Romanian numbers

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The Romanian numbers are the system of number names used in Romanian to express counts, quantities, ranks in ordered sets, fractions, multiplication, and other information related to numbers.

In Romanian grammar, the words expressing numbers are sometimes considered a separate part of speech, called numeral (plural: numerale), along with nouns, verbs, etc. (Note that the English word "numeral" can mean both the symbols used for writing numbers and the names of those numbers in a given language; also, Romanian număr only partially overlaps in meaning with English number.) Nevertheless, these words play the same roles in the sentence as they do in English: adjective, pronoun, noun, and adverb. This article focuses on the mechanism of naming numbers in Romanian and the use of the number names in sentences.

The symbols for numbers in Romanian texts are the same as those used in English, with the exception of using the comma as the decimal separator and the period or the space (ideally a narrow space) for grouping digits by three in large numbers. For example, in Romanian 1,5 V means one and a half volts, and 1.000.000 or 1 000 000 means one million.

General characteristics[edit source | edit]

As in other numeral systems, the Romanian number names use a limited set of words and combining rules, which can be applied to generate the name of any number within sufficiently large limits.

The general characteristics of the number formation rules in Romanian are:

Cardinal numbers[edit source | edit]

Cardinal numbers are the words we use for counting objects or expressing quantity.

Number name for 0[edit source | edit]

The number 0 is called zero. Like in English, it requires the plural form of nouns: zero grade "zero degrees", with grade being the plural form of grad). Unlike English, the reading of number/numeral 0 is always zero and never replaced with words like oh, naught, nil, love, etc.

Numbers from 1 to 10[edit source | edit]

The number names from 1 to 10 derive from Latin. The table below gives the cardinal numbers in Romanian and the three other Balkano-Romance languages (sometimes considered to be its dialects): Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian.

NumberRomanianAromanianMegleno-RomanianIstro-RomanianLatin
1unu1unu1unu1ur1unus
2doi1doi1doi1doi1duo
3treitreitreitreitres
4patrupatrupatrupåtruquattuor
5cinciţinţi2ţinţiţinţquinque
6şaseşaseşasişåsesex
7şapte3şapteşaptişåpteseptem
8optoptuuoptoptocto
9nouănoauănoudevet4novem
10zeceḑaţezeţideset4decem
Notes

1. When counting, the number names for 1 and 2 have the forms given in the table; however, when used in a sentence, they change according to the gender of the noun they modify or replace. It is worth noting that the two adjectival forms of the cardinal number for 1 (un and o) are identical with the corresponding indefinite articles.

2. The name for number five in Aromanian, written ţinţi or tsintsi, might be responsible for nicknaming the Aromanians tsintsar.

3. Sometimes pronounced as şepte (initially a regionalism), more common when communicating telephone numbers, in order to avoid a possible confusion between şase and şapte.

4. In Istro-Romanian, depending on the speaker, some number names are replaced with their Croatian (Slavic) equivalents.

Numbers from 11 to 19[edit source | edit]

Unlike all other Romance languages, Romanian has a consistent way of naming the numbers from 11 to 19. These are obtained by joining three elements: the units, the word spre (derived from Latin super "over", currently meaning "towards"), and the word for "ten". For example, fifteen is cincisprezece: cinci + spre + zece, which literally means "five over ten". This is the only exception to the big-endian principle of number naming.

The table below gives the forms of all nine such number names. Each number in the series has one or more shortened variants, often used in informal speech, where the element -sprezece is replaced by -şpe. Grammarians consider the informal variants to be indicative of careless speech.

NumberFormal RomanianInformal RomanianAromanian
11unsprezeceunşpeunsprădzatse
12doisprezece1doişpedoisprădzatse
13treisprezecetreişpetreisprădzatse
14paisprezece2paişpepasprădzatse
15cincisprezece3cinşpe (not cincişpe)tsisprădzatse
16şaisprezece2şaişpeşasprădzatse
17şaptesprezeceşapteşpe, şaptişpeşaptesprădzatse
18optsprezece4optişpe, optâşpe/optîşpe, opşpeoptusprădzatse
19nouăsprezecenouăşpenaosprădzatse
Notes

1. The number name for 12 given in the table is the masculine form; this is the only number in this range that also has a feminine form: douăsprezece (informal douăşpe). However, the masculine form is sometimes used even with feminine nouns, especially when the number follows the noun it determines, as in ora doisprezece "12 o'clock" or clasa a doisprezecea ("12th grade", see below for ordinal numbers); such use is considered incorrect.

