If you want to speak German, there is no way around learning German numbers. Knowing how to count in German is a useful skill to navigate the country: it allows you to count money like a local and understand prices, it’ll facilitate ordering things, telling time, doing math in German, or even getting a job. So eins, zwei, drei, don’t put it off any longer: we’ll introduce you to German numbers, show you how to count, and explain the rules for forming numbers in German.

How to count in German

In order to start counting in German, you must first learn a set of unique numbers. Unfortunately, there are more than ten of them, so you can’t use your fingers to keep track. Luckily, there’s just an extra couple–or three, if you count zero. Learn this set by heart and you can already do some basic counting in German. You’ll also need these numbers to form larger ones later on.

0 zero null
1 one eins
2 two zwei
3 three drei
4 four vier
5 five fünf
6 six sechs
7 seven sieben
8 eight acht
9 nine neun
10 ten zehn
11 eleven elf
12 twelve zwölf

Learn German numbers up to 20

After twelve, things get a bit simpler with the German numbers. Just take the word stem for the numbers from the table above and add “zehn” (ten) to form the numbers 13-20: drei + zehn = dreizehn (thirteen). Note that “zwanzig” (twenty) is again a special case, yet the prefix “zw” hints at the root of “zwei” (two).

13 thirteen dreizehn
14 fourteen vierzehn
15 fifteen fünfzehn
16 sixteen sechszehn
17 seventeen siebzehn
18 eighteen achtzehn
19 nineteen neunzehn
20 twenty zwanzig

Count to 100 in German

The multiples of ten are also straightforward in German. Again, use the stem of the word (the first four letters) and add “zig”, for example: fünf + zig = fünfzig (fifty). However, thirty is another exception, just like twenty: it uses an “sz”, like so: drei + zig = dreißig.

30 thirty dreißig
40 forty vierzig
50 fifty fünfzig
60 sixty sechzig
70 seventy siebzig
80 eighty achtzig
90 ninety neunzig

 

To be able to count to “einhundert” (one hundred), you’ll want to fill in the numbers in between. These numbers are formed from right to left, that is from the ones to the tens, connected with “und” (and). For example, 35 is not “dreißig-und-fünf”, but rather “fünfunddreißig” (five-and-thirty = thirtyfive). Once you’ve reached “einhundert” (one hundred), you keep going in the same way: “einhundertundeins” (101), “einhundertundzwei” (102) etc.

How to learn large numbers in German

For counting money, chances are you’ll be fine with numbers up to a hundred, but let’s handle the big bucks, shall we? The pattern continues for one thousand, ten thousand, and one hundred thousand. Note that German uses a dot (“.”) to delimit thousands instead of a comma (“,”), which is used to separate decimals. The English 1,500.50 therefore becomes 1.500,50 in German.

1.000 eintausend 10.000 zehntausend 100.000 hunderttausend
2.000 zweitausend 20.000 zwanzigtausend 200.000 zweihunderttausend
3.000 dreitausend 30.000 dreißigtausend 300.000 dreihunderttausend
4.000 viertausend 40.000 vierzigtausend 400.000 vierhunderttausend
5.000 fünftausend 50.000 fünfzigtausend 500.000 fünfhunderttausend
6.000 sechstausend 60.000 sechzigtausend 600.000 sechshunderttausend
7.000 siebentausend 70.000 siebzigtausend 700.000 siebenhunderttausend
8.000 achttausend 80.000 achzigztausend 800.000 achthunderttausend
9.000 neuntausend 90.000 neunzigtausend 900.000 neunhunderttausend

 

Still not enough? A million is “eine Million” in German, but after that, the language uses the long scale for big numbers, which alternates between the two suffixes -illion and -illiarde.

106 million Million
109 billion Milliarde
1012 trillion Billion
1015 quadrillion Billiarde
1018 quintillion Trillion
1021 sextillion Trilliarde

 

How to learn ordinal numbers in German

When you want to call out the order of things in German, all you have to remember is that “der/die/das erste” (the first) is different. The rest is similar to English with a suffix and the occasional epenthesis–and exception, like “dritte” (third).

first erste
second zweite
third dritte
fourth vierte
fifth fünfte
sixth sechste
seventh siebte
eighth achte
ninth neunte
tenth zehnte
twentieth zwanzigste
hundredth hundertste
thousandth tausendste

More rules for German numbers

German wouldn’t be German without a few more rules when it comes to numbers. To recap, we’ll also repeat the basic rules for forming German numbers.

  • The digits zero to twelve are specific words you’ll just have to learn (refer to the first table).
  • From 13 to 19, you form the numbers from the matching unit digits and adding “zehn” for ten: dreizehn, vierzehn etc.
  • You form multiples of ten with the suffix “zig” at the end of the multiplier digit. Irregular exceptions are 10, 20, 30, 70: “zehn”, “zwanzig”, “dreißig”, “siebzig” (the latter just uses the stem of “sieben”).
  • From 21 to 99, you join tens and units with the word “und” (and), but say the unit before the ten, such as “einunddreißig” (31).
  • German uses the long scale for big numbers with a pattern of the suffixes “illion” and illiarde”.
  • The unit “eins” (1) loses is final “s” when it’s part of a number: “einhundert”, not “einshundert”–unless it’s the only value after a scale name, as in “einhunderteins” (101).
  • If you want to express a year as part of a date, the numbers from 1100 to 1999 are said as tens of hundreds, as in “neunzehnhundertachtzig” (nineteen-hundred-eighty).
  • In spelling, you don’t separate “hundert” (100) and “tausend” (1,000) from the other numbers by a space to form a word, as in “hundertzwanzig” (120), not “hundert zwanzig”.

If you’d like to put the theory into practise then visit the Lingoda website and sign up for your free 7-day trisal with our native speaking teachers today.