Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Tell Me, What Is A “Quinto”?


This post is about Spanish fractions* in general, and fraction un quinto in particular.


Imagine you are in a bar having a drink with with a relative, a friend or a work colleague.

Hearing someone order a “quinto de cerveza”, the other person says to you: tell me, what is a “quinto?

In Spanish, the other person could choose to be less formal and say:
Dime, ¿qué es un quinto?

In Spanish, the other person could choose to be more formal and say:
Dígame, ¿qué es un quinto?


The question is quite straightforward. You should be able to answer that question with relative ease.

Remember that the main meaning of the word “quinto” is, a fifth. As it happens, a fifth of a litre (20 cl.) is also a very common size of beer bottle. It is for that reason that in many parts “un quinto de cerveza1 is how people refer to a small-sized bottle of beer. In some parts a bottle of beer of that size is known as a “botellín” -literally, small bottle.

With that in mind, you could say:
  • Un quinto es la fracción 1/5 (“un quinto” is the fraction 1/5);
  • Un quinto de litro es la quinta parte de un litro (a “quinto de litro” is a fifth of a litre);
  • Un quinto de cerveza es la quinta parte de un litro de cerveza ( a “quinto de cerveza” is a fifth of a litre of beer);
  • Aquí, un quinto de cerveza es una botella pequeña de cerveza (here a “quinto de cerveza” is a small-sized bottle of beer);
  • Aquí, a un quinto de cerveza se le llama un botellín (here a “quinto de cerveza” is called a small-sized bottle of beer);

1 – Please note that the terms used to refer to specific types and quantities of beer tend to vary from place to place. Although the 20cl bottle is pretty much standard, that bottle may well be better known by a name other than a “quinto” or a “botellín” in some places. The bar we refer to in this post is a place where “un quinto” is accepted terminology. The use of “aquí” (here) in some of the answers indicates that, whilst a “quinto de cerveza” is a locally accepted term, it might not be so somewhere else.

Now you should practise answering the question:
Dime, ¿qué es un quinto?

*See some commonly used Spanish fractions below

*Spanish Fractions

A list of commonly used Spanish fractions is shown in Table 1 below:

one/ a half un medio medio
la mitad
one/ a third un tercio la tercera parte
one/ a quarter un cuarto la cuarta parte
one/ a fifth un quinto la quinta parte
one/ a sixth un sexto la sexta parte
one/ a seventh un séptimo la séptima parte
one/ a eight un octavo la octava parte
one/ a ninth un noveno la novena parte
one/a tenth un décimo la décima parte
one/a eleventh un onceavo la onceava parte
la undécima parte
one/a twelfth un doceavo la doceava parte
la duodécima parte
one/a thirteenth un treceavo la treceava parte
one/ a fourteenth un catorceavo la catorceava parte
one/ a fifteenth un quinceavo la quinceava parte
one/ a sixteenth un dieciseisavo la dieciseisava parte
one/a seventeenth un diecisieteavo la diecisieteava parte
one/ a eighteenth un dieciochoavo la dieciochoava parte
one/ a nineteenth un diecinueveavo la diecinueveava parte
one/ a twentieth un veinteavo la veinteava parte
one/ a hundredth un centésimo
una centésima
la centésima parte
one/ a thousandth un milésimo
una milésima
la milésima parte
one/ a millionth un millonésimo
una millonésima
la millonésima parte
Table 1 – Spanish Fractions

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