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Mastering German Numbers: A Step-by-Step Guide for Learners

Updated: Jan 28

Numbers are the building blocks of language, and learning to express quantities and navigate numeric contexts is a vital aspect of language acquisition. In this blog post, we'll embark on a journey to unravel the intricacies of German numbers, providing learners with a step-by-step guide to numerical mastery.




**1. Understanding the Basics:


  • Cardinal Numbers: Begin with the cardinal numbers (e.g., eins - one, zwei - two, drei - three) to establish a foundational understanding of the numeric system in German. Cardinal numbers are used for counting objects, whereas ordinal numbers (see below) are used for ranking things or describing sequences.

  • Counting: Practice counting from 0 to 10, familiarising yourself with the pronunciation of German numbers. You'll encounter some alphabet differences between English and German along the way.


  • null [nul]

  • eins [ains]

  • zwei [tsvai]

  • drei [drai]

  • vier [feer]

  • fünf [fuenf]

  • sechs [zex]

  • sieben [seebin]

  • acht [acht]

  • neun [noin]

  • zehn [tsen]


**2. Tackling Tens and Teens:


  • Teens: Master the unique structure of German to effectively express numbers from 11 to 19. Apart from 11 (elf) and 12 (zwölf), in German the lower numbers are combined with the word for ten (zehn) to form the teens. This is, of course the same logic as in English, e.g. 14 four+teen.


  • elf [elev]

  • zwölf [tself]

  • dreizehn[draitsen]

  • vierzehn [feertsen]

  • fünfzehn [fuenftsen]

  • sechzehn [zejtsen} the -s is dropped for pronunciation reasons

  • siebzehn [seebtsen} the -en is dropped

  • achtzehn [achtsen]

  • neunzehn [nointsen]


  • Tens: Learn the multiples of ten (e.g., zwanzig - twenty, dreißig - thirty) to navigate larger numeric values with ease. They all end in -zig [tsig], except 30 wich ends in -ßig but the pronunciation is the same. Another difference between the single numbers and the tenners is 20 [tsvantsig].


  • zwanzig [tsvantsig]

  • dreißig [draitsig]

  • vierzig [feertsig]

  • fünfzig [fuenftsig]

  • sechzig [zejtsig]

  • siebzig [seebtsig]

  • achtzig [achtsig]

  • neunzig [nointsig]


**3. Navigating Compound Numbers:


  • Compound Numbers: Understand the formation of compound numbers in German (e.g., einundzwanzig - twenty-one, dreiundvierzig - forty-three) by combining the tens and ones. The logic is the same as with the teens from 13 to 19, with one crucial difference. From 21 onwards, an "und (and) is squeezed in the middle. To learn the compound numbers, always follow the principle second number first.


  • 21 - einundzwanzig (one and twenty) the -s at the end of eins get dropped in all compound numbers

  • 22 - zweiundzwanzig (two and twenty)

  • 23 - dreiundzwanzig

  • 24 - vierundzwanzig

  • 25 - fünfundzwanzig

  • 26 - sechsundzwanzig

  • 27 - siebenundzwanzig

  • 28 - achtundzwanzig

  • 29 - neunundzwanzig

  • 33 - dreiunddreißig

  • 44 - vierundvierzig

  • 55 - fünfundfünfzig

  • 67 - achtundsechzig

  • 76 - sechsundsiebzig

  • 87- siebenundachtzig

  • 99 - neunundneunzig


  • Practice Exercises: Engage in exercises that involve writing and saying compound numbers, reinforcing your ability to create and comprehend numeric expressions. With a bit of practice, you'll soon be able to count to 100 (einhundert- one hundred)


**4. Mastering Larger Numbers:


  • Hundreds: Explore the German way of expressing hundreds (e.g., hundert - hundred, zweihundert - two hundred) to articulate larger quantities. As before, we combine the lower numbers and the word for hundred (hundert).


