italian-numbers

Count on It: Learn Italian Numbers for Everyday Use

Imagine you’re in Italy on vacation.

And let’s say you want to buy 15 delicious Italian pastries. But wait—you only have 10 fingers to sign to the guy at the counter! What do you do?

Well, first of all, the word for 15 is quindici, and second of all, are you really going to eat all of those pastries by yourself?

Third of all, it’s a good thing you’re reading this, because you’re going to be learning a lot about Italian numbers in this post. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to ask for as many pastries as you want—as well as use Italian numbers in any other context, from shopping to arithmetic to explaining directions and everything in between.

So let’s begin.
 


 

Count on It: Learn Italian Numbers for Everyday Use

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The Basic Rules: Counting from 0-1,000

Nobody really thinks numbers are that important when learning a new language. Usually, it’s the vocabulary and grammar that take inordinate amounts of a student’s study time.

But if you really think about it, all those nouns, verbs and adjectives need to be quantified. Numbers clarify our communication and enrich our imagination. So numbers count… a lot.

It’s not just about eggs, it’s about how many eggs are in the basket? Or how many boys are playing ball? What time did you arrive? Or how much is that watch? Or what’s the score of the football game? Or how many blocks are we from the nearest pizzeria?

These all require numbers.

So here are the first 10 numbers in Italian. There’s just no two ways about it, you’re going to have to memorize them—as they’re the building blocks of any Italian number you can think of:

0 — “zero”

1 — “uno”

2 — “due”

3 — “tre”

4 — “quattro”

5 — “cinque”

6 — “sei”

7 — “sette”

8 — “otto”

9 — “nove”

10 — “dieci”

For numbers 11-20, you’ll have an easier time remembering them if you think:

11 is “1 and 10” combined (“uno” and “dieci” becomes “undici”)

12 is “2 and 10” combined (“due” and “dieci” becomes “dodici”)

Following these rules, you’ll get:

11 — “undici”

12 — “dodici”

13 — “tredici”

14 — “quattordici”

15 — “quindici”

16 — “sedici”

17 — “diciassette

18 — “diciotto”

19 — “diciannove”

20 — “venti”

For example:

17 years — “diciasette anni”

14 days — “quattordici giorni”

20 books — “venti libri”

If you’ll notice above, from 17-19, the order of names become inverted. Instead of “dici” coming second, it gets written first for numbers “diciassette,” “diciotto” and “diciannove.”

From here on out, the “tens” get written before the “ones” digit.

For example:

23 — ventitre”

76 — settantasei”

84 — ottantaquattro”

Talking of tens, except for “dieci” (10) and “venti” (20), all tens digits are named based on their roots. So 50, coming from five (“cinque”) becomes “cinquanta.” Here are the rest of the “tens”:

10 — “dieci”

20 — “venti”

30 — “trenta”

40 — “quaranta”

50 — “cinquanta”

60 — “sessanta”

70 — “settanta”

80 — “ottanta”

90 — “novanta”

100 — “cento”

Before moving to the hundreds, note that like all native speakers around the world, Italians have found ways to pronounce their numbers faster. This is primarily done by dropping a letter or two. For example, when two vowels happen to be sitting side by side, just as in the number 21 (“venti-uno”), instead of pronouncing “venti” and then “uno,” which is really just a waste of spit, the first vowel (“i” of “venti”) is simply dropped. So you now have “ventuno,” which is a little smoother on the tongue. Don’t you think?

Other examples include:

38 — “trentotto” (instead of “trentaotto”)

51 — “cinquantuno” (instead of “cinquantauno”)

98 — “novantotto” (instead of “novantaotto”)

The hundreds are formed by adding the suffix “cento” to the multiplier digit. Here are your hundreds:

100 — “cento”

200 — “duecento”

300 — “trecento”

400 — “quattrocento”

500 — “cinquecento”

600 — “seicento”

700 — “settecento”

800 — “ottocento”

900 — “novecento”

1000 — “mille”

From the ones, tens and hundreds, the bigger your number is, the longer its written form will be. This is because Italian doesn’t separate the hundreds, tens and ones. They have it as one long word with no breaks or spaces.

For example:

154 — “centocinquantaquattro”

747 — “settecentoquarantasette”

948 — “novecentoquarantotto”

The thousands, in turn, are formed by suffixing “mille” to the digit multiplier. But unlike the hundreds which used “cento” throughout the series (because “cento” has no plural form), the thousands use the plural of “mille” which is “mila.”

