If you were to produce a count-off for your favorite Spanish song, what would it sound like? If your variant is “uno, dos, tres, what next?” this article is for you! Learn to count from 1 to 30 in authentic Spanish!
Let’s start with the basics: produce your fingers and start learning the Spanish names for numbers from 1 to 10:
One thing to remember in this easy set of numbers is that “one”, or uno, is homonymous with the indefinite article when it is followed by a noun: you need to match its gender to that of the noun. For masculine nouns, “one” would be un, and for feminine ones – una. E.g.:
- un niño – one baby boy
- un árbol – one tree
- un cuento – one story
- una niña – one baby girl
- una pelota – one ball
- una araña – one spider
However, when you are just counting (say, when playing hide-and-seek), number one is pronounced in its complete form: uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, etc.
Ready to proceed with greater numbers? There you go:
Just like in English, Spanish numbers 11 and 12 do not follow the “10 and X” rule; they have completely different roots.
The trick with Spanish numbers is that numbers 13, 14, and 15 do not conform to the rule either, and you will have to memorize them.
The good thing is that starting from 16, the numbers are formed according to the “10 and X” rule, but you also need to pay attention to their spelling: the Spanish for “ten” is diez, but in “teen” numbers, Z is replaced by C.
E.g.: In Spanish, 16 will be pronounced in the same way as diez y seis (literally: ten and six), but spelled “dieciséis”, because:
- the Z is replaced by a C,
- there is no place for a Y in the middle of a word, so it is replaced by an I, and
- we need an accent to keep the stress from shifting onto the middle i.
We don’t think there is a more detailed formula than that!
And we are moving forward to the next ten:
Here you can spot another trick:
While 20 is spelled with a final E (veinte), all the numbers from 21 to 29 will have an I in place of the E. It happens because the letter E merges with the I (the one that replaces Y for “and” in the middle of a word).
Another thing to pay attention to is that ventiuno also has to be matched to the gender of the nouns it precedes:
- un lápiz – veintiún lápices
- one pencil – twenty-one pencils
- Tengo ventiún años. – I am 21 years old.
- una pluma – veintiuna plumas
- one pen – twenty-one pens
- Tengo veintiuna gallinas. – I have 21 hens.
Remember, though, that you do not need to add any suffixes to match the number of veintiuno to that of the noun, only the gender has to be matched!
It is also not uncommon to hear native Spanish speakers use the masculine version veintiún with a feminine noun. Not uncommon, but not entirely correct either, so make your grammatical choices wisely!
How to Practice Spanish Cardinal Numbers
For almost all foreign language learners, regardless of the language they are trying to master, learning numbers is a tricky business. Of course, there are numerous apps that can help you practice Spanish numbers, but there are non-digital real-life techniques as well. You can say numbers out loud, figure by figure, whenever you see them:
- on license plates,
- on street signs,
- in calendars,
- writing down phone numbers, etc.
You can also practice telling your age, but at this point only if you are under 30, of course. If you are more mature, stay tuned for our next article on the aspects of Spanish grammar and vocabulary, and we’ll tell you all about the numbers from 31 to 1,000.
And now, let’s test your knowledge of the numbers 1-30 with this short quiz!