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Counting In Spanish

by Catherine Reynolds

Mastered counting from 1-10 in Spanish already? Now it’s time to tackle the teens! (Note: They’re not nearly as angsty as you were in your teenage years.) 

When learning Spanish, knowing how to count to 20 is a natural first step—and a very useful one! Mastering the first 20 numbers in Spanish can help you build a solid foundation for telling time, making plans with friends, ordering food, and more!  

Plus, learning how to count from 1-20 in Spanish exposes you to crucial grammar rules. Once you know how to say 1-20 in Spanish, you’ll be comfortable:

  • Using numbers as gendered adjectives
  • Differentiating between cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers
  • Understanding the pattern that larger numbers follow

How to count from 1-20 in Spanish

Here’s how to count to 20 in Spanish:


One in Spanish: Un, uno, or una?

Like all Romance languages, Spanish is a gendered language. This means that nouns are either feminine or masculine, and the adjectives and articles that describe them change as a result. Here’s what that looks like in practice: 

  • Can I have the red apple? = ¿Puedo tener la manzana roja?

Manzana (“apple”) is a feminine noun. Instead of taking on el, the masculine form of “the”, it takes on the feminine article for “the,” la

Roja (“red”) is an adjective describing the apple. Instead of its masculine form rojo which ends in “o,” the last letter changes to an a to align with the noun it’s describing. 

In Spanish, when we talk about having one thing, we use un, which changes according to those same rules. Depending on the context un and the feminine form una can indicate either “a/an” or “one.” Here are some examples: 

  • Do you have a book? = ¿Tienes un libro?
  • Yes, I have a book. = Sí, tengo un libro.
  • How many books do you have? = ¿Cuántos libros tienes?
  • I have one book. = Tengo un libro.
  • How many apples do you want? = ¿Cuántas manzanas quieres?
  • I want one apple. = Quiero una manzana.

You can use also uno as a pronoun, matching its form to the gender of the noun it refers to, as in these examples:

  • Do you want a book? I have one. = ¿Quieres un libro? Tengo uno. 
  • Do you want an apple? I have one. = ¿Quieres una manzana? Tengo una.

Cardinal numbers in Spanish

Uno, dos, tres… are examples of cardinal numbers, or numbers that are used for counting. Sentences for describing amounts like, telling time, and stating the date all use cardinal numbers.

Cardinal numbers in Spanish used in phrases:

  • I have a book = Tengo dos libros
  • It’s 10:10 = Son las diez y diez
  • April 5 = El cinco de abril

Ordinal numbers in Spanish

Ordinal numbers describe items in sequence such as rankings in a competition, building floors, or objects in a list. Similar to the number one in Spanish, ordinal numbers in Spanish are gendered, and the ending changes depending on the noun that follows it. Ordinal numbers are rarely used to describe numbers larger than ten. 

The ordinal version of one in Spanish – primero is used when describing the first day of the month.

  • April 1st = El primero de abril
  • It’s December 1st = Es el primero de diciembre

Ordinal numbers 1-10 in Spanish:


Patterns when counting in Spanish

Counting to 20 in Spanish, like many romance languages, helps you to learn the pattern that numbers after 20 follow. Romance language number patterns will often structure larger numbers with the word for the multiple of ten first, the word for “and” second, and the digit from 1-9 last. 

When counting from 16-19, we can begin to see this pattern emerge. Sixteen for example can be broken down as “ten + and + six” – “diez + y + séis” – or all together it’s written as dieciséis.

Spanish pronunciation

The way people pronounce 1 to 20 in Spanish can vary depending on the region or country that the person speaking is from. Spanish is spoken by over 500 million people around the world and different countries will pronounce certain syllables differently. 

One notable example of this is a pronunciation particular to Spain. There, most speakers use a soft “th,” like in “thin,” when pronouncing what would be pronounced as soft “s” sounds in Latin America. This makes gracias sound like grathias. When it comes to pronouncing numbers, these sounds are prevalent. Cinco, seis, and siete all begin with a “th” sound in Spain!

Explore more Spanish language learning tips

Counting from 1-20 in Spanish is pretty straightforward! Ready to take your Spanish even further? Start by learning basic words and phrases, reviewing the essential basics for learning Spanish, or exploring Oaxaca, Mexico through everyday conversations. Rosetta Stone can help you learn a language faster and more confidently than you would if you studied on your own.

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Ready to jump right in? Start your first lesson today at rosettastone.com.

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