Expressing large numbers: hundreds, thousands, millions and billions

The way we express "a hundred [things]", "a thousand [things]", "a million [things]" or "a billion [things]"  in Spanish is slightly different to the English way.

Let's see some examples:

One hundred/one thousand

Cien pájaros.
A hundred birds.

Cien sillas.
A hundred chairs.

Mil pájaros.
A thousand birds.

Mil sillas.
A thousand chairs.

 

Look at how for both masculine and feminine nouns, the words "cien" and "mil" don't change at all, they are invariable. Also, notice how in Spanish we do not add the indefinite article "un" like you do in English. This is a very common mistake.

It'd be incorrect to say:

un cien pájaros

un mil sillas

However, with:

One million/one billion

Un millón de hombres.
A million men.

Un millón de mujeres.
A million women.

Un billón de hombres.
A billion men.

Un billón de hombres.
A billion men.

Notice how here, the words "millón" and "billón" don't change either when referring to masculine or feminine nouns, they too are invariable. However, we do need "un" and also "de" before the noun.

A common mistake for English speakers is to omit the "de" as you don't need it in English.

This would be incorrrect:

Un millón hombres

Un billón mujeres

Hundreds/Thousands/Millions/Billions of [noun]

Cientos de barcos salieron a pescar.
Hundreds of boats went out to fish.

Cientos de personas salieron a la calle para celebrar.
Hundreds of people went outside to celebrate.

Despidieron a miles de empleados.
They fired thousands of employees.

La empresa ha tenido miles de quejas.
The company had thousands of complaints.

Ese año facturamos billones de euros.
That year we made billions of euros.

Ese año facturamos billones de libras.
That year we made billions of pounds.

As you can see, there is only one form for both masculine and feminine plural.

Remember:

  • cientos de [plural  noun] → hundreds of [plural noun]
  • miles de [plural  noun] → thousands of [plural noun]
  • millones de [plural  noun] → millions of [plural noun]
  • billones de [plural  noun] → billions of [plural noun]

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Mil pájaros.
A thousand birds.


Despidieron a miles de empleados.
They fired thousands of employees.


Un billón de hombres.
A billion men.


Cien sillas.
A hundred chairs.


La empresa ha tenido miles de quejas.
The company had thousands of complaints.


Un millón de mujeres.
A million women.


Un billón de hombres.
A billion men.


Cien pájaros.
A hundred birds.


Cientos de barcos salieron a pescar.
Hundreds of boats went out to fish.


Un millón de hombres.
A million men.


Ese año facturamos billones de libras.
That year we made billions of pounds.


Cientos de personas salieron a la calle para celebrar.
Hundreds of people went outside to celebrate.


Mil sillas.
A thousand chairs.


Ese año facturamos billones de euros.
That year we made billions of euros.


Un billón de mujeres.
A billion women.


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