Numeri Cardinali Posted by on Jan 14, 2010 in Italian Language

Here’s a blog that will be useful both for beginners and more advanced students who need a bit of revision.

Numeri Cardinali (Cardinal Numbers) don’t change from masculine to feminine except for ‘one’. The word piatto (plate), for example, is a masculine word and therefore if we were asked: quanti piatti ci sono sul tavolo? (how many plates are on the table?) we would reply: Ce n’è uno  (There is one). Forchetta (fork), on the other hand, is feminine, so if we were asked: quante forchette ci sono sul tavolo? (How many forks are on the table?) we would reply: Ce n’è una  (There is one).

Here are the Cardinal numbers from zero to ten:

zero – zero

uno – one

due – two

tre – three

quattro – four

cinque – five

sei – six

sette – seven

otto – eight

nove – nine

dieci – ten

Numbers from eleven to nineteen are an amalgam of dieci (ten) and the units uno, due, tre, etc. The ‘e’ of ‘dieci‘ is dropped to create ‘dici’, and, just to keep things interesting, whereas the numbers from eleven to sixteen end in ‘-dici’, the numbers seventeen to nineteen start with it as you can see from the list below:

undici – eleven

dodici – twelve

tredici – thirteen

quattordici – fourteen

quindici – fifteen

sedici – sixteen

diciassette – seventeen

diciotto – eighteen

diciannove – nineteen

The numbers from 20 to 99 are pretty straightforward as we simply add the units uno, due, tre, etc. to the root:

venti – twenty

ventuno – twenty one

ventidue – twenty two

ventitré – twenty three

ventiquattro – twenty four …

trenta – thirty

quaranta – forty

cinquanta – fifty

sessanta – sixty

settanta – seventy

ottanta – eighty

novanta – ninety

Notice that in front of –uno and –otto we drop the vowels ‘i’ or ‘a’ from ventitrenta, hence: ventuno, ventotto, trentuno, trentotto, quarantuno, quarantotto, etc. Also note that the number –tré as in ventitré (twenty three), or sessantatré (sixty three) is now written (and pronounced) with an accent.

Cento (a/one hundred) doesn’t pluralize, e.g. Quel tavolo costa cento Euro (that table costs one hundred Euros); c’erano duecento persone al concerto (there were two hundred people at the concert).

Mille (a/one thousand), on the other hand, becomes mila in the plural, e.g. Mariella ha venduto un quadro per mille Euro (Mariella sold a picture for one thousand Euros), c’erano almeno quattromila persone al concerto (there were at least four thousand people at the concert).

Milione (a/one million) changes to milioni in the plural, and miliardo (a/one billion/thousand million) becomes miliardi (billions). Note that unlike cento and mille, we always use un (a/one) before milione and miliardo. In addition milione/i and miliardo/i are always followed by the preposition di (of). For example: Mi hanno detto che la villa di Maurizio è in vendita per un milione di Euro (I’ve heard that Maurizio’s villa is on the market for one million Euros); l’Italia ha circa sessanta milioni di abitanti (Italy has got about sixty million inhabitants).

If you want to use cardinal numbers in a slightly less precise manner you can use the Italian equivalent of ‘roughly’, or ‘about’:

una decina – about/roughly ten

una ventina – about/roughly twenty

una trentina – about/roughly thirty

and so on up to un centinaio – about/roughly one hundred

un migliaio – about/roughly a thousand

For example: Franco ha una cinquantina di pecore (Franco has got roughly fifty sheep), or: quest’anno ho fatto una ventina di barattoli di marmellata (This year I made about twenty jars of jam)

We also use una dozzina (twelve) which is very similar to the English word dozen, e.g. una dozzina di uova (a dozen eggs).

Finally, una quindicina di giorni (about fifteen days) is the Italian equivalent of ‘a fortnight’, very useful if you’re on holiday because it gives the possibility of that extra fifteenth day!

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  1. chainey:


    Excuse me for pointing it out, but I don’t think “ordinal” is quite the right term for the ordinary whole numbers you’ve listed. Ordinal refers to first, second, third, etc. indicating relative positions.

    Still, the information is interesting and useful.

  2. Serena:

    Salve Chainey, Thanks for pointing out my silly mistake, I’m also writing a blog about the ordinal numbers, which I will publish soon, and somehow I got muddled up. I suppose I shouldn’t try to write more than one blog at a time!
    Anyway, as you can see I have now corrected the blog.

    Grazie mille, Serena

  3. Serena:

    Sorry everyone for the confusion, I must be getting rimbambita with all this cold grey weather! This is of course a blog about cardinal numbers, ordinal numbers will follow shortly.

    Scusatemi per la confusione, a presto, Serena

  4. Bill Rohwer:

    Gentile Serena,

    per quanto riguardo la versione e-mail, sono sicuro che vuoi dire farli usare il titolo Numeri Cardinali invece =
    “Numeri Ordinali.” Sia vero?


  5. Kaveh:


    Buon lavoro

    I recently found your blog. It is very useful and interesting. Thank you for that.

    Kaveh from Iran.

  6. Daniel:

    “Also note that the number -tré as in ventitré (twenty three), or sessantatré (sixty three) is now written (and pronounced) with an accent.”

    That sounds interesting! Since when is that? Do you have any more information on that (links?)?

  7. Serena:

    Ciao Bill, sì, ho notato lo sbaglio dopo che l’articolo era stato pubblicato. Ho già corretto l’errore, ma purtroppo non posso fare niente riguardo alla versione e-mail. Mi dispiace.

    A presto, Serena

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