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The numeral or numerals ( plural Numerals , Numerals or rare numerals ; from Latin [noun] numerals ), rare Numeral is in linguistics sometimes as a separate part of speech recognized (the Duden grammar but counts even the cardinals to the adjectives).

Number word in the narrower sense is synonymous with number noun (Latin and German noun numerale ) and denotes some nouns , for example ordinal numbers and ( adjectival ) basic numbers. In the broadest sense, the numeral denotes "all" words that are related to numbers.


Semantic categories

German name Latin-German name Examples
German Latin
Base number [word] (main number [word]) Cardinal number, cardinals (Pl.Kardinalia) one, two, three ..., one hundred and fifty-three ... unus, duo, tres ...
Ordinal number [word] (ordering number word) Ordinal number, ordinals (Pl. Ordinalia) a (the) first, second, third ... primus, secundus, tertius ...
Repetition number [word] Iterative number, iterative, quotient once twice … semel, until ...
Duplication number [word] Multiplicative number, multiplicative simple, double ... simplex, duplex ...
Ratio [word] Proportionalia (Pl.proportionalia) simplus, duplus ...
Distribution number [word], division number Distributive number, distributive one each, two each ... singuli, bini ...
Generic number [word] Speziale (Pl. Spezialia) one thing, two things ...
Collective number [word] Collective number (collectivum) Dozen ...
Fractional number [word], division number [word] Partitive (one) third, quarter ...
Company number Sociative number in twos, threes ...
selbander, selbdritt ...
Sequence number (ordering number adverb) a first second Third … primo, secundo, tertio ...
Time number Temporale (Pl. Temporalia) b bihorius (two hours)…
triduus (three days)…
trimus & trimulus (three years)…
quadrimestris (four months)…
quinquennis (five years)…
aNumber adverbs such as second are sometimes also counted among the ordinal numbers, which are then divided into adjectival (epithetical or attribute literal) ordinal numbers and adverbial (adjacent or circumstance literal) ordinal numbers .
b Temporalia are cited in older literature (18th – 19th centuries) and answer the question “how old?” Or “how old is it?”.

Syntactic categories

German name Latin-German name Examples
beiwörtliches numeral, literal property numeral
Zahlbeiwort, Number adjective
adjectival numeral, adjective quantified
number adjective, Numeraladjektiv
six, (the) second, three times, four of
the most, the many, the one, the other, few / the fewest
adjective numeral, literal numeral
numeral noun
adverbial number word
~ number
adverb, number adverb
five times, third
Numerical noun
Number noun
Million, hundred (n.), Dozen

Basic numerals (cardinalia)

Basic numerals (basic numbers, cardinal numbers, cardinalia) represent, as the name suggests, the basic numerals.

Examples: one , two , twelve , seventeen , one hundred and fifty-three

One is declined after the case (case) and the gender (gender):

Two and three , when they refer to a noun , are only declined in the genitive (Wes case) and only if the linguistic case is not already recognizable from the preceding word:

  • the hat of two men
  • the dress of three sisters , the dress of my three sisters

Note: In contrast to this, however, a non-numerical word is not declined as a counting word (numerical classifier, as a counting unit ):

One man, two men, an army of a thousand men; one piece, two pieces

In the military command language and in German-speaking number transmitters, the two that can be mistaken for a sound is replaced:

one, two, three

German-speaking number transmitters also replace the five and nine for better understanding :

five and neighbors

Formation of the cardinal numbers in German

If you write numbers in letters, you write them together and lowercase if they are less than a million:

for example 1972 = one thousand nine hundred seventy two or nineteen hundred seventy two.

Numbers over a million, on the other hand, are written separately and the number is capitalized:

for example 2,130,419 = two million one hundred thirty thousand four hundred nineteen.

When displaying amounts with decimal places, the number that indicates the decimal places is separated by a comma; the explicit mention of the comma is optional:

for example 752.89 = seven hundred and fifty-two (point) eighty-nine.

