Numbers are all around us every day and they are one of the easiest things to learn in any language. They are mostly regular and don’t have complicated rules. You can practice them in your head.
The problem for many learners is that they see the number in figures and see it in their native language. They then have to translate it into the foreign language.
Numbers spoken quickly can be very difficult to follow.
Once you know them, the more you practice them the sooner you’ll be able to understand and use numbers without hesitation, and they can get very confusing at the higher end of the scale.
There are some important differences in usage between the English and German speaking worlds.
So here is a guide to the numbers in German from 20 upwards. The aim is to help people learn German, both vocab and pronunciation and to realise differences between English and German. Phonetic guides are between slashes / /. For the ‘high’ ch sound as in ich I use ç (c cedilla) Please note, a guide for the numbers from 0 – 19 is in preparation!
Zwanzig – twenty – is simple enough but make sure you pronounce the first and the second z as / ts /. In Hochdeutsch, the -ig is / iç / as in ich and in south Germany it’s / ik /.
Einundzwanzig – is the next number up, with ein plus und in front of the zwanzig, To English speakers, it sounds old-fashioned, reminding us of the children’s rhyme ‘four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie’. But this way to say the numbers is normal in German and Dutch and yes, it can be very confusing! When switching between English and German, try to mentally turn the numbers round!
The rest of the twenties continue in similar fashion – make sure to pronounce the German z sound correctly!
Zweiundzwanzig, dreiundzwanzig, vierundzwanzig, fünfundzwanzig, sechsundzwanzig
Many learners have difficulty with sechs. It’s pronounced / zeks /. Don’t be tempted the pronounce the ch like the ‘high’ ch sound as in ich. Here it’s the same as we say the English letter X, as in sex.
Many learners have difficulty with the ‘low’ ch sound in acht! Make sure you practice so that it sounds like ‘ch’ as in Scottish Loch and not ‘k’
We have reached dreißig! An important number! Learners may be tempted to say drei with German z sound / ts / but is it an ß – esstset and is unvoiced. Like the English words ‘dry’ and ‘sick’ in South Germany or ‘siç’ in Hochdeutsch.
The numbers continue in single figures. Keep in mind what I said about sechs and acht.
The south German pronunciation is more like ‘fee’ and North Germans may pronounce it as ‘fur’. In Hochdeutsch it rhymes with the ‘fear’
The numbers continue upwards, as before
Fünfzig can be a tongue-twister because we have four consonant sounds together – f, n, f, t and s and ç . Just keep practicing it! Say fünfundfünfzig 55 times!
Sechzig – is a problem for many learners, who have a tendency to say / zek tsik /. The best way to get the pronunciation right is to split the word into two.
First / zeç / with the ch as in ich then / tsiç / or / tsik / if you prefer the south German pronunciation: Say it again and again sech….. zig sech…. zig and again sech…. zig. Now put the two together. Sechzig!
The single figures continue – careful with sechsundsechzig – that’s / zeks – unt – zeç – tsiç /
Siebzig is pretty easy – note that the -en is omitted from sieben
Achtzig is not too difficult but make sure your ch sound is right! Achhhht – zig!
Neunzig is pretty easy. Listen to the song ‘Neunundneunzig Luftballons’ for inspiration!
Hundert is very similar to English. You can also say Einhundert.
After hundert please note that there is no und’. In English we say a hundred and one in German hunderteins.
The single numbers and the tens continue as above. It’s good to practice with currencies:
Einhundertfünfzig Euro – Zweihundertfünfzig Pfund – Fünfhundert US-Dollar – Neunhundert Schweizer Franken .
And so we reach a milestone: tausend or eintausend – As with hundreds, there is no und after tausend.
And then follow eintausendeins, eintausendzwei, eintausenddrei, und so weiter!
If you’re counting an amount, you use tausend 1234 is eintausendzweihundertvierunddreißig. But if it’s a year, you use hundert: The year 1234 is zwölfhundertvierunddreißig. Unlike in English, there is no und after the hundreds.
Make sure you know the important years – 2017 – zweitausendsiebzehn – 1949 neunzehnhundertneunundvierzig – foundation of the Federal Republic – And make sure you can say your birth year correctly and without hesitation.
The numbers continue upwards through zweitausend, fünftausend, zehntausend.
Now we have reached another milestone: eine Million – it’s eine because Million is feminine, like all words ending in -ion. The stress is on -ion /mill-i-YOHN/
Unlike the preceding numbers, the first letter is capitalised.
The numbers are not joined together into one word
Note that in the plural English and German are different: the plural – Millionen – is always used
Two million pounds = zwei Millionen Pfund
Fünf Millionen Euro
Zwei Millionen Menschen
Porträt von Elizabeth I. für zehn Millionen Pfund versteigert
… auctioned for ten million pounds.
Zwei Millionen Menschen in Aleppo ohne Trinkwasser
When we reach the very high numbers, things get confusing and you have to be careful when you are doing a translation
A billion – that’s one thousand million is eine Milliarde
A triilion – that’s one million million is eine Billion
There is some confusion, see the chart below and take care!
Milliarde is used in the news every day, so it’s important to understand that it means a thousand million Euros, pounds or whatever.
Deutsche Bank: Die Details zum Milliardenverlust
Eine Billion is associated with the hyper-inflation of the 1920s.
So that’s it, das wär’s from zwanzig to eine Billion!
Happy counting! Viel Spaß beim Zählen and take care with those ‘ch’ and ‘ts’ sounds!
21 = einundzwanzig
22 = zweiundzwanzig
23 = dreiundzwanzig
24 = vierundzwanzig
25 = fünfundzwanzig
26 = sechsundzwanzig
27 = siebenundzwanzig
28 = achtundzwanzig
29 = neunundzwanzig
30 = dreißig
31 = einunddreißig
32 = zweiunddreißig
33 = dreiunddreißig
34 = vierunddreißig
35 = fünfunddreißig
36 = sechsunddreißig
37 = siebenunddreißig
38 = achtunddreißig
39 = neununddreußig
40 = vierzig
41 = einundvierzig
42 = zweiundvierzig
50 = fünfzig
60 = sechzig
70 = siebzig
80 = achtzig
90 = neunzig
99 = neunundneunzig
100 = einhundert
101 = einhunderteins
102 = einhundertzwei
110 = einhundertzehn
150 = einhundertfünfzig
200 = zweihundert
201 = zweihunderteins
202 = zweihundertzwei
300 = dreihundert
400 = vierhundert
500 = fünfhundert
600 = sechshundert
700 = siebenhundert
800 = achthundert
900 = neunhundert
1000 = eintausend
2000 = zweitausend
3000 = dreitausend
5000 = fünftausend
6000 = sechstausend
7000 = siebentausend
8000 = achttausend
9000 = neuntausend
10.000 = zehntausend
100.000 = einhunderttausend
1.000.000 = eine Million
5.000.000 = fünf Millionen
1.000.000.000 = eine Milliarde
1.000.000.000.000 = eine Billion