Here are your thousands series:

1000 — “mille”

2000 — “duemila”

3000 — “tremila”

4000 — “quattromila”

5000 — “cinquemila”

6000 — “seimila”

7000 — “settemila”

8000 — “ottomila”

9000 — “novemila”

10,000 — “diecimila”

For the hundred thousands, we use the suffix “centomila.”

100,000 — “centomila”

200,000 — “duecentomila”

300,000 — “trecentomila”

400,000 — “quattrocentomila”

500,000 — “cinquecentomila”

600,000 — “seicentomila”

700,000 — “settecentomila”

800,000 — “ottocentomila”

900,000 — “novecentomila”

1,000,000 — “un milione”

Now that we have reached the million, it’s time to talk about really big numbers in Italian. Let’s head on to the next section.

Counting Big Numbers

In Italian, to form the plurals of regular nouns, we change the “e” to “i.” So one million is “un milione,” and two million becomes “due milioni.” Here’s the rest of the series:

1,000,000 — “un milione”

2,000,000 — “due milioni”

3,000,000 — “tre milioni”

4,000,000 — “quattro milioni”

5,000,000 — “cinque milioni”

6,000,000 — “sei milioni”

7,000,000 — “sette milioni”

8,000,000 — “otto milioni”

9,000,000 — “nove milioni”

10,000,000 — “dieci milioni”

In this area of the number line, Italian alternates between the suffixes “–ione” and “–iardo.”

One million — “un milione”

One billion — “un miliardo”

One trillion — “un bilione”

One quadrillion — “un biliardo”

One quintillion — “un trilione”

One sextillion — “un triliardo”

Note: The Italian “bilione” refers to the English trillion and not billion. This is due to the differences in long and short scale naming systems used in the different countries. So when an American thinks of, say, “a billion,” his Italian counterpart thinks of it as “a thousand million.”

Ordinal Numbers

So far, we’ve talked about cardinal numbers—which tell us, for example: “How many apples are in the bag?” or “How many times did you go to the bathroom last night?”

In this section, we’ll be talking about ordinal numbers—which tell us about the specific position a thing has, relative to an ordered set. For example, “first,” “second” and “third.” Knowing this is really handy, especially when you get a gig, such as judging a Miss Universe Pageant. Or, perhaps more relevant to your life, for trying to understand a hotel clerk when he tells you what floor your room is on.

Here are your top 10:

1st — “primo”

2nd“secondo”

3rd“terzo”

4th“quarto”

5th — “quinto”

6th — “sesto”

7th — “settimo”

8th — “ottavo”

9th — “nono”

10th “decimo”

Examples:

3rd lap — terzo giro”

6th month — sesto mese”

“Ho vinto il primo premio!” (I won first prize!)

Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

Fractions

Now that we know both cardinal and ordinal numbers, we can form Italian fractions. Just like in English, the numerator (the number above the bar) is in cardinal form, and the denominator (or the number below the bar) is in the ordinal. So “1/5” is read as “one-fifths.”

For example:

1/5 — “un quinto”

The plural forms are also observed in the fractions. So “3/5” is read as “tre quinti” where the “o” in “quinto” is changed to “i.”

To refer to halves (1/2), we use the word “mezzo/a.” So when you say, “Ho mangiato mezza torta,” (I ate half a cake), well, I really think you should be sticking to your diet.

Three halves, 3/2, is “tre mezzi.”

A quarter, or 1/4, is “un quarto,” and 3/4 is “tre quarti.”

So going by our food theme here, a sentence example could be, “Circa un quarto della popolazione è obeso.” (Around one-fourth of the population is obese.)

Decimals

Italians use the comma (which they call “virgola”) instead of the period. Conversely, they use the period in instances where English speakers use the comma.

So the English “5,745.20” is seen as “5.745,20” by the Italians. (Fun, I know! But let’s not forget that they gave us Gucci, Prada and Leonardo da Vinci.)

Examples:

5,2 (5.2) — “cinque virgola due”

3,40 (3.40) — “tre virgola quaranta”

“Ho messo su esattamente tre virgola sette chili.” (I’ve gained exactly 3.7 kilos.)

So remember, when vacationing in Italy, that comma is a period, and that period is a comma. So don’t faint when you see “€1,20” in the fruit stands, or think that the little kitchen appliance priced at “€1.050” is really a good bargain. (We’ll have more to say about shopping and prices in a later section.)

