how to count in German

Learn how to count in German – a complete guide (with audio)


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Xiaoxiao is an avid langage learner that is excited to share with you the nitty-gritty of how to learn and use German. After falling in love with Germany during a semester abroad years ago, she moved to Germany from the US and stayed ever since. Having reached C1 level in German after the second year and now four years into the language, she is still on her way to mastering the language. She is currently studying at LMU in Munich and has a wide range of interests in literature, history, business, and more.
xiaoxiao

Learning how to count in German is easy and should be one of the first things you learn when you start with the language! In this article, we will start with the basic forms of numbers (cardinal numbers/”Kardinalzahlen“), then move on to how to do math in German, and eventually how to use those numbers in real-life situations. If you want to start using German as soon as possible, to count in German is one of the easiest ways to get you going in day-to-day situations. Let’s start!

How to count in German from 1-99 

German numbers 0-12

Number ––– German

  • 0  — null 
  • 1  — eins
  • 2  — zwei 
  • 3  — drei
  • 4  — vier
  • 5  — fünf
  • 6  — sechs 
  • 7  — sieben
  • 8  — acht 
  • 9  — neun 
  • 10 — zehn
  • 11 — elf 
  • 12 — zwölf

👉Click and play

In German, the numbers 1 to 12 are unique and are the basis of counting in German. 
👉 Fun fact: the English “dozen”, meaning a total of 12, corresponds to “das Dutzend” in German, both of which come from the Latin origin of duodecim.

German numbers 13-19

  • 13  — Dreizehn
  • 14  — Vierzehn
  • 15  — Fünfzehn
  • 16  — Sechzehn
  • 17  — Siebzehn
  • 18  — Achtzehn
  • 19  — Neunzehn

(number in ones place) + “-zehn” ← easy formula!

👉Click and play

Numbers between 13 and 19 are created using the same formula: single digit number plus “-zehn” (see highlighted above), which means “ten” in German, like “-teen” in English. 

👉 Note that some syllables are shortened to single syllable prefixes. 

For example in “16 – sechzehn”, sechs dropped the “s” to “sech” before adding on the “-zehn” suffix; and in “17 – siebzehn”, sieben is shortened to “sieb”. Same goes for 60 and 70, as shown below:

German numbers 20-99

First, moving onto numbers larger than 20, starting with multiples of ten:

  • 20  — zwanzig 
  • 30  — dreißig
  • 40  — vierzig
  • 50  — fünfzig
  • 60  — sechzig 
  • 70  — siebzig 
  • 80  — achtzig
  • 90  — neunzig 

(tens place number) + “-zig” 

👉Click and play

Notice that zwanzig is “zwan-” instead of “zwei-”, dreißig is “-ßig” instead of “-zig”.
 “-zig” is the equivalent to “-ty” in English. See how easy it is?

How to keep counting: simply add ones to tens using “und”.

👉  But here’s the catch: the digit at the ones place goes BEFORE the tens place. 

For example, “21einundzwanzig” is made up of the number in the ones place “ein“, the glue word “und“, and the tens place “zwanzig“.

  • 21  — einundzwanzig
  • 22  — zweiundzwanzig
  • 33  — dreiunddreißig
  • 44  — vierundvierzig
  • 55  — fünfundfünfzig
  • 66  — sechsundsechzig
  • 77  — siebenundsiebzig
  • 88  — achtundachtzig
  • 99  — neunundneunzig

(number in ones place) + “und” + (number in tens place)

There is no “and” between the ones and the tens in English numbers, because it is ‘reserved’ for the numbers in the hundreds, while in German it’s the other way around. Let’s take a look:

How to count in German from 100?

  • 100  — (ein) Hundert
  • 101  — hunderteins
  • 110  — hundertzehn
  • 200  — zweihundert
  • 234  — zweihundertvierunddreißig
  • 765  — siebenhundertfünfundsechzig

 (Number in hundreds place) + “hundert” + (the two digit number)

There is no “und” necessary between the hundreds and the tens in German, but only between the tens and the ones. 

It’s really easy to notice that die Hundert is “hundred” in German. When it is a number between 101-199, then the “ein”, meaning “one”, can be omitted. The rest are exactly the same as in English, where you’d say “three hundred” – “dreihundert”, “five thousand” – “fünftausend”, “eighty million” – “achtzig Millionen”… very regular and predictable from this onwards.

