Learn the Difference Between Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers in Italian and When to Use Them

Italian Cardinal Numbers

Cardinal numbers are the basic numbers that we use in counting, money and math. Cardinal numbers can also be used as adjectives to quantify the amount of an object. Let's go over first the numbers 0 to 100 in Italian:

0: zero

1: uno (the feminine form is una)

2: due

3: tre

4: quattro

5: cinque

6: sei

7: sette

8: otto

9: nove

10: dieci

11: undici

12: dodici

13: tredici

14: quattordici

15: quindici

16: sedici

17: diciassette

18: diciotto

19: diciannove

20: venti

21: ventuno

22: ventidue

23: ventitré

24: ventiquattro

25: venticinque

26: ventisei

27: ventisette

28: venotto

29: ventinove

30: trenta

40: quaranta

50: cinquanta

60: sessanta

70: settanta

80: ottanta

90: novanta

100: cento

For numbers 31 and over, they follow the same pattern as lower numbers: if the second number begins with a vowel, the final letter of the first number is dropped; if the second number begins with a consonant, the final letter of the first number is kept. If the number is being used as an adjective, it goes before the noun it is modifying.

Now, let's go over numbers 102 and above:

102: centodue

200: duecento

1.000: mille

2.000: duemila

10.000: diecimila

100.000: centomila

1.000.000: un milione un miliardo

Notice that for 102, the format is similar to forming double digit numbers. If we have multiple thousands, we use the plural form mila. Once numbers break into the thousands, the numeral numbers in Italian use a “.” as a separator, comparable to the “,” in English.

Most numbers are written as one word, except for numbers with milione and miliardo. The numbers are separated with e (and). For example:

un milione e duecento (1.000.200)

Also, if milione and miliardo are quantifying a noun, the number and noun are separated with di (of):

due milioni di abitanti (two million inhabitants)

In addition, numbers in Italian are masculine.

Italian Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal numbers are different from cardinal numbers: they are used to rate objects, such as first, second and third. In addition, when preceded by the word circa (about), ordinal numbers can be used to give an approximate quantity. Let's go over some of the ordinal numbers in Italian:

1º: primo

2º: secondo

3º: terzo

4º: quarto

5º: quinto

6º: sesto

7º: settimo

8º: ottavo

9º: nono

10º: decimo

11º: undicesimo

12º: dodicesimo

13º: tredicesimo

20º: ventesimo

21º: ventunesimo

22º: ventiduesimo

23º: ventitreesimo

100º: centesimo

1.000º: millesimo

1.000.000º: milionesimo

To form an ordinal number above 10º, we take the cardinal number, remove the final vowel and add -esimo. The exception to this rule are numbers that end with -tre; in those cases, the final vowel is kept. Let's use the number 20 as an example: the cardinal number for 20 is venti. Now to make it an ordinal number, we remove the -i and add the -esimo. Now it becomes ventesimo. Now if we want to change the number 23, it starts as ventitré in cardinal form and we add -esimo: ventritreesimo. We drop the accent for an easier pronunciation.

Most of the time, an ordinal number comes before the noun it qualifies, like cardinal numbers. However, ordinal numbers go after the names of important people, such as royalty. For example, if we wanted to talk about Queen Elizabeth II of England, we would say regina Elisabetta secondo; in print, it would be regina Elisabetta II.

In addition, the endings of ordinal numbers change, depending on the gender and amount of the noun.

When making fractions, the cardinal number is the numerator and the ordinal number is the denominator. For example:

2/3 = due terzi


Mezzadri, Marco. Essential Italian. Guerra Edizioni, 2004