If these are specified specifically for currency units, the comma is not mentioned; the use of the word cent is optional:

for example € 752.89 = seven hundred and fifty-two euros eighty-nine (cents).
Digit One Tens 20 to 90 from 100
0 zero ten (one) hundred (100)
1 one eleven (one) hundred (and) one (101)
2 two twelve twenty two hundred (200)
3 three thirteen three ß ig three hundred (and) twenty-one (321)
4th four fourteen Fourty four thousand (4000)
5 five fifteen fifty five thousand two hundred three (5203)
6th six six ten sixteenth tens six million (6,000,000, 6 million)
7th seven seventeen ten
sieve tens
seven billion (7,000,000,000, 7 billion)
8th eight eighteen eighty eight trillion (8,000,000,000,000, 8 trillion)
9 nine nineteen ninety nine quadrillion (9,000,000,000,000,000, 9 Brd.)

In the case of compositions of tens and ones, the ones come first, then follow and , then come the tens: twenty-one (21), ninety-nine (99).


With the help of ordinal numbers (ordinal numbers, ordinal numbers, ordinalia) it is possible to create sequences ( ordinal numbers ). The ordinal numbers below twenty are formed in German by the cardinal number and the suffix -te . One , three , seven and eight , however, are special forms. Numbers from twenty to one hundred receive the final syllable -st , then again up to a hundred and nineteenth -th , etc.

  • 001. the first knight (and not the first knight )
  • 002. the second place
  • 003. my third chicken (and not my third chicken )
  • 004. the fourth car
  • 005. the fifth exam
  • 006. the sixth hit
  • 007. the seventh sense (valid short form of seventh )
  • 008. the eighth year of life (not the eighth year of life )
  • 020. the twentieth participant
  • 031st December thirty-first
  • 058th my fifty-eighth birthday
  • 109. the hundred ninth incident (sometimes one hundred ninth )

Next to it is adverbial :

  • first, second, third , etc. also for first , first of all

Latin ordinals are:

prīmus, secundus, tertius ...

In addition, Latin has an even stricter form that implies a hierarchy :

prīmarius, secundarius, tertiarius ...

Latin-French-German words for these Latin order words are up to order ten :

  • 01. primary
  • 02. secondary
  • 03rd tertiary
  • 04th quaternary
  • 05th quintary
  • 06. sextary
  • 07. Septimary
  • 08. octave
  • 09. Noniary
  • 10. decimal

The word primary is often paraphrase in German with the first place and the other words with X-ranked . In a direct combination, primary and secondary often also stand for priority and subordinate.

Ordinals in Scripture

In writing , ordinal numbers can also be reproduced in the numerical form in addition to the word form. Nowadays in German to distinguish cardinal numbers, a point is placed after the number. For example, "October 3rd" means "October 3rd".

In some other languages, however, different ordinal characters are used , for example in English: "1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th" for "first, second, third, fourth", also written in superscript: 1 st , 2 nd , 3 rd , 4 th .

Formation of the Ordinalia in German

Ordinal numbers are declined in a similar way to normal adjectives: "on the first of May, a first beginning, the first blossoms".

Digit One Tens 20 to 90 from 100
0 zeroth tenth (one) hundredth (100th)
1 first eleventh (one) hundred (and) first (101st)
2 second twelfth twentieth two hundredth (200th)
3 third thirteenth thirtieth three hundred (and) twenty-first (321st)
4th fourth fourteenth fortieth four thousandth (4000.)
5 fifth fifteenth fiftieth five thousand two hundred thirds (5203.)
6th sixth sixteenth sixtieth six millionth
7th seventh, seventh seventeenth seventieth seven billionth
8th eighth eighteenth eightieth eight billionth
9 ninth nineteenth ninetieth nine billionth

Repetition numerals (iterative numbers) and duplication numerals (multiplicatives)

Latin name words for inserted counts

If you add the suffix -mal to a cardinal number , it becomes a repetition number word . Repeat numbers are adverbs, they answer the question: "How many times?"

