So, you’re learning German, great! You’ve already mastered the basics Hallo = Hello, Ich heiße = My name is, and Wie geht es dir? = How are you. You may even have learned how to count to ten or tell someone how old you are.
So why learn the rest of the numbers? There are plenty of reasons! Counting is one of those aspects of language learning that no one can get around learning. This is particularly true if you are living abroad. It doesn’t seem like it but numbers are everywhere from the address of the restaurant where you are meeting your friends to the telephone number you have to ring to make a reservation. You need to count to set a time for the dinner, ask about the cost of certain items, figure out the bill and decide how much you want to tip.
And you don’t just have to produce them, you should be able to understand the numbers German speakers say to you as well. For those poor souls taking a language exam, you may be tested on your ability to write complex numbers in long form say 9,567,430.62. This entails learning the rules around hyphenation and how to build three, four and multi-digit figures. In short, you need to know your numbers front to back, back to front and out of order.
That’s why you’re lucky learning how to count in German is such an easy skill to master. Trust us when we say that with a little effort, you’ll be able to count in no time. German numbers are based on simple patterns. If you learn 1-20, multiples of ten, a hundred and a thousand, you’ll have the bits you need to say any number you like.
So, let’s get to it! First, have a look at some of the situations in which you’ll need to know your German numbers then practice with the numbers themselves.
When will you need to count in German?
Knowing how to count is an essential skill for a variety of tasks and conversation topics from understanding a weather report to going grocery shopping.
Picture yourself buying bread in one of many German bakeries. You see a bread you really want to buy. But wait, how are you going to tell the baker how much bread you want? This is a pretty simple example, but it’s also important to know the words for higher numbers when you’re shopping in German. For example, what if something is 40% off in the sale and the cashier forgets to include the discount. How will you tell her? Or what if your bill comes to €238,21? Now imagine you can’t see the screen on the cash register and have to rely on your ears to process the string of numbers coming your way. If you can’t count past ten you may end up paying the wrong amount!
Talking about age
Someone asks you your age in German. Whether you are 13, 35 or 99, you need to know your German numbers to be able to answer the question! You also need to be able to understand numbers so you don’t make any mistakes when it comes to understanding the other person’s age. If someone tells you how old they are in German and you get it wrong, it could get awkward! Key words to learn with age are: Jahr(e) = year(s), Monat(e) = month(s).
Talking about dates
Maybe you’re planning to meet up with a German-speaking friend, or you’re planning a holiday, or maybe you have eine Verabredung (an appointment). It’s very important that you learn numbers so you can talk about dates. If someone says that they can meet on a certain date, you need to be confident that you have the right date! This also applies to talking about birthdays or other important dates. If someone asks for your birthday or tells you theirs, you need to make sure you know the right words for the dates you’re talking about! Key words for dates: Geburtstag = birthday, Woche = week, nächste(r) = next.
Telling the time
Whether you prefer to use the 12 hour or 24-hour clock learning how to count in German is a must for being able to tell the time and understand the time if someone tells you in German. The German love punctuality, so it won’t look good if you turn up hours late for a meeting because you mixed up your hours! Key words to learn with time are: Stunde(n) = hour(s), Minute(n) = minute(s), halb = half, viertel = quarter, und = and.
Numbers are crucial if you are planning on doing any travel in a German-speaking country. In fact, after greetings they may be one of the first things you learn. You want to be able to get on the right bus by going to the correct bay in the bus station. Finding your train and your seat are also important and if you ask for instructions a German speaker is bound to send a few numbers your way in his or her response. Imagine getting lost and asking how far away a certain destination is? You not only need to know the number of meters they tell you but understand how long it will take too.
Speaking about yourself
Sure, there are birthdays and age to consider but what if you just want to tell someone that you visited Germany as a child. You’ll need to quote the year in German or explain how long ago it was. Numbers are useful if you need to count family members (how many “Verwandte” do you have?) or tell someone where you live.
Every language has figurative language, such as proverbs, that include numbers. Here are a few examples in German: Ach du grüne neune (A variation of “Oh my god”), zweimal zwei macht vier (literally as 2 and 2 are four or ‘as the day is long’ in English), Ein blindes Huhn findet auch mal ein Korn (Even a blind chicken sometimes finds a seed).
