Numeri Cardinali Posted by Serena 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 venti, trenta, 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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