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Counting in Hebrew Posted by on Jun 13, 2012 in Learning Hebrew, numbers, Uncategorized

Numbers in Hebrew can be a confusing topic. So I hope by the end of this post, you’ll have a basic understanding of the Hebrew number system and how to read and write them.

In English we have two types of numbers: cardinal (one, two, three, four, etc) and ordinal: first, second, third, fourth and so on. That’s pretty simple. They are all gender neutral, and the ordinal numbers after ‘third’ are derived from their cardinal form with a simple addition of -th. In this post, I’ll be talking about the cardinal numbers.

Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value. The first 10 letters (א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י) have the values 1-10. The next
9 letters (כ ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק) are valued 20, 30, 40 and so on up to 100. The remainder (ר ש ת) are valued 200, 300, and 400.

In Israel today, the decimal system of Hindu-Arabic numerals (ex. 0, 1, 2, 3, etc.) is used in almost all cases (money, age, date on the civil calendar). The Hebrew numerals are used only in special cases, such as when using the Hebrew calendar, or numbering a list (similar to a, b, c, d, etc.), much as Roman numerals are in the West.

In the table here, you’ll see that each letter has a numerical value used in writing numbers.

200 – ר 20 – כ 1 – א
300 – ש 30 – ל 2 – ב
400 – ת 40 – מ 3 – ג
50 – נ 4 – ד
60 – ס 5 – ה
70 – ע 6 – ו
80 – פ 7 – ז
90 – צ 8 – ח
100 – ק 9 – ט
10 – י

Before Going On…

Can you write the following numbers in Hebrew? 1, 4, 3, 7, 10

Numbers higher than 10

Hebrew numbers are formed differently from numbers in English. In the English system only 10 digits are used, and the position of the digit indicates its value in powers of 10 beginning at 1, so the digit value is multiplied by 1, 10, 100, 1000, etc. as the position increases from right to left.

Hebrew numbers on the other hand, simply add the values of each letter together – written from largest to smallest. For numbers greater than 799, tav (ת 400) is repeated.

Let me show you how it’s done

To represent the number 726, the largest valued letter you can get is ת (tav – 400), which leaves 326. So you then add ש (sheen – 300) which gives us 26 left over. Adding כ kahf – 20 and ו vahv – 6 finishes the number. So 726 is represented by tav, shin, kahf, vahv: תשכו.

Let’s look at some other numbers and break them down (remember, they are still written and read from right to left):

534 = ת + ק + ל + ד – תקלד

872 = ת + ת + ע + ב – תתעב

654 = ת + ר + נ + ד – תרנד
Write these numbers in Hebrew: 269, 798, 333, 815

Note: I gave you a trick number here: 815. In Hebrew, the numbers 15 and 16 are not written as you might expect (i.e., יה and יו, but rather as טז and טו) in order to avoid writing the name of God (יהוה) by accident. This includes larger numbers such as 115, 216 and so on.

When used in text, etc. the mark called “ge-resh” (גֶּרֶשׁ) is used to show that it’s a number you’re reading and not an actual word. It looks like an apostrophe, here’s how it works:

If a number is written as a single character, add a single ge-resh (גֶּרֶשׁ) after it:
יום א׳ – Sunday (literally Day 1), where the alpeh represents the number “1”.

If a number is written with more than one letter, then you add two geresh (גֶּרֶשָׁים – ger-sha-yeem) before the last character:
‎22 letters – כ״ב אותיות
Page 176 – דף קע”ו

Speaking the numbers

Now that you have an idea of reading and writing numbers in Hebrew, how would you go about actually saying them in conversation, or you need to repeat a number to someone? Well, using them in speech is a little inconsistent. Some people spell them out letter by letter (ל״ו תַּפּוּחַים lamed vav tah-poo-kheem – 36 apples), others pronounce them as if they were actual words (ט״ו בשבטtu bishvat – The 15th of Shevat), and still others as the number they represent (ד׳ אמותarba amot – four cubits).

[audio:https://blogs.transparent.com/hebrew/files/2012/06/speaking_numbers.mp3]

Numerical Gender

Remember in the post titled All About You, You and I, it was mentioned that Hebrew nouns have gender? Numbers are affected by this also. So, when we say the numbers in Hebrew we need to keep this in mind. Why? Numbers are, strictly speaking, nouns, and they can be masculine or feminine:

Number Masculine Feminine
1 אֶחָד אַחַת
2 שְׁנַיִם שְׁתַיִם
3 שְׁלוֹשָה שָׁלוֹשׁ
4 אַרְבָּעָה אַרְבַּע
5 חֲמִשָּׁה חָמֵש
6 שִׁשָּׁה שֵׁשׁ
7 שִׁבְעָה שֶׁבַע
8 שְׁמוֹנָה שְמוֹנֶה
9 תִּשְׁעָה תֵּשַׁע
10 עֲשָׂרָה עֶשֶׂר
[audio:https://blogs.transparent.com/hebrew/files/2012/06/numbers-1-10.mp3]

When counting, giving a telephone number, a bus or street number, or telling the time, the feminine form is used אחת, שתים, שלוש, ארבע, etc. You use the masculine forms when you are counting something of masculine gender.

Check Yourself

Read the following telephone numbers:

764-30-11

897-41-93

763-50-11

Try doing math in Hebrew

שְׁתַיִם + שָׁלוֹשׁ = ??

שֵׁשׁ + אַרְבַּע = ??

שֶׁבַע + שְׁתַיִם = ??

Whew! That’s a lot of information for this post. Practice your counting in Hebrew as best you can. After all, practice makes perfect!

I’ll be putting up a post soon on the ordinal numbers. So keep an eye out for that. Okay? לְהִתְרָאוֹת (See you later)!

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About the Author:Sean Young

Learning languages since 1978 and studying over 50 (achieving fluency in 10). Sean L. Young loves giving tips, advice and the secrets you need to learn a language successfully no matter what language you're learning. Currently studying Hindi and blogging his progress right here at Transparent Language - https://blogs.transparent.com/language-news.


Comments:

  1. Shai:

    I think you got confused between coounting and numerology. it’s nice, though, but it won’t give a lot to the main subject – numbers and counting.

    • Sean Young:

      @Shai You’re right in a way, this can get into גימטריה (gematria) if the details are given. But here I’m showing how Hebrew letters can be used for simple numbers and counting as used in a daily and conversational basis.

  2. Shai:

    You’re right -i meant to gemtaria. but still, but this is another subject, related, but still there are more aspects n counting, along with gematria, that should have brought.

  3. Sean Young:

    Good point Shai. Maybe I should make a post on it. Thanks 🙂

  4. Shalom:

    16 should be with zayin not hay obviously a typo

  5. Sean Young:

    Thank you Shalom for pointing out the error. I have fixed it.

  6. Jeffrey:

    thank you Sean Young I appreciate the lesson! 🙂 I would appreciate also if you could recommend me a resource like a software program on how to learn how to read and write my nmbers. please get in touch with me. I also am still learning how to read Hebrew. Thank you for your response. 🙂 I may not remember how to get back to this site but email is accurate.