A distinction is made between definite and indefinite repeating number words:

  • definitely: once , four times , twelve times
  • indefinitely: sometimes , several times , many times

Repeat numerals may be written separately (according to Reformed as well as unreformed spelling), a) if they are multi-part numerals ( three million times ), b) if there is an inflection ( hundreds of times ) or c) for stress purposes ( three times ).

If you add the suffix -ig , the repetition number word becomes an adjective (example: unique ).

Duplication numerals (multiplicatives) are:

  • twice , four times , etc., indefinitely multiple , multiple

The word doubles and the outdated word form zwiefach also exist for “twofold” .

There is also the ancient form of -falt , which has only survived in words such as trinity , diversity , manifold , with simple-minded the numerical aspect has been lost.

Latin forms semel, bis, ter, quater, quīnquiēs, sexiēs, septies, octies, nonies, decies , ... (iteratives), simplex, duplex, triplex, quadruplex , ... (multiplicatives) and simplus, duplus, triplus, quadruplus , ... ( Proportionalia), English once / simple, twice / deuce / double, thrice / triple / trifold, quadruple / fourfold , ...

In French in particular, the Latin name words are used when numbers are to be inserted: for example: 1, 1a, 1b, 2 or 1, 1-bis, 1-ter, 2.

Distribution numerals (Distributiva)

The numerals of the distributive are not formed as a word in German, but are each circumscribed:

one each, two each, three each , etc.

In Latin, however, there is a separate word form: singulus (plural: singulī), bīnī, ternī, quaternī, quīnī, sēnī , ...

The words single and unique are functionally similar , as exclusive, and in pairs, paired to form a dual. The -el formation is otherwise only used with the word Zwiesel zu Zwei. A form for with Ordinalzahlwort occurs when tidying and distributing aspect mix:

to the first, to the second, to the third , etc. (originally to be understood literally as “to the first”); on the one hand, on the other hand as an indefinite form

Class numbers, collective numbers (collectives) and company numbers

Genus figures describe a number of different types and German on - (he) lei formed

one thing, two things, three things - 'one thing' has a strong non-numeral meaning ('indifferent'), the number aspect is obsolete ("all of the same kind"), and is indicated by 'single', 'unique', or the reinforcing ' one and the same 'replaced
undefined are mehrerlei , many , many , kinds , even a hundred , a thousand are employed in indeterminate sense ( He torments me with a thousand little things. )

Company numbers express something that belongs together. The social number both , as the remainder of a West Germanic dual , is generally declined like an adjective:

his two parents , in both names

Otherwise there is an education on to and -t :

in twos, threes, four ... , anciently also in twos or yourself , yourself three - but first is an ordinal

This group could also include: lonely, togetherness - -samen forms general concepts of characteristics ( strange too seldom , leisurely to rest ).

Fractional Numbers (Partitiva)

Fractional numbers consist of a numerator and a denominator. The numerator is a cardinal number. The denominator is derived from the stem of the associated ordinal number, with the suffix -el added (in fact) :

  • third + -el = third
  • fourth + -el = quarter
  • ...

Exceptions to this are the numbers 1 and 2 as denominators, whose numerals are one and (rarely) second , although these words are only used in mathematical expressions, in everyday life one uses the adjectives whole ( a whole bottle , substantiated: a whole ) and half ( half a bottle , a substantive: a half ), the number 2.1 is also a semi- mentioned.

The counter 1 is represented as a .

The denominator is written in lower case if it is used attributively in front of a unit of measurement: three eighths of a liter , three quarters of an hour . It is also possible to use a composition: three eighths of a liter , three quarters of an hour , three quarters of an hour (not three quarters of an hour !). The denominator is also written in lower case if it occurs immediately before a cardinal number in a time ( quarter of eight ).

