What are Italian numbers?
Modern Italian uses the Indo-Arabic numbers, the same as English numbers. Before this Italy, not surprisingly, since it was the center of the Roman world, used Roman numbers. In the 900s the Indo-Arabic system came to Europe and was adopted in most countries including Italy. Learning Italian numbers is similar to learning numbers in any language.
There are a few differences between English and Italian numbers. One difference you need to know about is the reverse use of the period (.) and the comma (,) to separate thousands and indicate a decimal.
|English||two and a half||2.5|
|Italian||two and a half||2,5|
So, if something cost one-thousand five-hundred dollars and eighty cents it looks like this
Another difference is the word billion. In Italian, the word for billion is ‘miliardi’ and the word for trillion is ‘bilioni’. Other Romance languages such as French use similar wording. Obviously, this can get a little confusing, but really you won’t be using billions and trillions all that often.
Learning Italian numbers
Foundation numbers – the ones place
Once you know the first nine numbers (the ones place) in most languages you know most of the numbers. Because of this, I call numbers 1 – 9 the foundation numbers. All Italian numbers are based on the first nine numbers, so they need to be learned first. Again this similar to most Romance languages such as Spanish,
Avoid this one mistake
A word of warning: DO NOT LEARN THE NUMBERS IN ORDER.
This may sound strange but learning the numbers in order makes it more difficult to recall a single number without counting up to it. And really, we use most numbers out of sequences like addresses, phone numbers, and prices. Most language apps, programs, and classes teach numbers in cardinal order – don’t do it!
So, when you are learning 1 – 9 learn them randomly, maybe such as 2, 7, 4, 3, 8, 6, 5, 1, 9, any pattern but consecutive order.
A quick way to easily learn the foundation numbers 1 – 9 out of order is to make a cheat sheet and wherever you see a number say it. You will be ditching the cheat sheet quickly because numbers are everywhere and you will learn them quickly.
The ‘difficult’ numbers
In many languages, such as German, the numbers ten through nineteen are very easy to learn because they are just a combination of the word ten and the word for the ones place. This is unfortunately not true for Italian. In Italian these numbers often have odd names and don’t use a logical pattern.
The Italian word for 10 is ‘dieci’ and the numbers 11 – 16, with multiple spelling exception, follow the lovely pattern of
- one-ten (11)
- two-ten (12)
- three-ten (13)
- four-ten (14)
- five-ten (15)
- six-ten (16)
The spelling exceptions to this pattern are the numbers 10, 12, 15, and 16, but the spelling differences are minimal.
Then for some reason, the pattern reverses from 17 – 19 to
- ten-seven (17)
- ten-eight (18)
- ten-nine (19)
And 17 and 19 are spelled slightly differently.
Below are the numbers 10 – 19 in Italian. Each number is spelled as a single word but I’ve put in a space to make the pattern more apparent.
- 10 – dieci
- 11 – un dici
- 12 – do dici
- 13 – tre dici
- 14 – quattor dici
- 15 – quin dici
- 16 – se dici
- 17 – dici assette
- 18 – dici otto
- 19 – dici annove
The table below shows the spelling differences. Again, I’ve put in a space to highlight the ones and tens place but they are spelled as a single word.
Twenty through ninety-nine
Twenty – 99 are fairly easy to master. This is because they follow a consistent pattern with one exception, naturally.
Thirty through ninety use the foundation numbers with a change of spelling and then add -anta to the end. For example, 40 is ‘quar anta’ (space added) which is close to quattro, 4. Twenty is just off by itself called ‘venti’.
Below are the names of the tens to learn.
- 20 – venti
- 30 – trenta
- 40 – quaranta
- 50 – cinquanta
- 60 – sessanta
- 70 – settanta
- 80 – ottanta
- 90 – novanta
The table shows the spelling difference between the one and the tens place. I have put in a space in the tens words to highlight the spelling, but they are one word.
To say any number between 20 and 99 simply add the foundation numbers, the ones place, to the end of the tens. For example, 51 is cinquant (50) uno (1), cinquantuno.
Here is 20 – 29
Not so difficult.
Hundreds, thousands, and millions
For most occasions, you won’t need to use numbers beyond the millions. With the foundation numbers as a base, learning the hundreds, thousands, and millions is easy.
The Italian word for a hundred is ‘cento’. Two-hundred is ‘duecento’, 300 ‘trecento’ and so on. No exceptions!
The thousands are the same. One-thousand is ‘mille’. For 2,000 – 999,000 drop an ‘l’ and change the ‘e’ to an ‘a’: Two-thousand is ‘duemila’, 3,000 is tremila, 4,000 is ‘quattromila’. Again no exceptions.
The millions are equally as straightforward:
quattro milioni . . .
Now you can say, for example, 1,234,567:
un milione duecento trentaquattro mila cinquecento sessantasette
Before we wrap-up, the Italian word for zero is ‘zero’.
5 steps to learn Italian numbers
- Do not learn the numbers in consecutive order
- Learn the foundation numbers (1 – 9) first
- Learn the pattern for numbers 20 – 99
- Learn the ‘hard’ numbers 11 – 19
- Learn the words for hundred, thousand, and million
Here is a great resource to help you with the pronunciation of Italian numbers: