Numbers: some considerations

1 Cardinal numbers in adjectival function

In adjectival function, the cardinal numbers are used to count.

  • Position and complements

Cardinal numbers (cero, uno, dos, tres…) functioning as determiners are usually placed before a noun.

Tengo tres hermanas.

Dame cinco euros.

Although may also be far from the noun in some popular uses.

Hermanas tengo tres.

Euros dame cinco.

They are placed behind the subject pronouns.

Ve con ellos dos.

Os lo digo a vosotros tres.

They may be preceded by definite article, but not by indefinite.

Los tres coches son míos. (= There are only three cars)

Tres coches son míos. (= There are more than three cars)

They may be preceded by possessive adjectives.

Sus tres perros son pastores alemanes.

Se lo preguntaré a mis dos vecinas.

The cardinal numbers from number two on only maybe used with nouns in plural: dos libros, mil botellas.

  • Between tens and units y is used, except if the ten is cero.

59 (Read: cincuenta y nueve.)

107 (Read: ciento siete.)

The exception is Las Mil y Una Noches.

  • Veintiún, treinta y un, etc. combine with nouns in plural.

41 libros (Read: cuarenta y un libros.)

201 personas (Read: doscientas una personas.)

Uno and veintiuno are shortened before masculine nouns: un and veintiún.

Un libro

Veintiún libros

Also before the feminine nouns beginning by stressed a.

Veintiún almas

Cuarenta y un hachas

But not counting: uno, dos, cuatro…, veintiuno, veintidós, veintitrés…

  • Ciento is shortened cien before masculine or feminine nouns, before a number in multiplier function and before a noun preceded by adjective.

Cien libros

Cien mil libros

Cien fantásticos libros

The forms cien and ciento are used to count: noventa y nueve, cien, ciento uno, ciento dos, ciento tres…

The multiple of hundred, i.e. the numbers ending in -cientos, -cientas, also undergo variation in gender.

Doscientas personas

Doscientos libros

  • Mil is invariable.

Mil libros

Dos mil libros

Siete mil libros

If a number formed by a cardinal with variation in gender is followed by mil, the first one may agree with the noun, according to the modern use, or keep the masculine.

Veintiuna mil cerillas modern

Veintiún mil cerillas traditional

  • Millón, billón and trillón have variation in number: un millón, dos millones, un billón, siete billones, un trillón, cuatrocientos trillones.

In addition millón / millones and billón / billones need the preposition de before the noun.

Cinco millones de personas

Dos billones de dólares

  • Cero is followed by noun in plural.

Tengo cero posibilidades de aprobar.

Cada mujer tiene 0,7 hijos.

2 The cardinal numbers in substantive function

In substantive function, the cardinal numbers are used to name.

  • The cardinal numbers in substantive function are masculine: el uno, el mil, un nueve, un ocho.

As nouns may have plural.

He quitado los ochos y los nueves de la baraja.

Ha ganado con el cinco de oros.

  • They are nouns referring to whole numbers.

3 + 4 = 7

They may appear after a noun.

La página 27

El número 15

  • Uno and the derivatives of cien, doscientos, trescientos, etc. have variation in gender.

La página doscientas diez

La página cuatrocientas

Ciento is used as noun in expressions like:

“Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando.”

5 % (Léase: cinco por ciento.)

La página ciento cinco