Instead of using the virgola, you can settle for using the word “e” which is the Italian “and.” So for a number like “1,5” you can say “uno e cinque.” Or better yet, you can use the fraction for halves we had earlier and say, “uno e mezzo” (one and a half).

Percentages

This one’s easy.

You already know how to name the numbers in Italian. So you just add the “%” sign, call it a “per cento” and call it a day. Right?

Well, not so fast there, buddy.

As written, “12%” in English is also “12%” in Italian, that’s true. But when you say it in Italian, you tag the number with its definite article. (Review your definite articles here.) You use your definite particles here because you’re saying that no matter what number sits beside the percent sign, you consider it as a single entity—like in the sentence “Eighty percent of the boys are absent.”

Examples:

12% — il dodici per cento”

1% — l’uno per cento”

80% — l’ottanta per cento”

“Il cinquanta per cento dei candidati non ha superato il colloquio.” (50% of the candidates didn’t pass the interview.)

A Little Arithmetic…

Here, we breeze through our four basic math calculations.

Addition:

Più is used to tally up numbers. For example:

3 + 5 = 8, or “Tree plus five equals eight,” is “Tre più cinque è uguale a otto.”

The result of addition is, of course, called the sum. In Italian, it’s called “la somma.”

Subtraction:

Meno is “subtraction” for you and me. For example:

7 – 2 = 5, or “Seven minus two equals five,” is “Sette meno due è uguale a cinque.”

By the way, “meno” is also used for negative numbers. So, for example, “-3” is “meno tre,” “-98” is “meno novantotto.”

For example, if you want to say that the temperatures have dropped to negative five degrees, you could say, “La temperatura scende a meno 5 gradi.”

Multiplication:

Peris used to multiply numbers. For example:

3 x 5 = 15, or “Three times five equals fifteen,” is “Tre per cinque è uguale a quindici.”

The product, 15, is what we call “prodotto” in Italian.

Division:

Diviso is for division. For example:

12 ÷ 4 = 3, or “Twelve divided by four equals three,” is “Dodici diviso quattro è uguale a tre.”

Dates and Time

Italians don’t really group numbers and say “twenty-twenty” for “2020.” The years are read just like regular numbers.

For example:

2019 — “duemiladiciannove”

1967 — “millenovecentosessantasette”

2001 — “duemilauno”

If you’re talking about the centuries, you should use the ordinal forms. For example:

the 21st century — “il ventunesimo secolo”

the 17th century — “il diciassettesimo secolo”

Italians often give the date in the “day-month-year” pattern. (Days come first.) The day is written in numbers, the months are written either in letters or numbers and the year is written using four digits.

For example:

June 4th, 1980 — “4 giugno 1980″

April 26th — “26 aprile”

the 17th of August — “il 17 di agosto”

One difference between English and Italian is that the days are considered cardinal in Italian. So if it’s the fifth of May in English, it would be “il cinque (5) di maggio” not “quinto” (5th) for Italians. This rule holds true for all days of the month except for the first day of the month, which is written in ordinal form. So “the first of May” is “il primo (1st) maggio,” not “l’uno maggio.”

(Also note that the Italian days and months of the year aren’t capitalized.)

So if somebody asks you, “Che giorno è oggi?” (What’s the date today?) You could say, “Oggi è giovedì 9 novembre.” (Today is Thursday, the 9th of November.)

How about time?

What if somebody asks you, “Che ore sono?” (What time is it?)

Well, you can show them the numbers on your smartphone, or you can tell them yourself.

If you’re lucky enough to be asked when the hour is whole or full, you can say:

1:00 — “è l’una”

2:00 — “sono le due”

3:00 — “sono le tre”

4:00 — “sono le quattro”

5:00 — “sono le cinque”

6:00 — “sono le sei”

7:00 — “sono le sette”

8:00 — “sono le otto”

9:00 — “sono le nove”

10:00 — “sono le dici”

11:00 — “sono le undici”

12:00 — “è mezzogiorno” (noon)/“è mezzanotte” (midnight)

You can clarify AM/PM by using one of these:

in the morning — “di mattina” 

in the afternoon — “del pomerrigio”

in the evening — “di sera” 

So for example, if you want to tell the other person that it’s “three in the afternoon,” you say, “Sono le tre del pomeriggio.”

But of course, it’s usually the case that the time isn’t perfectly rounded to two zeroes. For this, you simply give the hour and (“e”) the minutes past that hour.

For example:

4:17 — “Sono le quattro e diciassette.”

