Matrix numbers cartoon

Numbers in Italian

Have you ever tried to read numbers in Italian? If you squint hard, they almost look like English numbers!

I know, I know, numbers are about as exciting as watching paint dry.

But trust me, this is going to be a lot of fun!

So, we start with the basics.
1 uno
2 due
3 tre
4 quattro
5 cinque
6 sei
7 sette
8 otto
9 nove
10 dieci
Easy, right?

Matrix Cartoon

Italian numbering rules

Now that you’ve had a gist of the most useful numbers, let’s move to the writing rules for the tens, the compound numbers, and why not the hundreds, the thousands, and beyond.

  • The numbers mentioned above from zero to ten are specific words.
  • Things start getting a bit funky when we hit eleven to sixteen. These numbers are formed from the root of the digit followed by ten. We’re talking: undici [11], dodici [12], tredici [13], quattordici [14], quindici [15], and sedici [16].
  • From seventeen to nineteen, the order is reversed, as the unit is put directly after the ten: diciassette [17], diciotto [18], and diciannove [19].
  • The tens have specific names based on the matching digit root except for ten and twenty: dieci [10], venti [20], trenta [30], quaranta [40], cinquanta [50], sessanta [60], settanta [70], ottanta [80], and novanta [90].
  • Compound numbers are formed by juxtaposing the ten and the unit, causing an apocope of the last vowel of the ten name before a digit starting with a vowel, i.e. one and eight (e.g.: ventuno [21], trentadue [32], quarantotto [48]). But wait, it gets even better. When a compound number ends with three, tre becomes tré and the stress is put on the last syllable (e.g.: cinquantatré [53]). I mean, who came up with this stuff? Are they trying to make our lives difficult?
  • The hundreds are formed by prefixing the word hundred with the multiplier digit, except for one hundred: cento [100], duecento [200], trecento [300], quattrocento [400]…
  • Hundreds, tens and units are linked together with no space (e.g.: centonove [109], duecentotrenta [230], novecentonovantanove [999]).
  • Thousands are formed by prefixing the word thousand by the multiplier digit, except for one thousand: mille [1,000] (plural mila), duemila [2,000], tremila [3,000], quattromila [4,000], cinquemila [5,000]…
  • Alright, folks, pay attention because things are about to get crazy. When it comes to grouping numbers in Italian, it’s like a game of three-digit Tetris. The rule is that you need to fit as many digits as you can into each word without going over three. But here’s the kicker: if you’re dealing with a number that’s bigger than one hundred and doesn’t end in double zeroes, you gotta add a space after the word for thousand. It’s like the number is saying, “Wait, wait, hold up, I need my personal space, okay?” So if you see a number like “duemilatrecentoquarantacinque” (which means 2,345 by the way), you know it’s a rule-breaker and needs that extra breathing room. It’s like the diva of numbers, always needing special treatment.
  • The Italian language uses the long scale for big numbers where the naming pattern of the scale words alternates between the suffixes -ione and -iardomilione (106, million), miliardo (109, billion), bilione (1012, trillion), biliardo (1015, quadrillion), trilione (1018, quintillion), triliardo (1021, sextillion)…
  • Hey folks, did you know that in Italian, the number one (uno) changes to “un” before a masculine noun? Yeah, it’s true! So if you want to say “one million” in Italian, you’d say “un milione” (oooh, fancy). And if you want to say “two million”, just add an “i” to the end of “milione” and voila, “due milioni”! But wait, there’s more! The plural construction of these big numbers is also pretty regular – just change the ending from -e or -o to -i. So “one billion” is “un miliardo” and “two billion” is “due miliardi”. See, math can be fun (and confusing).

Do you need a hand remembering numbers in Italian?

Hey, have you heard of this Italian proverb? It goes like this: “Non c’è due senza tre.” Which means “There’s no two without three.”

It’s like the English saying that bad luck always comes in threes. You know, like when you wake up late, spill your coffee, and then your phone dies? “Non c’è due senza tre!”

But it’s not just for bad stuff. You can use it for good things too. Like when you eat two cookies and you’re about to stop, but then your friend offers you one more. “Non c’è due senza tre!”

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2 Comments

  1. When it comes to learning a new language, numbers serve as very good starting point.

    Not only because numbers are relatively simple, but I believe it’s also because they give you a very good idea about the pronunciation intricacies of the language.

    Some languages like Spanish and Italian are delicate and fast flowing, while other languages like German and Russian may come off as stronger and not as easy on the ear.

    Learning numbers in a certain language definitely helps introduce you to the proper pronunciation.

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