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1.1: Números y acentos

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    Numbers (los números)

    Cardinal Numbers

    Cardinal numbers are the numbers we use to count (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).

    1. The spelling of uno changes depending on the gender of the noun it modifies. Uno is spelled un before a masculine noun and una before a feminine noun.
      --un ejemplo (m.)
      an example
      --una pregunta (f.)
      a question
      1. Mil (1,000) is not pluralized when it is part of a specific number. Millón is pluralized.
        --veinte mil, cien mil
        twenty thousand, one hundred thousand
        --dos mil dólares ($2,000)
        two thousand dollars
        --dos millones de dólares ($2,000,000)
        two million dollars
      2. Mil may be used in the plural in more general statements.
        --Miles de personas visitan 'El Parque de la Amistad' en Tijuana.
        Thousands of people visit 'El Parque de la Amistad' in Tijuana.
    2. Numbers 16 to 29 are commonly written as one word or as two words connected by "y" (and). An accent is added to the one-word spelling of 16, 22, 23 and 26.
      16 = dieciséis
      17 = diecisiete
      21 = veintiuno
      22 = veintidós
      23 = veintitrés
      26 = veintiséis
      1. Cien is used for the number 100 and before all nouns.
      2. To say 101, 102-199, the form ciento is used.
        --ciento uno, ciento dos, ciento noventa y nueve.
      3. When plural (200-999) an -os or -as is added depending on the gender of the noun.
        Spanish English
        Cien 100 or one hundred
        Cien dólares 100 dollars
        Cien páginas 100 pages
        Ciento un dólares 101 dollars
        Doscientos dólares 200 dollars
        Doscientas páginas 200 pages
    3. Spanish uses “.” (points) and “,” (commas) differently than English does. Points are used where one would expect a comma in English and vice versa.
      Spanish English
      1.000 (mil) 1,000 (one thousand)
      1.000.000 (un millón) 1,000,000 (one million)
      86,5% 86.5%
      “ochenta y seis con 5 por ciento” “eighty six point five percent”

    Ordinal Numbers

    Ordinal numbers are adjectives that we use to rank things, name streets, etc. (i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.). The last letter of ordinal numbers is variable so that it agrees in gender and number with the noun it modifies (like all adjectives). However, the "o" is dropped before masculine nouns for 1st and 3rd (primer párrafo, tercer párrafo). Ordinal numbers are rarely used beyond 10 in Spanish.

    Número Ordinal Spanish English
    • El problema (m.)
    • La solución (f.)
    • The problem
    • The solution
    1st Primero
    • el primer problema
    • la primera solución
    • the first problem
    • the first solution
    2nd Segundo
    • el segundo problema
    • la segunda solución
    • the second problem
    • the second solution
    3rd Tercero
    • el tercer problema
    • la tercera solución
    • the third problem
    • the third solution
    4th Cuarto
    • el cuarto problema
    • la cuarta solución
    • the fourth problem
    • the fourth solution
    5th Quinto
    • el quinto problema
    • la quinta solución
    • the fifth problem
    • the fifth solution
    6th Sexto
    • el sexto problema
    • la sexta solución
    • the sixth problem
    • the sixth solution
    7th Séptimo
    • el séptimo problema
    • la séptima solución
    • the seventh problem
    • the seventh solution
    8th Octavo
    • el octavo problema
    • la octava solución
    • the eighth problem
    • the eighth solution
    9th Noveno
    • el noveno problema
    • la novena solución
    • the ninth problem
    • the ninth solution
    10th 10º Décimo
    • el décimo problema
    • la décima solución
    • the tenth problem
    • the tenth solution

    Accent Rules (las reglas de acentuación)

    In this section we are going to learn about why words need written accent marks in Spanish. These are sometimes referred to as “tildes” in Spanish. It is important to note that there is big difference between written accents, which tell us where the stress should fall in a word, and natural stress patterns. Where and why written accents are used in Spanish is a source of confusion to learners of Spanish until they accept that they are indeed meaningful (accents aren’t just random marks over words that need to be memorized) and ...they learn the three rules that follow:

    1. For Spanish words that end in a vowel, the letter “n” or the letter “s”, the natural stress falls on the second-to-last (penultimate) syllable.
    2. For Spanish words that end in any other letter that is not a vowel, “n” or “s”, the natural stress falls on the last syllable.
    3. When a word contains the combination of “i” + another vowel or “u” + another vowel, these two vowel sounds blend to create one sound/syllable (known as a diphthong).