2. Number names for 14 and 16 do not exactly follow the forming rule, possibly under the influence of the number names for 12 and 13. The forms patrusprezece and şasesprezece do exist, but are perceived as hypercorrect and very rarely used (one might hear them in telephone conversations, when the correct transmission may be a concern).

3. Instead of cincisprezece sometimes cinsprezece is used.

4. The number name for 18 is notorious for being the word in Romanian with the longest consonant cluster (five consonants with no intervening vowels): ptspr, split into two syllables, opt-spre-ze-ce. For this reason, the variants opsprezece (with a missing t) and optâsprezece/optîsprezece or optisprezece (with an additional vowel to break the consonant cluster) are frequent.[1]

Numbers from 20 to 99[edit source | edit]

The numbers in this range that are multiple of 10 (that is, 20, 30, ..., 90) are named by joining the number of tens with the word zeci (the plural of zece), as shown in the table below. Note that they are spelled as a single word.

NumberRomanianAromanian
20douăzeciying'its
30treizecitreidzîtsi
40patruzecipatrudzîtsi
50cincizeci1tsindzîtsi
60şaizeci2şaidzîtsi
70şaptezecişaptidzîtsi
80optzeci1opdzîtsi
90nouăzecinaudzîtsi
Notes

1. Cincizeci is often pronounced (but not written) cinzeci. Similarly, optzeci is often pronounced obzeci.

2. Şaizeci does not follow the formation rule exactly. The expected form şasezeci does not exist.

The other numbers between 20 and 99 are named by combining three words: the number of tens, the conjunction şi "and", and the units. For example, 42 is patruzeci şi doi.

For those numbers whose unit figure is 1 or 2 the corresponding number name has two gender-dependent forms:

Short versions[edit source | edit]

The numbers from 20 to 99 also have an informal, simplified pronunciation: The part zeci shortens to ş /ʃ/ when the units name starts with an unvoiced consonant or a vowel. For 50 and 80 zeci only reduces to zeş. When the next word starts with a voiced consonant the same rule applies except that ş is pronounced voiced as j /ʒ/. The same rule applies if the units number is 0 and if the next word is the preposition de. Examples:

In regional speech further simplification is possible, such as cinzeci şi becoming cinş. Also, the number 48, when it refers to the revolutions of 1848, is pronounced paşopt, which also gave words like paşoptist (meaning "participant in the Romanian 1848 Revolution" or "supporter of its ideology").

Numbers from 100 to 999[edit source | edit]

Any given number from 100 to 999 can be named by first saying the hundreds and then, without any connecting word, the two-digit number of tens and units; for example, 365 is trei sute şaizeci şi cinci.

Note that the word for "hundred" is sută, and that if the number of hundreds is 2 or larger, the plural sute is required. The noun sută itself is feminine and as such the numbers 100 and 200 are o sută and două sute.

In fast utterances, the numbers 500 and 800 are usually pronounced cinsute and opsute, instead of the standard forms cinci sute and opt sute, respectively. In writing, however, the informal variants are only used for stylistic effects.

Large numbers[edit source | edit]

The table below lists the numbers representing powers of 10 larger than 100, that have a corresponding single-word name. The word for 1000 is feminine, all the others are neuter; this is important in the number naming. In Romanian, neuter nouns behave like masculine in the singular and like feminine in the plural. Romanian large numbers use the a combination of the long and short scales. In practice the scale is similar to the short scale, with the exception of "billion", which is written "miliard", and an alternate form ("triliard") for 1015, which can be confusing, because it's equivalent to both the short scale quadrillion and the long scale billiard.

NumberSingularPlural
100 = 102o sută(două) sute
103o mie(două) mii
106un milion(două) milioane
109un miliard(două) miliarde
1012un trilion(două) trilioane
1015un cvadrilion (occasionally triliard)(două) cvadrilioane (occasionally triliarde)
1018un cvintilion(două) cvintilioane
1021un sextilion(două) sextilioane
.........

