About Time and Numbers

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This section introduces numbers and their uses in Spanish , in such things as date and time, cardinal (one, two, three. …) and ordinal numbers (first, second, etc.) as well as currency.

Other aspects of time are also introduced here such as seasons, months and days of the week. 

The tenses and their uses are also outlined in this chapter, so that you begin to understand how, in Spanish, the various forms of the past, present and future are represented in different contexts.

Cardinal (counting) numbers

When counting ‘out loud’ a few of the cardinal numbers are different, principally one (uno) and a hundred (ciento), but otherwise these numbers used for counting are the same in sequence as when you say, for example ‘ten euros’ or ‘three hotels’.  These numbers (with examples up to 1000) are shown below.

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Note that some numbers (e.g. 1 and 100) differ slightly when used in different ways. Counting from one to five, use uno ; but before a noun (e.g. when saying one book, a car or a girl) it becomes un libro, un coche and una niña.

100 is cien when counting or before a noun, but 101, 110 etc are ciento uno, ciento diez . 200, 300 etc are doscientos, trescientos, etc, using the plural of ‘hundred’. Both ciento and cientos have feminine equivalents for feminine nouns – cienta(s)

1-10 Un(o), dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez

11-20 once, doce, trece, catorce, quince, dieciséis, diecisiete, dieciocho, diecinueve, veinte. Note that 11-19 are each a single word as in English.

21 – veintiuno; 22 – veintidós; 23 – veintitrés; 24 – veinticuatro; 25 – veinticinco; 26 – veintiséis;  27 – veintisiete;  28 – veintiocho;  29 – veintinueve

21 – veintiuno; 22 – veintidós; 23 – veintitrés; 24 – veinticuatro; 25 – veinticinco; 26 – veintiséis;  27 – veintisiete;  28 – veintiocho;  29 – veintinueve

30treinta ;  31 – treinta y uno;  32 – treinta y dos; 40 – cuarenta ; 41 – cuarenta y uno;    49 – cuarenta y nueve. Note that, above 30, numbers in between include ‘and’ – y.

50 – cincuenta ;  60 – sesenta ;  70 – setenta ;  80 – ochenta ; 90 – noventa ;

100 – cien(to) ;   200 – doscientos ; 250 – doscientos cincuenta ; 300 – trescientos ;  400 – cuatrocientos

500 – quinientos  ; 600 – seiscientos ; 700 – setecientos 800 – ochocientos ;  900 – novecientos  ;  1000 – mil. (Note the difference for 500, dropping the c)

Ordinal (sequence) numbers

Ordinals are used to describe an order of priority or where things fall in a sequence – first in line, Felipe the Second, twelfth month, second course, fourth floor, etc.  This is not to be confused with fractions, which are dealt with elsewhere.

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When written numerically, a small ‘o‘ is written as a superscript above the number, e.g. 1o , 12o which represents the Spanish ending as you’ll see below.

First (1st) to tenth (10th)

1o primero,   2o segundo,   3º tercero,  4º cuarto,    5º quinto, sexto,       7º séptimo,   8º octavo,     noveno     10º  décimo

After 10º, the cardinal numbers tend to be used, e.g. el siglo vientiuno – the 21st Century ; el piso doce – the 12th floor.

Ordinals must ‘agree’ in gender and for plurals, so ‘the fourth house on the right’ is la casa cuarta, a la derecha, and ‘the first five girls’ would be las primeras cinco niñas.

Useful ‘time’ words and expressions

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ayer – yesterday ; hoy – today ; mañana – tomorrow ;

ahora – now ; todo el día – all day ; todos los días – every day ; hoy en día – nowadays

ante before ; durante during ; después de– after / afterwards / since (adv.) ; desde – since (prep.) e.g. desde ayer since yesterday

temprano – early ; a tiempo on time ; tarde – late ;

la mañana– morning; mediodía midday ; la tarde afternoon ; la noche– night ;

Time (occasion) – una vez ,pl. veces

otra vez – again (another time) ; a veces – at times / sometimes ; cada vez – each time ; de vez en cuando – from time to time ; de una vez para siempre once and for all ; 2 a la vez – two at a time ;

una vez que (+ subjunctive for future actions) – once …, e.g. once I arrive, I will … ; for past or habitual actions una vez que doesn’t use the subjunctive, e.g. once I had arrived, we were able to …

