Numbers, dates, fractions and other numbers in German: how do cardinal numbers differ from ordinal numbers in German? What are the features of forming German numerals? Why to pay special attention to fractions? You will find the answers to all these questions in today’s article!

Numbers are perhaps one of the most important language categories. A clear indication of this is the fact that children learn to count (at least on their fingers) from a very early age. With the help of numbers, time, height, weight, dates and much more is expressed.
Today we will try to understand all the variety of numerals in the German language.

What are they?

In total, three large groups can be distinguished:

1) quantitative;
2) ordinal;
3) fractional.

How fractions differ from everything else is not worth telling, but quantitative and ordinal are often confused, although there is nothing complicated about them! 

Quantitative , as the name suggests, expresses quantity and answers the question “How much?”- one person
(how many?)- two tomatoes (how many?), etc.  

Ordinal show, respectively, the order and answer the question “Which (by count)?”:
– the first in my life (which one?);
– the seventeenth floor (which one?), etc.

Quantitative numbers and their features

  1. Answer the question How much? – Wie viel?
  2. Numeral one can have such forms as eins, einen, eine (in case this number replaces a noun):
    – Wie viele Kinder hast du? – How many children do you have?
    – Ich habe eins (ein Kind). – I have one (one child).
    – Hast du viele Teller? – Do you have a lot of plates?
    – Ich habe nur einen (einen Teller). – I only have one (one plate).
  3. The numeral one can be used independently and form the separating Genitiv, then it is declined like a definite article and combined with the additions in the genitive case in the plural:
    – eine der besten Freundinnen – one of the best friends
    – einer der besten Freunden – one of the best friends
    – einer von uns – one of us 
  4. Hundert (100) and tausend (1000) can act as nouns. Compare:
    – hundert Menschen – one hundred people
    – Hunderte von Menschen – hundreds of people
  5. To distinguish between
    zwei and drei, sometimes Germans say zwo instead of zwei.
    (yes, I also don’t really understand how you can confuse zwei and drei , but nevertheless zwo is heard in German quite often).
  6. The numerals do not affect the case of the noun:

    – zwei Freunde – two friends (Nominativ)
    – vier Jahre – four years (Nominativ)
    – drei Jahrhunderte   – three centuries (Nominativ)

Ordinal numbers and their features

  1. They answer the question “Which (according to the account)?”
  2. Formed as follows: 1-19 + suffix <-te>, 20 and above + suffix <–ste>.
  3. They are usually used with the definite article and are declined according to the rules of declension of adjectives.

    – Ich bin am neunzehnten Mai geboren – I was born on May 19.
    – Heute ist der zwanzigste Juni – Today is June 20th.
  4. If the numeral in the letter is indicated by a number, then after it, there will be a period:

    – am 19. Mai – May 19
    – der 20. Juni – June 20


  1. Are formed from cardinal numerals by adding the suffix <-(s)tel>:
    from 2 to 19 – <-tel>: viertel (1/4), drittel (1/3), achtel (1/8)…
    from 20 and above – <-stel>: zwanzigstel (1/20)…
  2. As a rule, they are capitalized and used with the article: das Achtel .
  3. ½ has two forms:
    halb, which is used without a noun and not inclined
    halb, which declines like an adjective
    – um halb vier – at half past three
    – ein Jahr halbes – six months
  4. Nouns after the numbers are plural:
    – zweieinhalb Jahre – two and a half years
    – anderthalb Seiten – one and a half pages
  5. Decimal fractions are expressed through the word Komma (comma)
    – 0,7 – null Komma sieben
    – 3,4 – drei Komma vier
    – 4,141 – vier Komma eins vier eins
  6. Fractions through the division sign are read in the following order: first the numerator, and then the denominator with the ending -(s)tel:
    – 1/3 – ein Drittel
    – ¾ – drei Viertel
    – 11/27 – elf Siebenundzwanzigstel  
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