    A Spanish word requires a written accent mark if it breaks any one of these three rules for natural stress. Note that a written accent mark over an “i” or a “u” breaks up a diphthong—it separates the two vowels into separate syllables.

    Listen to the following words that require written accent marks and then decide why the accent mark is required. Which rule does the word break?

    Audio Click to Guess Rule
    ma-má ma-má  
    sim-pá-ti-co sim-pá-ti-co
    Ma-rí-a Ma-rí-a
    ca-fé ca-fé
    cés-ped cés-ped
    ma-íz ma-íz
    en-ten-dió en-ten-dió
    di-fí-cil di-fí-cil
    rí-e rí-e
    Can-cún Can-cún
    ál-bum ál-bum
    tí-o tí-o
    ac-ción ac-ción
    a-zú-car a-zú-car
    re-ú-ne re-ú-ne
    in-te-rés in-te-rés
    Gon-zá-lez Gon-zá-lez
    dú-o dú-o
    pa-pá pa-pá
    co-mí-a-mos co-mí-a-mos
    trái-ga-me-los trái-ga-me-los
    ángel ángel
    cabezón cabezón

    Listen to these pair of words and try to decide why one needs a written accent while the other does not:

    Written Accents—Single Syllable Words and Grammatical Distinctions

    The following is a list of pairs of one-syllable words that require a written accent mark to let the reader know which word is being used. These words are always pronounced the same way regardless of the written accent mark.

    1. dé - Déme el examen (usted command of the verb dar)
      de - El hijo de mi amigo (preposition “de”)
    2. él - ¿Lo quiere él? (3rd person singular pronoun, he)
      el - El libro de español (definite article, the)
    3. más - Yo soy más guapa que ella. (more)
      mas - No quiero, mas he de hacerlo. (mas without the accent means “pero”)
    4. mí - el libro es para mí (object of a preposition, me)
      mi - éste es mi libro (possessive pronoun, my)
    5. sé - Yo sé la respuesta. (“yo” form of the verb saber)
      se - Se come bien en este restaurante. (pronoun)
    6. sí - La respuesta es Sí. (yes)
      si - Si no viene hoy, viene mañana. (if)
    7. té - me gusta el té más que el café (tea)
      te - ¿A ti, te gusta el té? (2nd person object pronoun)
    8. tú - Tú eres la luz de mi vida. (2nd person subject pronoun, you)
      tu - ¿Cuál es tu coche? (2nd person possessive pronoun, your)
    9. sólo - El drogadicto sólo piensa en su adicción. (only)
      solo/a - Prefiero estar solo cuando estudio. (alone)
    10. aún - Me han dicho que aún no se sabe si va a regresar o no. (todavía)
      aun - Continuaba trabajando aun cuando era viejo. (even)

    Written Accents and Question Words

    All interrogative words require written accents to distinguish them from the same words that function as conjunctions (without accents). This is true for direct and indirect questions.

    Direct Questions

    • ¿Qué tienes en la mano?
    • ¿Cómo resuelves este tipo de problema?
    • ¿Dónde queda tu casa?
    • ¿Por qué no me quieres prestar diez dólares?

    Indirect Questions

    • No sé qué tienes en la mano.
    • Parece que no me quieres explicar cómo resuelves este tipo de problema.
    • Antes de que te busquemos, necesitamos saber dónde queda tu casa.
    • No tengo idea de por qué no me quieres prestar diez dólares.

    These words also require a written accent when they are used as exclamatives.

    • ¡Qué barbaridad!
    • ¡Cómo te quiero!
    • ¡Cuánto quisiera acompañarte al concierto!

    In other uses of these words—when they are not interrogatives or exclamatives—there is not a written accent. Here are a few examples in bold:

    --Yo sé que mis padres me quieren.
    I know that my parents love me.
    --Tengo un perro que nunca hace lo que le digo.
    I have a dog that never does what I tell him.
    --Mario trabaja sólo cuando y donde quiere porque es flojo.
    Mario works only when and where he wants because he is lazy

    1.1: Números y acentos is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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