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Numbers from 11 to 99 Posted by on Jan 12, 2010 in Vocabulary

A couple of weeks ago I promised you we would take a look at “big” numbers, in Polish of course. And I think today would be a good time to do.

Let’s start with today’s date: January 12, 2010.
In Polish: dwunastego stycznia, dwa tysiące dziesiątego roku.

Yeah, it’s a mouthful, I know… But unfortunately, in order to express yourself in Polish, you need to know those big numbers.

It seems that most foreign expats in Poland can manage easily enough from zero up to ten. Or even up to twenty. Above that, it gets much more difficult for most people. Why? The words are hard to say and even harder to spell. Even for a native Pole. Yes, that’s right. It’s difficult to pronounce the words correctly, so most people don’t (I don’t either) and if you ask a bunch of random Poles to spell “650”, for example, my field tests show that about 50% of the respondents will make a mistake.

But, first things first. Do you remember how to say “10”? Dziesięć.

Even if that’s all you remember, that’s OK actually. If you know how to say “dziesięć”, you should be able to see the pattern in numbers from 10 to 90.
Take a look:

  • 10 – dziesięć
  • 20 – dwadzieścia (dwa + dzieścia)
  • 30 – trzydzieści (trzy + dzieści)
  • 40 – czterdzieści (czter + dzieści)
  • 50 – pięćdziesiąt (pięć + dziesiąt)
  • 60 – sześćdziesiąt (sześć + dziesiąt)
  • 70 – siedemdziesiąt (siedem + dziesiąt)
  • 80 – osiemdziesiąt (osiem + dziesiąt)
  • 90 – dziewięćdziesiąt (dziewięć + dziesiąt)

See anything interesting?

Yes, you are absolutely right. That second compound is a variation on “dziesięć”. The first (with the exception of “czter”, because it’s missing the ending – “y” /cztery/) is just the regular number from 2 to 9.

So basically, if you take the words apart and look at them carefully, you can see that in Polish we say “two tens” for 20, “three tens” for 30 and so on. Which means that if you already know the numbers from 1 to 10, you know them all the way up to 99.

“Oh wait,” I hear you say, “but what about the teens?”

No worries, they may look difficult, but are, in fact, quite easy.

Take a look:

  • 11 – jedenaście (jeden + naście)
  • 12 – dwanaście (dwa + naście)
  • 13 – trzynaście (trzy + naście)
  • 14 – czternaście (czter + naście) – here that final “y” in “cztery” is missing again.
  • 15 – piętnaście (pięt + naście) – yes, this one is a bit goofy, instead of “pięć” you have “pięt
  • 16 – szesnaście (szes + naście) – this one is slightly irregular too, instead of “sześć” you have “szes
  • 17 – siedemnaście (siedem + naście)
  • 18 – osiemnaście (osiem + naście)
  • 19 – dziewiętnaście (dziewięt + naście) – another slightly irregular one, instead of “dziewięć” you have “dziewięt”.

So again, all you need to remember is the “naście” ending, and even if you mess up the first part (or forget that some are irregular), everybody will be able to understand you anyway.

The real problem is not the numbers themselves, but the fact that they decline every which way possible. Unfortunately, that’s Polish for you!

We’ll tackle the really big numbers next time!

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Comments:

  1. Haroon:

    Boy, oh boy, reminds me of the Pimsleur Polish course, the numbers bit bored me to shreds 🙂

  2. John:

    I found numbers and counting in Polish to be very easy because it’s relatively repetitive. Now let’s discuss declensions of the numbers for a trip to the insane asylum.

  3. thomas westcott:

    Anna,

    Your explanation actually makes sense. Thanks.

    Could we have sound files to go with this article?

    Thomas.