Wait…what’s tausend and Millionen? Let’s find out below!

How to count in German from 1000?

Number (German format) — German — English

  • 1.000  — (ein) Tausend  — one thousand
  • 1.001  — (ein)tausend(und)eins  — one thousand and one
  • 2.000  — zweitausend  — two thousand
  • 10.000 — zehntausend — ten thousand
  • 100.000 — (ein) hunderttausend — one hundred thousand
  • 100.001 — (ein)hunderttausend(und)eins — one hundred thousand and one
  • 1.000.000 — eine Million — one million
  • 2.000.000 — zwei Millionen — two million
  • 1.000.000.000 — eine Milliarde — one billion
  • 2.000.000.000 — zwei Milliarden — two billion
  • 1.000.000.000.000 — eine Billion — one trillion
  • 2.000.000.000.000 — zwei Billionen — two trillion

👉Click to play Hundert, Tausend, Million, Millionen, Milliarde, Milliarden, Billion, Billionen

👉Notes: Billion is a common false friend in German because it is 1000 times larger than the English “billion”, and actually means “trillion”. Therefore, when you want to say how many people there are on earth, make sure to say:

Es gibt 7,77 Milliarden Menschen auf der Welt.”
“There are 7.77 billion people in the world.”

Oh, and what if there is a two digit number before your thousands and millions, and so on? Follow the same rules above and latch on the numbers! (The “ein” and “und” marked in gray can either stay or be left out.)

For example, the number 123, 456 in German would be…

count in German -  German number (ein)hundert dreiundzwanzig tausend vierhundert sechsundfünfzig

And all the changes are regular and predictable – easy-peasy!

How to use commas and periods to count in German

You might’ve already noticed by now that commas and periods are used differently in English! In German we use “das Komma” – decimal commas (instead of decimal points in English), and “der Punkt” – points or dots are used as thousands separators (instead of commas in English). You’ll see more examples as you read on and find out how numbers are used in real-life situations.

count in German - german numbers versus english numbers comma and period

However, there is one exception to the above rule – when dots are used to express ordinal numbers:

How to Write Ordinal Numbers in German 

If no digits follows the points (like in cardinal numbers), then you’d know it’s an ordinal number:

Ordinal number (German format) — German — English

  • 1. — erste — first
  • 3. — dritte — third
  • 7. — siebte — seventh
  • 101. — hunderterste — hundred-first
  • 1015. — eintausendfünfzehnte — one thousand and fifteenth
  • 21. — einundzwanzigste — twenty-first
  • 100. — hundertste — hundredth
  • 1000. — tausendste — thousandth
  • 1.000.000. — millionste — millionth

Easy rule of making ordinals out of cardinals:

  1. For numbers 1-19, add “-te” to the end of the cardinals 
    • 1st, 3rd, and 7th are irregular
  2. For numbers 20 onwards, you should add “-ste” instead! All ordinal numbers are regular no matter how large they are!
    • exceptions are those ending with numbers 1-19
      (notice how 21. and 101. are different though both ending with 1)

Where to use ordinal numbers in German

Ordinal numbers are very common in writing down centuries, dates, floors, frequency, and many more. For example:

Wir sind im einundzwanzigsten / 21. Jahrhundert.
“We are in the twenty-first century.”

Heute ist der neunzehnte / 19. Januar.”
“Today is January nineteenth.”

Ich wohne im vierten / 4. Stock.
“I live on the fourth floor.”

“Ich kam zum fünften / 5. Mal hierher” 
“I came here for the fifth time.”

Grammatically speaking, ordinal numbers are all considered adjectives. And-te and -ste are in fact base forms of the adjective ending. Remember that while you can write down the ordinals as numbers, you should still pronounce them with the right adjective endings. 