  • einhundert [ainhoondert}

  • zweihundert [tsvaihoondert}

  • dreihundert [draihoondert}

  • vierhundert [feerhoondert]

  • fünfhundert [fünfhoondert]

  • sechshundert [zexhoondert]

  • siebenhundert [seebinhoondert]

  • achthundert [achthoondert]

  • neunhundert [noinhoondert]


  • Thousands and Beyond: Grasp the pattern for expressing thousands and beyond (e.g., tausend - thousand, Millionen - million) for a comprehensive understanding of numeric scaling. At every higher unit, we start counting all over.


  • 1000 - tausend [towzent}

  • 1001- tausend(und)eins [towzentuntains] - the "und" in the in brackets is optional

  • 1023 - tausen(und)dreiundzwanzig [towzentuntdraiundtsvantsig}

  • 10.000- zehntausend [tsentowzent]

  • 100.000 - einhundertausend [ainhoonderttowzent}

  • 1.000.000 - eine Millionen [aine Millionen}

  • 1.000.000.000 - eine Milliarde [aine Milliarde]

etc.


**4. Deciphering Phone Numbers and Dates


  • Phone Numbers: Familiarise yourself with the structure of German phone numbers, recognising how they are segmented for clarity. The numbers are usually pronounced in single digits or in pairs, just like in English. Unlike Enlish, country or area codes or usually separated with a slash, e.g. 02249/9959.

  • Dates: Learn to express dates in German, including the months and the ordinal numbers for days (e.g., der erste Januar - the first of January). In German, we simply use a dot instead of th or nd (e.g. der 1. January - 1st of January). When used as the subject of the sentence (i.e. as the nominative case), all ordinal numbers end in -te until 19 and from 20 onwards in -ste.


  • 1. (1st) Erste (First)

  • 2. (2nd) Zweite (Second)

  • 3. (3rd) Dritte (Third)

  • 4. (4th) Vierte (Fourth)

  • 5. (5th) Fünfte (Fifth)

  • 6. (6th) Sechste (Sixth)

  • 7. (7th) Siebte (Seventh)

  • 8. (8th) Achte (Eighth)

  • 9. (9th) Neunte (Ninth)

  • 10. (10th) Zehnte (Tenth)

  • 11. (11th) Elfte (Eleventh)

  • 12. (12t) Zwölfte (Twelfth)

  • 19. (19th) Neunzehnte (Nineteenth)

  • 20. (20th) Zwanzigste (Twentieth)

  • 21. (22nd) Zweiundzwanzigste (Twenty-second)

  • 30. (30th) Dreißigste (Thirtieth)


  • Let's look at some examples of using the ordinal numbers in the nominative case.


  • Heute ist der 2. (zweite) Januar- Today is the 2nd of January.

  • Morgen ist der 22. (zweiundzwanzigste) Februar- Tomorrow is the 22nd of February.



  • Mein Geburtstag ist am 2. (zweiten) Juli - My birthday is on the 2nd of July.

  • Simply remember that the endings after am are always -ten and -sten. For more examples, check out my blog post on dates in German.


**6. Real-Life Applications:


  • Shopping and Currency: Practice using numbers in real-life scenarios, such as shopping, where prices and quantities become practical applications of your numeric skills. Unlike English, German currencies are usually written after the amount but pronounced between, say, Euros and cents, in order to clearly separate the two. Note that in German comma is used in prices rather than a decimal point as in English.

  • 13,99€ (13 Euro 99)


  • Time: Apply your knowledge of numbers to express time, including hours, minutes, and seconds, further enhancing your linguistic competence. Similar to prices, the German for o' clock (Uhr) is written after the time but pronounced in between hours and minutes. For a more detailed discussion on how to tell the time in German, check you my blog post.

  • 20.15 (20 Uhr 15)


Mastering German numbers is a gradual and rewarding process. Regular practice, engaging exercises, and real-life applications are key components of successful numerical acquisition. As you navigate the intricacies of counting and expressing quantities in German, you're not just learning numbers; you're unlocking a gateway to effective communication in this vibrant language. Viel Erfolg (Good luck) on your journey to numeric proficiency in German!


As a beginner German, you might also be interested to learn how to introduce yourself in German, how to say please and thank you in German, and the ten most useful German verbs. All of these posts and hundreds of others can be found on our German language learning blog.

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