Spanish Numbers: What You Need to Know

Rules, rules, rules. These are the things that make language learning so bloody difficult. They’re important, though – more important than using British slang when I’m an American! But seriously though, rules. There’s some that are not often spelled outright for us to learn, and about 107% of the rules in your own native language are probably completely unknown to you. So let’s talk about them with numbers, because we’re going to talk about Spanish numbers today.

So yeah, English numbers are pretty easy, right? Pretty much common sense, nothing tricky, yeah? That’s all fine and good, except for the idea that, for the most part, there are no rules because experts literally cannot agree on them. The rules that the experts do agree on, though, are pretty good to know. There is one, for example, that tells you which numbers should be spelled out instead of just digit-ed. I know, I know, you’ve probably wondered back in high school essays or in professional emails if you should be spelling out numbers or not. (Psst. If they’re small numbers, centuries, decades, or the beginning of the sentence, spell’em out!)

So Spanish numbers. Here we have a completely different animal, mostly because they’re in a different language. So they’re not a completely different animal, just a kind of weird one. Why weird? Because Spanish numbers have their own little picky rules. For example.

Let’s take the Spanish number one. Uno. See how it ends in a vowel? Uno will follow suit with whatever gender the word after it says it should be. So for example, say ‘a boy and a girl’. Un niño y una niña. THERE! Did you see it? You get what I mean? See how uno changed?

Now we’ve got something with Spanish numbers that we don’t have to deal with in the entire English language as a whole: accents. Spanish numbers have some weird accents. And by that I mean random Spanish numbers have accents stuck on top of them. 16, 22, 23, 26. Those Spanish numbers have accents. That's it. Completely random, I know.

Oh! And then if we want to combine these two rules, check out 21, or veintiuno. This Spanish number also follows the masculine/feminine thing. Not only does the o/a change with whatever gendered object it’s talking about, but it also drops an accent entirely! Check out 21 days and 21 weeks: veintiún días, veintiuna semanas.

While on the subject of dropping random parts of Spanish numbers, let’s talk about 100, or ciento. Ciento becomes cien quite often. Like, before any noun, as well as before the numbers mil and millones. Speaking of millones, this word gains a de before any noun, like millones de dólares, and also comes with an accent when there’s only one of them; millón.

One last one for ya: you know when to use commas and periods in English, right? With Spanish numbers, they’re flipped. 100%

There you have it! Well I mean, there’s a few more that I haven’t talk about, but these are the interesting ones (I think). What about you? Caught onto any interesting Spanish number habits I haven’t talked about?

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