Doing math in German

How to do basic math in German

Now you know how to count the numbers, let’s find out how to do easy math with them!

addieren — add
plus
or und — plus or and (like in English)

subtrahieren — subtract
minus —
minus (also used in negative numbers)

multiplizieren — multiply
mal —
 times

dividieren — divide
durch x teilen — divided by x

ist or macht (or ergibt, but less used) — equal

Some examples for how they are said :

5 + 4 = 9 — fünf plus/und vier ist/macht/ergibt neun 

3 x 6 = 18 — drei mal sechs ist/macht/ergibt achtzehn 

count in German - basic math in German

How to make fractions in German

Fraction German English

  • ½ — eine Hälfte — one half 
  • ⅓ — ein Drittel — one third
  • ⅔ — zwei Drittel — two thirds
  • ¼ — ein Viertel — one fourth / one quarter
  • 1/24 — ein Vierundzwanzigstel — one twenty-fourth

(cardinal numerator/”Zähler” ) + (denominator/”Nenner“)

👉 Unlike in English, the denominators in fractions are not the same as the ordinal numbers! But we have a similar pattern of change that is regular and predictable:

  1. For denominators 1-19,  the number becomes fractional by adding “-tel” to the end of the number
    • eine Hälfte” is the exception here, and note that in mixed fractions the adjective form “halb” is used instead of the noun form “Hälfte” (examples coming later)
  2. For denominators larger than 20, you should add “-stel” instead of “-tel” (Although it’s very unlikely that you’d need this 😉
    • here also exceptions with numbers ending with 1-19 also apply

Mixed fractions are exactly the same in English: no conjugations for numerators and whole numbers! Hurray! 

  • 1 ½ — eineinhalb / anderthalb —  one and a half
  • 2 ½ —  zweieinhalb — two and a half
  • 3 ⅘ —  dreivierfünftel — three and four fifths

👉 simply name the whole number and append the proportions directly afterwards, no “and” is needed!

How to write decimal numbers in German 

Like in English, decimal numbers are made up of a whole number and a string of single numbers following the decimal separator. In German, the decimal separators are also pronounced out loud, but just as “Komma”:

3,65 — drei Komma sechs fünf — three point six five / 3.65

The rule with the commas and periods are the same as above: simply replace the commas with dots and dots with commas!

How to write percentages in German 

Percentages are easy: just like in English, use cardinal numbers and add a %-sign at the end, pronounced as “das Prozent”.

99,9% — neunundneunzig Komma neun Prozent — ninety-nine point nine percent

Count Numbers in Real-Life Situations

We’ve talked about quite a few forms of numbers which will allow us to tell quantity, order, and so on. Now ready for some more real-life examples?

How to say dates in German

Let’s start with the big ones: “das Jahrhundert” is “century” in German, which literally means “year hundred”. Same as in English, use ordinal numbers to express the number of centuries: 

21. Jahrhundert — das einundzwanzigste Jahrhundert — 21st century

Similar to in English, the four-digit year is broken down into two groups of twos and you can omit the “und”. But make sure to throw in a “hundert” in there:

1989 — neunzehnhundert(und)neunundachtzig — nineteen eighty-nine

Different from English, when the hundreds place is a zero, you should use the normal cardinal number:

2020 — zweitausend(und)zwanzig — twenty-twenty

das Jahrzehnt” is “decade” in German, which literally means “year ten” (“das Dekade” is also decade, but seldomly used). When we are referring to a specific decade, we add “-er” to the end of the cardinal number:

90er — die Neunziger — the 90s

Ordinal numbers are used to express the day of the month:

16. Mai — Sechzehnte Mai — May 16th / 16th of May

Please keep in mind that in German, the whole date is usually written as DD.MM.YYYY:

22.11.2020 — zweiundzwanzigste November zweitausend(und)zwanzig — November twenty-second, twenty-twenty (Nov. 22, 2020)

How to ask for the time in German

When asking for the time, the question posed would be “wie viel Uhr haben wir?” or “wie spät ist es?”, literally translating to “how many hour have we?” or “how late is it?” The answer is: 

es ist XX Uhr.” — It is XX o’clock.

To ask and answer “at what time”, the preposition “at” would be “um” in German:

Wann?” / “Um wie viel Uhr?” — When? / At what time?
Wir treffen uns um neun (Uhr).” — We are meeting at nine (o’clock).

To ask “for how long”,  the preposition “for” would be “für”:

“Für wie lange?” — For how long?
Zwei Stunden.” — Two hours.