Otherwise, the denominator should be substantiated and capitalized: two thirds of those present voted for the proposal . Another example:

In words, the equation is two-thirds by two equals four-thirds .

Mixed numbers consisting of a natural number (where 1 is represented as one ) and a fraction are written together. For example, the number is written like this: "two (and) a quarter".

In addition to the one and a half for one and a half , which is still in use today, there are expressions such as third and a half or fourth half in ancient texts , which are no longer in use today.

  • one and a half = 1 12 (Old High German "other" means "the second", i.e. the second half)
  • third half = 2 12
  • fourth half = 3 12

Latin has no partitiva. If the numerator is exactly one less than the denominator, partes ("parts") is written, the numerator one is pars , otherwise the feminine genitive of the ordinal number stands for the denominator:

dimidia pars , tertia pars , duae partes , tres partes , tres quintae
dimidia is a special formation for dīmidius, -a, -um 'half, not whole' from dis and medius “medium”.

English forms half, third, quarter / fourth, fifth ... - from three onwards, like the Ordinalia.

Indefinite numerals

Indefinite numerals or Indefinite Numeralia do not name a specific number, but describe the type and size of a set. They are also called quantifiers or set words .

These include the indefinite pronouns such as all, many, several, some, some, a few, etc.

  • some knights , some chickens , several perpetrators , all people , a whole city
  • quite a few visitors
  • a few things (as opposed to the definite numeral pair )

In the vernacular will take all also quite used:

  • Standard language: all people
  • Colloquial language: all the people


Basic numerals under a million such as one , two , three , ... are written in lower case even if they have formal characteristics of nouning.

  • on all fours
  • high in the eighty , reaching eighty
  • Division with zero
  • The only even prime number is two.

However, capitalization applies when using nouns if the meaning is different.

  • the Roman five (the numeral V), the number eight
  • He passed the exam with (the grade) two plus.

The deutschländische Standard German treated numerals at Substantivierung as feminine: the two , the Austrian Standard German , however, exclusively masculine: the two .

The indefinite numerals many , few , one and others , on the other hand, can be capitalized if it is to be expressed that they are used as nouns :

  • He spoke to many / many.
  • Some say this, others say that.

See also


  • Greville G. Corbett: Universals in the syntax of cardinal numerals. In: Lingua. Vol. 46, No. 4, 1978, ISSN  0097-8507 , pp. 355-368 (classic article on the part of speech problem).
  • Joseph H. Greenberg : Generalizations About Numeral Systems. In: Joseph H. Greenberg et al. (Ed.): Universals of Human Language. Volume 3: Word Structure. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA 1978, ISBN 0-8047-0968-8 , pp. 250-295 (Basic essay from the perspective of language typology in the context of language universality research ).
  • James R. Hurford: The Linguistic Theory of Numerals (= Cambridge Studies in Linguistics. Vol. 16, ISSN  0068-676X ). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge u. a. 1975 (Basic monograph from the perspective of generative grammar ).
  • August F. Pott : The linguistic difference in Europe in the numerals demonstrated as well as quinary and vigesimal counting methods. Halle an der Saale 1868; Reprinted Amsterdam 1971.

Web links

Wiktionary: Numerical word  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Numerals  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Elke Hentschel, Harald Weydt: Handbook of German grammar. 3rd edition, Walter de Gruyter, 2003, p. 256.
  2. Frequency comparison between 'Numeral' and 'Numerale' - in the Google Books Ngram Viewer , in the years between 1810 and 2008
  3. Duden - The grammar. 8th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2009, p. 379.
  4. a b For upper and lower case of substantiated adjectives and number adjectives see Annika Lamer: Correct writing: Big or small? Derived nouns, pronouns & Co . 20th August 2018
  5. one and a half. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 1 : A - Beer whey - (I). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1854 ( ).
  6. third half. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 2 : Beer murderer – D - (II). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1860 ( ).
  7. fourth half. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 26 : Vesche – Vulkanisch - (XII, 2nd section). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1951 ( ).