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Hannah Jackel spent nine lovely months in Viterbo, Italy studying abroad (with me!), where she fell in love with the Italian language, culture and food.
Soon after arriving in Italy, we became friends, not only because we are both from Las Vegas, but because I saw an equal passion for Italy in her as the one I have in me.
From now on she’ll be sharing her tips, tricks, and language savvy with all of you, and all of her articles will be checked by the same Italian editors that check all of my articles.
When I first got to Italy, my Italian was extremely limited, but I thought I at least had a handle on numbers.
I mean, really, how often was I going to need to count?
I figured it was more important to know how to tell people my name, where I was from and, most importantly, that “non parlo molto bene l’italiano” (I don’t speak Italian very well.)
I’d listened to my Beginner Italian audiotapes every day when I got home from work.
There were six in total, and I completed each lesson three times, so I could definitely count to ten.
I only realized just how important having a complete grasp on the Italian numbers was when I made my first purchase—a fragola gelato—and I didn’t understand the total. I fumbled through my euros until I handed her a two-euro coin for my 1.62€ gelato.
The same day, in a search for WiFi, I was handed the password for the router at what would eventually become one of my regular cafes.
This is when I learned that Italians write numbers differently than Americans. Here’s an example of some numbers written Italian-style.
Photo Credit: Unilang
As soon as I saw it, I remember thinking, “What even is that? Are those numbers?”
The picture above is a tame example, but that 9 looks awfully like a g, doesn’t it?
When you can’t read the WiFi password, you’re going to have to ask for it, and if it contains numbers, you’d better understand them when they tell if you don’t want to ask for it a thousand times.
You’ll also need to understand numbers to “ricaricare” your phone, pay for your coffee and get the digits of that ragazzo you’ve been dancing with at the discoteca.
Numbers are incredibly important, and we use them way more often than we realize.
Luckily, after you’ve got 1-20 in Italian down pat, you’re set, because they follow a pretty formulaic pattern after that.
Let’s start with the basics.
Basics of Counting in Italian
|#||Italian||Notes & Examples|
|1||uno||Like the card game.|
|2||due||Ho bevuto due bicchieri di vino. – I drank two glasses of wine.|
|3||tre||Ho tre sorelle. – I have three sisters.|
|4||quattro||Like the Schick Quattro razor that has 4 blades.|
|5||cinque||Like Le Cinque Terre!|
|6||sei||Mia sorella ha sei anni. – My sister is six years old.|
|7||sette||Ci sono sette giorni nella settimana. – There are seven days in the week.|
|8||otto||Vorrei otto mele. – I would like eight apples.|
|9||nove||Ho comprato nove mele. – I bought nine apples.|
|10||dieci||Il biglietto costa dieci euro. – The ticket is ten euros.|
|11||undici||Sounds kind of like uno + dieci, right?|
|12||dodici||11-20 are all variants of a number + ten.|
|13||tredici||Noticing a pattern?|
|14||quattordici||Remember to put emphasis on the double consonants.|
|15||quindici||È il quindici maggio. – It’s May 15.|
|16||sedici||In Italia ho visitato sedici città. – I visited sixteen cities in Italy.|
|17||diciassette||The pattern ends here and a new one begins.|
|18||diciotto||Like 10 + 8.|
|19||diciannove||Like 10 + 9.|
|20||venti||You may recognize this as the largest cup size Starbucks offers.|
After you’ve got 1 through 20 memorized, everything after is molto facile (very easy).
The word for twenty-one, for example, is ventuno.
CPF: Notice that with “ventuno” the ‘i’ is dropped.
It’s simply 20 + 1, venti + uno.
Twenty-two is ventidue. 20 + 2, venti + due.
Twenty-three is ventitre, and so on and so forth.
You’ll just need the names of the base numbers. So here they are!
Base Numbers in Italian
So 56 is cinquantasei, 72 is settantadue, and 99 is novantanove.
Easy peasy, right?
Just remember that for any number ending in one (31, 41, 81), you have to drop the ‘a’ at the end of the base number.
Trentuno, quarantuno, ottantuno, eccetera (in Italian).
And for any number ending in 3 (23, 53, 93), the ‘e’ on the end gets an accent.
Ventitré, cinquantatré, novantatré, and so on.
What about hundreds?
The word for 100 is cento.
For multiple hundreds (like 200, 600 or 900) just add the number of hundreds in front of cento.
200 becomes duecento, 600 becomes seicento, and 900 becomes novecento.
How I learned the numbers with ease
The thing that worked best for me when learning the Italian numbers was to repeat them when I woke up, when I was falling asleep, and at least one other time during the day.
Practice makes perfect, after all.
Questions, comments, just want to practice typing out numbers? Do it in the comments section below.