👉 this is where “Uhr” may be mistaken as the equivalent to “hour” in English, which is actually “Stunde” in German.

Telling the exact time

“Uhr” means “o’clock” and “Minuten” means minutes in German. To tell the exact minute, we simply add the corresponding number. Just like in English, Uhr and Minuten can be omitted in a daily conversation.

Here are some examples:

06:25 — sechs (Uhr) fünfundzwanzig (Minuten)
15:06 — fünfzehn (Uhr) sechs (Minuten)

Ya I know…expressing time past noon can be a bit trickier:

Telling time in formal/official situations – 24-hour clock

In Germany, people are used to saying time in a 24-hour format, which is also the more formal and official way of indicating time. 

11:48 – elf Uhr achtundvierzig (Minuten) – eleven forty-eight
16:00 – sechzehn Uhr – 4 o’clock in the afternoon / 4 p.m

Telling time in informal/unofficial situations – 12-hour clock

I know adding 12 to the 12-hour clock can be tricky for those of you who are used to the 12-hour notation. So if you don’t want to do math in your head before saying the time, you can alternatively add the time of the day: 

count in German - time of the day in German

For example, 5 p.m. would be “5 Uhr am Nachmittag” instead of “17 Uhr” 

17:00 – 5 Uhr am Nachmittag – 5 p.m.
21:00 – 9 Uhr am Abend – 9 p.m.

👉 Here, “am Nachmittag” means “this very afternoon (today)”; if we say “nachmittags” instead, it means “(generally/usually) in the afternoon”. Same goes for “morgens”, “vormittags”, “abends” and “nachts”.

Alternatively, if the context is clear that it cannot be 5 o’clock in the early morning, go ahead and just say “5 Uhr”, and it would be self-evident that you meant 5 o’clock in the afternoon.

Telling time the colloquial way in German

We’ve already talked about how to express fractions in German, and this is where knowing how to say “quarter” – “Viertel” or “half” – “halb” comes in handy.

Expressions such as  “five/ten/quarter to…” or “five/ten/quarter past…” are common in German as well, and their equivalents are “fünf/zehn/Viertel vor” or “fünf/zehn/Viertel nach”. “Vor” literally means “before” and “nach” means “after”.

If you want to be more specific with all the variations available to you on how to express the time more precisely, check out this diagram here:

count in German - how to tell time in German

How to express frequency in German

Interestingly enough, “das Mal” (the noun form) and “mal” (the adverbial form) means the same as “time” in English, which we used above to indicate multiplication! To count the “times” using numbers like “once, twice, thrice” in English, we can simply form this expression using “mal”.

Version 1: (cardinal numbers) + “malin one word

“einmal, zweimal, … tausendmal”— once, twice, … a thousand times

Version 2: (cardinal numbers) + space + “Mal” in two words

“ein Mal, zwei Mal, … Millionen Mal…” — one time, two times, … a million times…

Naming the specific times: (ordinal number) + space + “Mal” 

“das erste/zweite/dritte… Mal” — the first/second/third… time
zum hundertsten und tausendsten Mal — for the hundredth and thousandth time

How to say numbers in units and prices

We’ve already mentioned above in “How to use commas and periods to count in German” that in German, commas are the decimal separator and periods are the thousands separator (exactly opposite from those in English). The same rule applies to using numbers in real life.

Länge des Äquators ist vierzigtausendfünfundsiebzig Komma ein sechs eins Kilometer (40.075,161 km).” 
Length of the equator is 40,075.161 kilometers.

If there is a given unit, for example “Euro” or “Meter”, instead of the “Komma” we can plug in the whole unit and say: 

3,59 — “drei Euro neunundfünfzig (Cent)” — three euro fifty-nine (cents)
1,85m — “ein Meter fünfundachtzig (Zentimeter)” — one meter eighty-five (centimeter)

 

What’s next?

Phew! Having had all the information thrown at you, it could be overwhelming I know! But don’t be scared! Let’s take baby steps, start with familiarizing yourself with the numbers by listening and repeating them to yourself. 

Try counting in German whenever you find the chance to and get your reaction speed up. If you are ready for more learning in German, check out other articles below. Viel Spaß beim Lernen! (have fun learning!)

 


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