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Overview

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 120 ciento veinte
102 ciento dos 130 ciento treinta
103 ciento tres 140 ciento cuarenta
104 ciento cuatro 155 ciento cincuenta y cinco
105 ciento 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
500 quinientos (*irregular!)
600 seiscientos
700 setecientos (*irregular!)
800 ochocientos
900 novecientos (*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 veintitres
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.)

Interesting note on extremely large numbers:

In English, the pattern of number grouping generally repeats itself after every 3 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 6 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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