How to count from 1-20 in German
Now if you haven’t already here’s your opportunity to learn German numbers! Try to learn them both in a sequence and out of order. It’s great to use your fingers to count up to fünf but sometimes you just need to be able to say 5 all by itself. Some easy ways to test yourself on numbers include throwing dice and reading both the individual figures and the combined sum. Count backwards from 3 as you get ready to start new activities! You can also practice reading out numbers you encounter in your day-to-day life, including telephone numbers, addresses, the license plate on the car in front of you and even the temperature outside.
If you’re struggling with German pronunciation you can download the FlashAcademy app and get a native speaker version for each of the following.
- (One) = Eins
- (Two) = Zwei
- (Three) = Drei
- (Four) = Vier
- (Five) = Fünf
- (Six) = Sechs
- (Seven) = Sieben
- (Eight) = Acht
- (Nine) = Neun
- (Ten) = Zehn
- (Eleven) = Elf
- (Twelve) = Zwölf
- (Thirteen) = Dreizehn
- (Fourteen) = Vierzehn
- (Fifteen) = Fünfzehn
- (Sixteen) = Sechszehn
- (Seventeen) = Siebzehn
- (Eighteen) = Achtzehn
- (Nineteen) = Neunzehn
- (Twenty) = Zwanzig
How to count from 20-100 in German
- (Twenty) = Zwanzig
21: Einundzwanzig, 22: Zweiundzwanzig, 23: Dreiundzwanzig… (From the 20s on ist always the basic number (2,3,4 etc) + und + twenty, thirty etc)
- (Thirty) = Dreißig
31: Einunddreißig, 32: Zweiunddreißig, 33: Dreiunddreißig…
- (Forty) = Vierzig
- (Fifty) = Fünfzig
- (Sixty) = Sechzig
- (Seventy) = Siebzig
- (Eighty) = Achtzig
- (Ninety) = Neunzig
How to count from 100 and above in German
- (One hundred) = Einhundert (in colloquial language also hundert)
105: Einhundertfünf; 145: Einhundertfünfundvierzig
- (Two hundred) = Zweihundert
- (Three hundred) = Dreihundert
- (Four hundred) = Vierhundert
- (Five hundred) = Fünfhundert
- (Six hundred) = Sechshundert
- (Seven hundred) = Siebenhundert
- (Eight hundred) = Achthundert
- (Nine hundred) = Neunhundert
1000: (One thousand) = Eintausend (in colloquial language also Tausend)
2000: Zweitausend; 3000: Dreitausend… etc.
1,500: (One thousand five hundred) = Eintausendfünfhundert
20,310: (Twenty thousand, three hundred and ten) = Zwanzigtausenddreihundertzehn
Other useful words for counting in German
Now it’s time to put them into practice. Here are some examples of questions and answers with words you’ll need for talking about numbers:
Asking for/telling the time
- Wann beginnt der Film? /er beginnt um elf= At what time does the movie start? / It starts at seven.
- Wann gibt es Abendbrot? / Um neun. = What time are we having dinner? / At nine.
Asking/telling how much/many
- Wie viel kostet das Kleid? /es kostet zwanzig Euro. = How much does the dress cost? / It costs twenty euros.
- Wieviele Brüder hast du? /Ich habe drei Brüder = How many brothers do you have? / I have three brothers.
Asking/telling about age and birthdays
- “Wie alt bist du?“ / “Ich bin fünfzig Jahre alt.“= “How old are you?” / “I am fifty-eight years old.”
- “Wann hast du Geburtstag?“ /“Mein Geburtstag ist am 12. “ = “When is your birthday?” / “My birthday is on the 12th of December.”
- “In welchem Jahr wurdest du geboren?“ / Ich wurde im Jahr 1993 geboren.“= “In which year were you born?” / “I was born in 1993.”
So, now you have seen that learning how to count in German is easy! Follow these simple patterns and learn the key words and vocabulary for talking about numbers and you’ll be ready for a German shopping trip in no time!
Do you have any questions on counting in German? Share them in the comments and we’ll see if we can help!