493
cuatrocientos noventa y tres
 
748
setecientos cuarenta y ocho
 
999
novecientos noventa y nueve
 

Above 1,000, you can add simple cardinal numbers in front of mil  (1,000).

2,000
dos mil
 
13,000
trece mil
 
48,526
cuarenta y ocho mil quinientos veintiséis
 
75,372
setenta y cinco mil trescientos setenta y dos
 
99,999
noventa y nueve mil novecientos noventa y nueve
 

The multiples of 1,000 are extremely useful since you will be using them to express dates.

  • 1776 - mil setecientos setenta y seis 
  • 1999 - mil novecientos noventa y nueve 
  • 2011 - dos mil once 

Above 999,999, you just need to learn the words for one million (un millón ) and one billion (mil millones ) and follow all the previous rules.

1,000,000
un millón
 
4,876,423
cuatro millones ochocientos setenta y seis mil cuatrocientos veintitrés
 
981,432,875
novecientos ochenta y un millones cuatrocientos treinta y dos mil ochocientos setenta y cinco
 
1,000,000,000
mil millones
 
78,902,465,231
setenta y ocho mil millones novecientos dos millones cuatrocientos sesenta y cinco mil doscientos treinta y uno
 
1,000,000,000,000
un billón
 

Notice that un millón  and un billón  are nouns, not adjectives like other numbers, and thus, they will have plural versions (dos millones , tres billones , etc.)

Note on extremely large numbers:

In English, the pattern of number grouping generally repeats itself after every three digits so that a newly named number grouping occurs at each successive interval.

  • 1,000 = one thousand
  • 1,000,000 = one million
  • 1,000,000,000 = one billion
  • 1,000,000,000,000 = one trillion

In Spanish, however, the pattern of introducing new numerical terms occurs once every six digits. Instead of introducing the term billón after 999,999,999 (as it is in English), it is only introduced after exhausting the thousand million/mil millones place value holders, which creates several false cognates!

  • 1,000 = un mil  = one thousand
  • 1,000,000 = un millón  = one million
  • 1,000,000,000 = un mil millones  = one billion
  • 1,000,000,000,000 = un billón  = one trillion

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