Let's Count: Italian Numbers 1 to 20

I Numeri: Adjectives and Nouns

Rear view of boy with raised hand in class
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Learning to count is one of the first steps to gaining familiarity in the new world that is a foreign language. The best part, aside from their indispensability, is that numbers are fun, and you can count them out outloud with friends and children until you have committed them to memory.

I Numeri: The Numbers

Italian numbers function much like those in English: one is singular, the rest plural. Unlike most everything else in Italian, numbers, as numeral adjectives, are invariable (in other words, they ignore gender): only un, uno, and una change; the rest stay the same: due gatti, due rose; tre cani, tre mele, and so on.

As numeral adjectives, numbers always go before the noun; if there is a number and another adjective, the number comes before both (regardless of the order of the two): due bei gatti; due belle rose. Tre amici carissimi; tre amiche carissime.

Numbers as Nouns

As nouns, in Italian numbers are considered masculine singular and they get an article: il due, il tre, il sedici (and all the way to infinity). In other words, the three, the four, the sixteen.

  • Il tre è considerato un numero sacro. Three is considered a sacred number.
  • Il dodici ha una grande presenza in astronomia e astrologia. Twelve has an important presence in astronomy and astrology.

This is true in dates, where the unspoken subject is giorno:

  • Sono nato il 12 Aprile. I was born (the day) April 12.

Time

When talking about time, though, in which the subject, spoken or unspoken, is le ore (the hours), numbers are feminine plural (except mezzogiorno, masculine, and mezzanotte and l'una, feminine singular).

  • Arrivo alle 13.00 (tredici). I am arriving at 1 p.m.
  • Lamberto parte alle 20.00 (venti). Lamberto is leaving at 8 p.m.

Article or Not?

Numbers are used without an article when they accompany a noun (and no article is needed):

  • Ho tredici gatti. I have 13 cats.
  • La mia amica vive in due case. My friend lives in two houses.

Except, that is, when you are talking about the specific 13 cats, or the two houses, or the three thieves: i tredici gatti, le due case, i tre ladri.

With Venire

With numbers, the verb venire comes in handy:

  • L'uno viene prima del due. One comes before two.
  • Dopo il due viene il tre. After two comes three.
  • Il quattro viene dopo il cinque. Four comes after five.

The Rest Is Easy

Once you have learned the numbers from one to 20 (da uno a venti), it is all a breeze from there, or as one would say in Italian, facilissimo!

Here are the Italian numbers from one to 20, provided with audio aids to help you master them sooner. Contiamo! Let's count! 

Impariamo a Contare: Let's Learn to Count

Numeral English Italian Italian Pronunciation
1 one uno Pronouncing uno
2 two due Pronouncing due
3 three tre Pronouncing tre
4 four quattro Pronouncing quattro
5 five cinque Pronouncing cinque
6 six sei Pronouncing sei
7 seven sette Pronouncing sette
8 eight otto Pronouncing otto
9 nine nove  Pronouncing nove
10 ten dieci Pronouncing dieci
11 eleven undici Pronouncing undici
12 twelve dodici Pronouncing dodici
13 thirteen tredici Pronouncing tredici
14 fourteen quattordici Pronouncing quattordici

 

15 fifteen quindici Pronouncing quindici
16 sixteen sedici Pronouncing sedici
17 seventeen diciassette Pronouncing diciassette

 

18 eighteen diciotto Pronouncing diciotto
19 nineteen diciannove Pronouncing diciannove

 

10 twenty venti Pronouncing venti