8:21 AM — “Sono le otto e ventuno di mattina.”

When the minutes go past the half-hour mark, especially when it reaches the 40’s, you can now refer to the time by the number of minutes left until the next hour. For example, for “8:50,” instead of saying, “Sono le otto e cinquanta,” you can also say “Sono le nove meno deici” (10 minutes to nine). “Meno” announces the number of minutes to go before the next hour.

For example:

6:55 — “Sono le sette meno cinque” (five minutes before 7:00)

3:40 — “Sono le quattro meno venti” (20 minutes before 4:00)

You can also work in 15-minute increments. “Un quarto” is a quarter of an hour. “Mezzo” is half past the hour.

For example:

4:15 — “Sono le quattro e un quarto.” (A quarter past 4)

4:30 — “Sono le quattro e mezzo.” (Half past 4)

You’ll often find the 24-hour notation in Italy, especially in formal situations. In these cases, just read them normally.

For example:

17:23 — “Sono le diciassette eventitré.”

22:05 — “Sono le ventidue e cinque.”

So that’s it for time. I think now it’s time… to go shopping!

That’s next.

 Shopping

Quanti?(How many?)

If a seller ask you this, make sure you understand how Italian prices work.

If for no other reason, you learn numbers, so you can engage in that hallowed tourist ritual called souvenir shopping. In Italy, currency is in Euros. Euro, by the way, isn’t pronounced like “you-row” but like “eh-woo-roh.”

We’ve already talked about big numbers earlier, so we’ve got your Prada and Armani purchases covered.

Remember also that unlike in the U.S., commas are used to denominate cents. So don’t worry too much if you see “€ 1,50” scribbled on a chalkboard. (Nope, the last digit didn’t get erased.) That’s really just a euro fifty for your nice cup of coffee. It’s the periods or dots on prices that you should really be wary of. Because as mentioned earlier, dots function like the American commas and can easily mean that the prices you’re looking at involve thousands of “eh-woo-rohs.” So those full stops should stop you in your tracks.

That said, many establishments like restaurants and shops in touristy areas have taken to writing their prices as “€ 1.50” with the “centesimi” (cents) separated by periods. These help well-meaning travelers and help boost sales. But for those street shops or markets that are the stomping grounds of town locals, commas do just fine. Authentic experiences, anyone?

Here’s how prices are read:

€ 2,40 — “due euro e quaranta centesimi” (two euros and forty cents)

€ 4,50 — “quattro euro e cinquanta centesimi” (four euros and fifty cents)

€ 0,10 — “dieci centesimi” (ten cents)

€ 0,25 — “venticinque centesimi” (twenty-five cents)

Prices very much depend on context and Italians save time by skipping saying the “euro” and “centesimi.” Just as you say “two fifty” to mean two dollars and fifty cents ($2.50), you can save time by just saying “due e cinquanta.”

Also, Italians do have coins for one, two, five, 25 and 50 cents, but they don’t have words for them like the American pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

Now that you know numbers and prices, you only really need just one more word before you venture into the world of Italian shopping. This word, if you say it to a seller, will elicit a response made up of numbers.

The word is:Quanto? (How much?)

Off you go!

Others

Besides the things we’ve already talked about, there are many other instances where numbers may crop up: addresses, telephone numbers and dimensions.

An Italian address is formatted like this:

Name

Street Address

Zip, City

Country

As you can see, the address will usually start with the street name and, with it, a series of numbers. There’s usually a letter “N” or “Nº” before the numbers. This is a shorthand for “numero.” (The “#” which everybody in the U.S. understands as “numbers” doesn’t always translate well internationally.)

With regards to telephone numbers, unfortunately, it’s way beyond the scope of this piece (or this writer) to teach you how to flirt in Italian. But if you do ask for someone’s digits, you can say: “Qual è il suo numero di cellulare/telefono?” (What is your cell phone/telephone number?)

If you do get asked this, it means there’s a God and He just might be on your side.

The answer to the question is: “Il mio numero di cellulare/telefono è _________.” (My telephone number is ______).

As for dimensions, remember that Italy follows the metric system. You’ll have measures like “chilometro” (kilometers) for distances and “chilogrammi” (kilograms) for weights.

 

So, there you go! Those are Italian numbers for you. With these lessons in your pocket, you can confidently interact with native speakers, travel to Italy and wade through the maze of interesting experiences you’ll have speaking real-world Italian. You’ll definitely make memories that will last you a lifetime. Count on it!

And One More Thing…

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