Por Nick Potter

In  this series we look at real-life examples of the most common mistakes in English by native Spanish lawyers. These and lots more invaluable tips are available in a new e-book/paperback, here: 50 English Tips for Spanish Professionals.

100%

Let’s take a break from words for a moment and look at numbers, including how to translate “el 100%”.

Question: Which ONE of A – E below is correct?

A 85% voted in favour
B The bank had made provisions for a 70% of that amount
C In 2011 company A acquired the 100% of the share capital of company B
D The arrangement will be approved by more of the 50% of the unsecured creditors
E The 75% of the price will be paid in cash

 

Before you read the answer, remember:

Numbers alone are not usually preceded by an indefinite article (a) or definite article (the).

You would say “Three Nottingham Forest players were sent off”, not “A three Nottingham Forest players were sent off”.

This is the same as in Spanish grammar.

However, in Spanish you might refer to “un 5% de los votantes”.

In English, this means “5% of voters”, not “a 5% of voters”.

In English, written percentages are no different to numbers. So we wouldn’t usually say “provisions for a 70”, “acquired the 100”, “by more than the 50” or “the 75”.

This difference in the use of the indefinite or definite article with percentages is the cause of many, many errors by native Spanish speakers.

So:

Only A is correct. In B-E, “un 70%”, “el 100%”, “más del 50%” and “el 75%” should have been translated as follows, without the indefinite or definite article:

A 85% voted in favour [CORRECT]
B The bank had made provisions for a 70% of that amount
C In 2011 company A acquired the 100% of the 100% of the share capital / the entire share capital* of company B
D The arrangement will be approved by more of the than 50% of the unsecured creditors
E The 75% of the price will be paid in cash

*Note in C that it is not very usual in English to refer to “100% of the share capital”, unless you’re adding up different shareholdings. Better:

  • the whole of the issued share capital.
  • the entire issued share capital

Often, where in Spanish we refer to la adquisición del 100% de A por parte de B, in English this would simply be, for example:

  • B’s acquisition of A.
  • the sale of A to B
  • A is sold to B

Numbers can be preceded by the articles “a” or “the” when defined in relation to or distinguished from something else e.g. “the acquisition of a 75% stake”, “the 25% threshold”, “the 25 people who were injured are taking legal action”.

A quick reminder: don’t forget to translate numbers as well as words

The British like to drive on the other side of the road, as you know. However, you may not realise that in language too, the “opposite” rule often applies.

When writing numbers, remember that the € sign comes before the number not after, full stops are commas, and commas are full stops.

So:

25.184.750,50 € in Spanish

is

€25,184,750.50 in English.

And if you have to write that out, write it as you would say it:

TWENTY-FIVE MILLION, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-FOUR THOUSAND, SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY EUROS AND FIFTY CENTS (note the hyphens in “TWENTY-FIVE” and “EIGHTY-FOUR” and the “AND”s ).

Commas are also swapped for full stops in percentages; 65,9% in Spanish is 65.9% in English.

In English, thousand is abbreviated as “k”, million as “M” or “m” and billion (which is one thousand million, 1,000,000,000) as “bn”.

So 150,5 MM€ would be €150.5 million or €150.5m.

And 1.500 millones de euros are €1.5 billion or €1.5bn.

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