German Numbers: How To Count From One To A Million
- Written byStephanie Ford
- Read time10 mins
Learning German numbers is as easy as eins, zwei, drei.
Like many aspects of German, the numbers are fairly simple to learn. In fact, German is a lot easier than most people believe.
Since there are so many numbers, I won’t be able to teach you every single one in this guide (as much as I’d like to!) but we can have a go at pretty much every number up to one million.
As you progress through this guide, you’ll start off with simple single digit numbers, before moving onto the tens and hundreds, learning how to form every single number in between.
If this sounds like something you want to learn (it’s certainly something you need to learn) then read on!
Follow this up with my guide on telling time in German.
How to count from 0-20 in German
Whether you’re a complete beginner or just want to brush up on some basic info, we’ve got you covered.
The numbers from 0 to 20 are the most common ones you’ll ever use, so it’s important to make sure you’re well-versed in them.
Even if you’re almost fluent, it’s easy to forget the most basic things sometimes. A little practice never hurt anyone, which is why going through the first 20 numbers again may actually go a long way.
Check out the first 20 numbers in German in the table below, as well as how to say 0 in German.
As you can see, to form the ‘teens’ you just need to put the first digit in front of zehn (‘ten’). So fourteen would be vier + zehn = vierzehn.
This rule is great except for a few irregularities. Take a look at the words for ‘sixteen’ and ‘seventeen’ - sechzehn and siebzehn. You can see that they’ve dropped some letters from their number in singular digit form (sechs - sech & sieben - sieb).
This is just because it’s much easier to pronounce the word with the letters dropped in German, and you’ll find it very easy to remember with a little practice.
Counting from 21-29 in German
After single figures and the teens are through, we find ourselves in more regular territory. There’s not as many curveballs or irregularities here, as it’s all pretty much regular until 100.
What’s more, it’s not too complicated to form these numbers. In fact, it’s rather logical and largely similar to English in its approach.
Let’s look at the numbers from 21 to 29, then. We know that 20 in German is zwanzig, so how do we form the next 9 numbers?
Have a look at this table for the translations, and read on for a more detailed explanation of them.
Figured it out yet? Germans essentially just use the reverse order to us. So, where we say “twenty-two” the Germans say “two and twenty”.
It’s important to remember the und they add in the middle of the two numbers. Without it, you’ll be a lot harder to understand.
Note how the sechs and the sieben are back to full regularity - no shaving letters off them this time!
That said, did you see what happened in “twenty-one”? The eins becomes ein, dropping a single letter from its end. This is the only irregularity you’ll encounter up to 99, because the rest are formed in exactly the same way as the twenties.
You just have to remember to swap the zwanzig out for whichever unit of ten you’re dealing with. Keep reading to learn the rest of the tens in German.
Tens in German
Now you’ve learned how to form the twenties, the next lot of numbers up to 99 should be a piece of cake!
All you need to do is learn the tens, then form their numbers in the same way as the twenties above.
The table below details all the translations of the tens.
Just a few minor irregulars to highlight here. You’ll see that the common ending is -zig except for thirty, where it’s dreißig. This is another pronunciation issue, as “dreizig” would sound a little odd. Instead, make sure to pronounce the soft “ss”.
Sechzig and siebzig have returned to their letter-dropping ways. Again, it’s just easier to say this way. But make sure you don’t get confused when saying 66 or 77 (sechsundsechzig & siebenundsiebzig)!
You can now combine these tens with single digits to create any number up to 99! Just remember the und that goes in between and you’re all set.
German enthusiasts may already know the number neunundneunzig from the popular German ’80s song 99 Luftballons by Nena. An English version, called 99 red balloons, was later produced, but the German original is by far the best.
From 100 to 1000 in German
You might think that German numbers become more complicated past 100, but they actually remain very regular throughout. Even the translation of ‘hundred’ (hundert) is very easy to remember!
So, let’s go through the hundreds before we start forming any numbers in between. If you learn these, you’ll find it easy to construct every number up to 1000.
The only tiny irregularity here is that once again the eins has dropped its ‘s’ to become einhundert. Other than that, it’s pretty smooth sailing. Just remember that there’s no space in between numbers like in English.
Now, let’s learn how to form all the numbers in between.
This is actually very easy. Simply say the hundred, then the number below 100 that you want to add. Smash them all together to form one word without spaces.
- Hundertvier: One hundred and four (104)
- Dreihundertsechsundachtzig: Three hundred and eighty-six (386)
- Siebenhundertdreiundsiebzig: Seven hundred and seventy-three (773)
- Neunhunderteinundsechzig: Nine hundred and sixty-one (961)
For numbers involving 100, Germans usually drop the ein and just say hundert.
So, this is how to form numbers from 100 to 1000! Simple, right?
1000 and beyond
We’re getting into big numbers now, but the complexity doesn’t change. The rules are just as regular as before.
First things first, let’s learn how to say the 1000s in German. Afterwards, I’ll teach you how to form the numbers in between.
Like with hundert, most Germans simply say tausend whenever they refer to ‘one thousand’.
As for the numbers in between, you basically take the numbers we’ve previously covered and smash them onto the end of the thousand, making one brand new number.
Unfortunately for language learners, Germans don’t like using spaces all that much. As a result, these numbers can get pretty long when written out.
German numbers above 1000
For larger numbers that go beyond 1000, the same rules apply as before. Just smash numbers onto the front of other numbers to create even bigger numbers!
English works in much the same way, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to form. The numbers do get quite long, so you only really need to know how to say them, not how to write them.
Here are some examples of larger numbers.
It’s important to note that when writing out numbers in digits, Germans use full stops to separate the thousands. This is because they switch it with their decimal points. Where we use a comma for thousand and a point for decimals, Germans write it the other way around.
Now it’s just the very large numbers left to teach you. Be careful with the word for ‘a billion’, because it’s easily confused with ‘a million’. The word for ‘a trillion’ is also a false friend.
|one million||eine Million|
|one billion||eine Milliarde|
|one trillion||eine Billion|
German ordinal numbers
Now that the numbers are all dealt with, there’s just one more thing to learn: the ordinal numbers in German.
You’ll need these surprisingly often, such as saying the date or telling someone when your birthday is.
Without further ado, then, here are the ordinal numbers for 1 to 25.
|seventh||siebente / siebte|
There are a few irregulars to note, particularly with ‘first’ and ‘third’ (erste and dritte).
Other than that, though, most end in either -te or -ste.
Tips to help you learn German numbers
I hope this guide has helped you in your quest to learn the German numbers. Once you’ve got the first few down, they’re actually quite easy to form aren’t they?
Despite a few tiny irregularities, the German number system is very regular and very standardised. That’s German efficiency for you.
When learning the numbers in German, it’s a great idea to practice as often as you can. Luckily, numbers appear around us every day, so repeat them back to yourself in German whenever you find one.
Another tip is to focus more on pronouncing the numbers as opposed to writing them. You’ll almost never need to write out long numbers in German, simply understanding and saying them is enough.
Lastly, take note of the patterns you find in the numbers. Once you’ve got these memorised, you’ll find that the numbers come easy to you.
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