Time (clock) – la hora

¿qué hora es? – what time is it? ; ¿a qué hora ? – at what time? ; a primera horafirst thing (in the morning) ; pedir hora – to make an appointment (ask for a time)

son las diez – it’s ten o’clock ; a las diez – at 10 o’clock ; las diez y pico – at a little after 10

a las diez y cuarto – at a quarter past ten; las diez menos cuarto – a quarter to ten; las diez y media – half past ten

a la una y cuarto – at a quarter past one ; la una menos diez– ten to one ; a medianoche – at midnight

Time (concept, duration, period) – el tiempo

al mismo tiempo / a un tiempo – at the same time ; al poco tiempo – in a short while / very soon ; de tiempo en tiempo – from time to time ; hace tiempo – some time ago ; todo el tiempo – all the time ; mucho tiempo – (for) a long time

un rato – for a short time ; repetidamente – repeatedly ; un plazo – time limit

mañana por la mañana – tomorrow morning ; anoche – last night ; la semana/el o pasada/o – last week/year ; la semana/el o que viene – next week/year ; hace tres días – 3 days ago; (el día) pasado mañana – the day after tomorrow

dentro de una semana – in a week’s time ; hace una semana – a week ago

horario – timetable ; la programa – schedule, agenda ; huso horario – time zone (geographic / chronological)

cronometrar (vb.) to time (e.g. sport) ; el cronometraje – timing (sports)

un diario – diary (also a daily newspaper) ; el calendario – calendar

una fecha – date ; What date is it?: ¿Qué fecha es (hoy)? / ¿A cuantos estamos?

Note – When saying the date, you use the ordinal primero for the first of the month and afterwards the cardinal dos, tres, cuatro, cinco,doce, trece, catorce,… veintiuno, veintidós…etc.

un año – year ; un mes – month ; una semana – week ; un día – day

diario – daily (adj.) ; cotidiano/a – daily / everyday (adj.)

el momento oportuno – at the right moment (an opportune time)

pasarlo bien / mal – to have a good/bad time

Days, Months and Seasons

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Note that days and months in Spanish don’t begin with a capital letter:

Monday – lunes,  Tuesday – martes,   Wednesday – miércoles, Thursday – jueves,  Friday – viernes, Saturday – sábado,   Sunday – domingo


January – enero  ;  February – febrero  ;    March – marzo   ; April – abril           May – maio  ;   June – junio ; July – julio    ; August – agosto       September – septiembre   ; October – octubre     ; November – noviembre   ; December – diciembre

spring – primavera  ;   summer –  verano ; autumn – otoño ;     winter – invierno.

Telling the Time

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The response to the question ¿a qué hora? or ¿qué hora es? depends on whether the time is precisely on the hour, so many minutes to or after the hour, but Spanish expresses this slightly differently to English.  For example: ‘It is two o’clock’ is son las dos – literally ‘they are two’.  Put yourself in the Spaniard’s situation, what does o’clock mean?! In fact they aren’t as different as you would think. Two o’clock literally is ‘two hours of the clock’, and in Spanish this is also a shortened form stating how many hours there are showing on the clock.

On the Hour:

Es la una ,  es mediodía, es medianoche are the only singular hours you will come across – ‘it’s 1 o’clock, midday, and midnight’ respectively.

Son las dos … las tres … las cuatro … las cinco … etc are 2, 3, 4, 5 o’clock respectively.  En punto is used to show an exact time / ‘on the dot’: son las diez en punto is ‘it’s ten o’clock exactly ’.

Half past’, ‘quarter to’, etc…

‘Half past’ is y media  – literally ‘and a half’ ; ‘a quarter past’ is  y cuarto – and a quarter, while ‘a quarter to’ is menos cuarto – less a quarter. Informally, ‘a little after’ is y pico, ‘a little before’ is menos pico.

So ‘it’s half past seven’ is son las siete y media  and ‘at half past seven’ is a las siete y media. Other times also use y or menos to show ‘before/to or after/past the hour’.  Where we would say ‘at ten to eight’, in Spanish you would say a las ocho menos diez. ‘Twenty past eight’ would be las ocho y veinte.

son las diez – it’s ten o’clock ; a las diez – at 10 o’clock ; las diez y pico – at a little after 10

a las diez y cuarto – at a quarter past ten; las diez menos cuarto – a quarter to ten; las diez y media – half past ten

a la una y cuarto – at a quarter past one ; la una menos diez– ten to one ; a medianoche – at midnight

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