Numbers in Spanish: Addition, Subtraction, and Fractions
This post is dedicated to homeschooling parents who have to know a little bit about everything these days.
Maybe you know about numbers, or perhaps you know about Spanish. But, do you know about numbers in Spanish?
Today, we are going to explore the basic vocabulary about the arithmetic operations of addition and subtraction. Also, we’ll study fractions, which in Spanish are expressed in two different ways.
Addition in Spanish
To start this lesson, you need to have at least a basic knowledge about numbers in Spanish. If you don’t, it might be a good idea to check out this blog post before you keep reading.
You may think that learning math in another language must be really hard, but the truth is quite different. The logic behind the basic arithmetic operations is so clear and simple that all you need to do is learn a few terms in Spanish and apply them correctly.
matemáticas – mathematics
aritmética – arithmetic
sumar – to add
suma – addition, sum
más – plus
igual – equals
So, if you know your numbers in Spanish and you know how to add, all you need to do is substitute the terms. Let’s do this in a simple sum like:
2 + 3 = 5
2 (dos) + (más) 3 (tres) = (igual) 5 (cinco). – 2 (two) + (plus) 3 (three) = (equals) 5 (five).
However, that literal translation is not completely correct in Spanish. The right structure would be as follows:
Dos más tres es igual a cinco. – Two plus three equals five.
The word igual in Spanish, can be used as a substantive, adjective, or adverb. In this case, it works as an adjective and it requires a verb (es – to be) and a preposition (a – to) to function correctly.
Another way to say it is:
Dos más tres son cinco. – Two plus three equals five.
This structure is less common but it also works. Instead of using the term igual, use son, the plural form of the third person of the verb ser “to be”. It’s simpler, but you need to remember to change it to singular when the result is one. For example:
0 + 1 = 1
Cero más uno es uno. – Zero plus one is one.
Using the igual structure would be in Spanish as follows:
Cero más uno es igual a uno. – Zero plus one equals one.
A good tip is to simply translate “equals” as a three-word term: es igual a.
es igual a – equals
Now, what about asking questions about addition? Let’s see an example:
¿Cuánto es dos más dos? – How much is two plus two?
Let’s analyze the different parts of this question:
¿ ? – ?
In Spanish, a question needs two question marks. One at the beginning of the question, and another one at the end of it.
Cuánto – How much, how many
es – is
In this case, it doesn’t matter if the result is a number that we usually associate as plural. The question is always the same, ¿cuánto es…?
In theory, asking ¿cuántos son…? shouldn’t be wrong as the number will probably require using the plural. However, it follows the same logic as in English. You don’t ask “how many are two plus two?”, you simply say “how much is two plus two?”
Same thing in Spanish.
Subtraction in Spanish
Once addition is clear, the subtraction is easier to understand. It follows the exact same logic as addition, and the vocabulary is pretty much the same with only a couple of new elements.
restar – to subtract, to deduct
resta – subtraction
menos – minus
Let’s do a resta and analyze it in Spanish:
10 – 4 = 6
Diez menos cuatro es igual a seis. – Ten minus four equals six.
Using the second structure:
Diez menos cuatro son seis. – Ten minus four are six.
How do you ask subtraction-related questions in Spanish?
¿Cuánto es diez menos cuatro? – How much is ten minus four?
A good way to teach kids to subtract is by using concrete things that they can imagine or touch. For example:
Si tengo cuatro manzanas y me como una, ¿cuántas me quedan? – If I have four apples and I eat one, how many are left?
Here, I’m using cuántas, not cuántos, because manzanas is a feminine noun. Also, I’m using the pronoun me because I’m talking in the first person, but the structure would vary accordingly. Let’s see:
¿cuántas quedan? – how many are left? Feminine noun.
¿cuántos quedan? – how many are left? Masculine noun.
¿cuántas(os) me quedan? – how many are left for me?
¿cuántas(os) te quedan? – how many are left for you?
¿cuántas(os) le quedan? – how many are left for him/her?
¿cuánto queda? – how much is left? (Use for singular nouns such as money, time, etc.)
Fractions in Spanish
Using numbers in Spanish correctly requires a series of steps. To start talking about fractions in Spanish, understanding how to use ordinal numbers is of great help. After number three, the term used for ordinal numbers and fractions is one and the same.
fracciones – fractions
números fraccionados – fractions
parte – part
|1/3||un tercio||a third|
|1/4||un cuarto||a fourth|
|1/5||un quinto||a fifth|
|1/6||un sexto||a sixth|
|1/7||un séptimo||a seventh|
|1/8||un octavo||an eight|
|1/9||un noveno||a ninth|
|1/10||un décimo||a tenth|
After 10 and all the way to 99, all you need to do is add the suffix –avo at the end of the number.
|1/11||un onceavo||an eleventh|
|1/20||un veinteavo||a twentieth|
|1/50||un cincuentavo||a fiftieth|
Then, if you have a fraction with numbers other than one, you only need to change un for the right ordinal number. For example:
2/4 – dos cuartos – two fourths
3/5 – tres quintos – three fifths
Fractions as Partes
In Spanish, you can express fractions in a second way using partes which means parts or portions of something.
|1/3||la tercera parte||a third|
|1/4||la cuarta parte||a fourth|
|1/5||la quinta parte||a fifth|
|1/6||la sexta parte||a sixth|
|1/7||la séptima parte||a seventh|
|1/8||la octava parte||an eight|
|1/9||la novena parte||a ninth|
|1/10||la décima parte||a tenth|
After 10 and all the way to 99, you have to change the suffix –avo for –ava, as parte is a feminine noun:
|1/11||la onceava parte||an eleventh|
|1/20||la veinteava parte||a twentieth|
|1/50||la cincuentava parte||a fiftieth|
For fractions with numbers different than one, you only need to change the article la for the respective number and add the letter s at the end of each word to make it plural:
2/4 – dos cuartas partes – two fourths
3/5 – tres quintas partes – three fifths
Numbers in Spanish
Now that you know the basics of addition, subtraction, and fractions in Spanish, it’s time to practice them in real-time. Homeschool Spanish Academy offers flexible Spanish lessons covering all kinds of topics (yes, including numbers in Spanish!). Sign up now for a free trial class with one of our native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala and improve your fluency in Spanish and maybe even your math skills, too!
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