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How To Talk About Years In Spanish: Useful Phrases

Years give our conversations an important context. 

They remind us of certain celebrations: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and such.

They help localize events in time, talk about the past, present, and future.

They allow us to compare and analyze trends, make plans and forecasts.

They contain information about how long a situation has lasted or since when we have been doing certain things.

How to Talk About Years in Spanish? 

Here are some useful examples:

  • 1892 – mil ochocientos noventa y dos
  • 1970 – mil novecientos setenta
  • 1993 – mil novecientos noventa y tres
  • 1704 – mil setecientos cuatro
  • 2000 – dos mil
  • 2002 – dos mil dos
  • 2020 – dos mil veinte
  • 2023 – dos mil veintitrés

Let’s review your Spanish numbers

As you can easily guess from the examples, there is a big difference between how you tell the years in English and Spanish. Well, until the year 2000 at least.

Telling years in English is a piece of cake, really: all you need are numbers between 1 and 99. 

Yet in Spanish, you have to know your thousands and your hundreds, I’m afraid.

Fortunately, they are not that hard. Have a look:

1000 – el año mil
2000 – el año dos mil 

So, the English word thousand translates to Spanish as mil, and it maintains the same form in singular and plural. 

If you are talking about historical “Before Christ (BC)”  events, you can keep multiplying your thousands in the exact same way:

3000 – el año tres mil
4000 – el año cuatro mil, etc.

Now, check out what happens with our hundreds when we talk about years in Spanish.

100 – cien
200 – doscientos
300 – trescientos
400 – cuatrocientos
500 – quinientos
600 – seiscientos
700 – sietecientos
800 – ochocientos
900 – novecientos

As you can see, all you need is the word hundred in the singular (cien) or the plural form (cientos). 

When you have more than just one hundred, simply stick the number (from 2 to 9) before the word cientos, and see how this combination becomes just one word. 

The only exception is 500 and 900- instead of saying cincocientos or nuevecientos❌ we say quinientos ✔️and novecientos ✔️

Let’s practice, shall we?

1300 AD – el año mil trescientos después de Cristo (d.C.)
4200 BC – el año cuatro mil doscientos antes de Cristo (a.C.)

Make sure not to confuse these abbreviations in case you use them. 

What happens with the last two digits in Spanish years? Well, you read them in the same way as in English. I’m assuming you don’t need any review on that 😉.

Just a few examples to get you back on track:

17 – diecisiete
32 – treinta y dos
65 – sesenta y cinco
83 – ochenta y tres
99 – noventa y nueve

Time to put it all together. Are you up for a little challenge? 

How do you read the years below in Spanish?  Try to say them out loud: 

  • 1843
  • 2005
  • 1660
  • 1976

The correct answers are:

1843 – mil ochocientos cuarenta y tres
2005 –
dos mil cinco
1660 –
mil seiscientos sesenta
1976 – mil novecientos setenta y seis

Did you have a hard time with these examples? I hope not too much. And if you did, time to work on your numbers in Spanish! 😊

Asking about years – basic Spanish questions

There is no information exchange without someone asking questions and the other person answering them, right. That’s why it is essential to know what the most relevant Spanish question words are. 

🇪🇸 ¿Qué año es?
🇬🇧 What year is it?

🇪🇸 ¿En qué año naciste?
🇬🇧 What year were you born? (we use the preposition en when we talk about events)

🇪🇸 ¿Cuándo empezaste a trabajar en esta empresa?
🇬🇧 When did you start working in this company?

🇪🇸 ¿Desde cuándo has vivido en Colombia?
🇬🇧 Since when have you lived in Colombia?

🇪🇸 ¿Cuantos años pasaste en España?
🇬🇧 How many years did you spend in Spain?

Years in Spanish – how to give time references

Talking about events gives room for plenty of different time references. I have mentioned them in detail in my previous post about months in Spanish, so please feel free to take a look.

Today, I’ll just show you all the potential in examples.

Please notice how the years in Spanish require the use of the article el.

🇪🇸 Viví en España entre el año 2010 y 2012.
🇬🇧 I lived in Spain between 2010 and 2012.

🇪🇸 Trabajé en esta empresa desde el 2015 hasta el 2019.
🇬🇧 I worked in this company from 2015 to 2019.

🇪🇸 A partir del 2022 comenzará a funcionar nuestra nueva fábrica. (remember de+el = del)
🇬🇧 Our new production plant will be operative as of 2022. 

🇪🇸 Durante el 2020 hemos tenido muchas malas noticias. 
🇬🇧 During 2020 we’ve had lots of bad news.

🇪🇸 No podremos viajar a México antes del 2022.
🇬🇧 We won’t be able to travel to Mexico before 2022.

🇪🇸 Después del 1959 muchos cubanos emigraron a los Estados Unidos.
🇬🇧 After 1959 many Cubans emigrated to the United States.

Mind you – the lower-case “c” in cubanos is not a typo. It is just one of the differences between Spanish and English that may lead to common mistakes you should try to avoid

How to Use the Word “Año” in Spanish

Since we are talking about Years in Spanish, the very word “año” – “year” deserves our attention as well.

Here’s how you can use it in different situations: 

🇪🇸 Me casé hace cinco años.
🇬🇧 I got married five years ago.

🇪🇸 El próximo año mi hijo se gradua de la universidad. 
🇬🇧 My son is graduating the university next year

🇪🇸 Juan entrará al jardín infantil el año que viene.
🇬🇧 Juan is starting kindergarten in the coming year.

🇪🇸 Aquí hubo un fuerte terremoto el año pasado.
🇬🇧 There was a strong earthquake here last year

That was scary; trust me. Everybody was terrified. Muerto de miedo – scared to death. You can find this and other expressions to talk about your feelings and emotions in Spanish in one of my previous posts. 

The Golden Nineties or How to Talk about Decades in Spanish

I love music from the 80s, and you? Although I am not that fond of the look that was trendy back then. I much more prefer the outfits people used to wear in the seventies. 

What would these statements sound like in Spanish? 

the 90s – los noventa
the 80s – los ochenta
the 70s – los setenta

Can you see the pattern? That’s right. You just need the number related to the decade you refer to and the article los

Why los? Because in full form, we are talking about:

🇪🇸 la década de los años noventa / ochenta / setenta, etc.
🇬🇧 the decade of the 90s / 80s / 70s, etc.

Check out the examples below:

🇪🇸 Mis padres se casaron en los noventa.
🇬🇧 My parents got married in the nineties.

🇪🇸 Las minifaldas estaban muy de moda en los sesenta.
🇬🇧 Miniskirts were very trendy in the 60s.

🇪🇸 Los años cincuenta en Europa marcaron el periodo de posguerra.
🇬🇧 The 50s in Europe marked the post-war period. 

Be careful not to confuse the decades with the age of a person!

Even though it is perfectly OK to say: “She’s in her forties” in English, it does not translate as: “Ella está en sus cuarenta.”

The correct way to approximate the age in Spanish is by saying:

“Ella tiene cuarenta y tantos” ✔️

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Joanna Lupa

Joanna Lupa

Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.