To say any cardinal number larger than 1000 the number is split in groups of three digits, from right to left (into units, thousands, millions, etc.), then the groups are read from left to right as in the example below.

12,345,678 (written in Romanian 12.345.678) = douăsprezece milioane trei sute patruzeci şi cinci de mii şase sute şaptezeci şi opt

When a digit is zero, the corresponding quantity is simply not pronounced:

101,010 (written in Romanian 101.010) = o sută una mii zece

In writing, the groups of three digits are separated by dots. The comma is used as decimal separator. This may be confusing for native English speakers, who use the two symbols the other way around.

Decimal fractions[edit source | edit]

Numbers represented as decimal fractions (for example 1.62) are expressed by reading in order the integer part, the decimal separator, and the fractional part. This is the same as in English, with the following exceptions:

In some situations it is customary to say cu "with" instead of virgulă. For example, medical staff might be heard stating the body temperature in words like treizeci şi şapte cu cinci, meaning 37.5 °C.

Percents[edit source | edit]

Percentages (%) and permillages (‰) are read using the words la sută and la mie, like in the examples: cinci la sută (5%), nouă la mie (9‰). For percentages an alternative reading uses the neuter noun procent, meaning 1%; the previous example becomes cinci procente.

Negative numbers[edit source | edit]

Negative numbers are named just like in English, by placing the word minus, pronounced [ˈminus], at the beginning: −10 m is minus zece metri.

Preposition de[edit source | edit]

Syntactically, when a cardinal number determines a noun and when the number has certain values, the preposition de (roughly equivalent to of) is inserted between the number name and the modified noun in a way similar to English hundreds of birds. Example: şaizeci de minute "sixty minutes".

The rules governing the use of preposition de are as follows:

The preposition de is also used within the syntax of the number itself, for stating the number of thousands, millions, billions, etc.: douăzeci de mii "twenty thousand" (also note the plural mii, unlike the singular thousand in English). The rules for this de are the same as those described above: it is used when the last two digits of the number of thousands, millions, etc. are 00 or 20–99. Again, in technical contexts, this de may be dropped: treizeci milioane euro "thirty million euros".

Agreement between number name and modified noun[edit source | edit]

The number name and the noun it modifies must agree in number and gender.

The rule for number agreement is simple: When the number is 1, the modified noun is put in its singular form, otherwise it takes the plural form, including the case of number 0 and all non-integer numbers.

The gender agreement is somewhat complicated by the fact that the Romanian nouns are classified into three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Specifically, the neuter gender is a combination of the other two: A neuter noun behaves like a masculine noun in the singular, and like a feminine noun in the plural. The gender has implications on the morphology of some of the grammatically connected words, including the number names.

When the units digit of a number is 1 or 2, its name has two distinct forms, masculine and feminine. The only exception is unsprezece "eleven" which has only one form used for both genders.

The gender agreement requires the choice of masculine number names for masculine nouns, and feminine number names for feminine nouns. For the neuter nouns the agreement is obtained by choosing the masculine name of the number not just for number 1, but for all other numbers whose units digit is 1, despite the fact that the noun behaves as feminine; for numbers whose last digit is 2 the feminine numeral is chosen. Examples:

NumberMasculine nounNeuter nounFeminine noun
copil "child"scaun "chair"oră "hour"
1un copilun scauno oră
2doi copiidouă scaunedouă ore
11unsprezece copiiunsprezece scauneunsprezece ore
12doisprezece copiidouăsprezece scaunedouăsprezece ore
21douăzeci şi unu de copiidouăzeci şi unu de scaune1douăzeci şi una de ore
22douăzeci şi doi de copiidouăzeci şi două de scaunedouăzeci şi două de ore
Note

1. Although, as a neuter noun in the plural, scaune behaves like a feminine noun, the masculine form of the numeral douăzeci şi unu is used. This is because unu "one" also represents a number by itself; in the singular, the neuter noun requires a masculine modifier. If the noun is also modified by an adjective, the feminine form of the adjective is used: douăzeci şi unu de scaune galbene "21 yellow chairs".

Distributive numbers[edit source | edit]

The distributive number is used to show how a larger quantity is divided into smaller, equal portions. These numbers are named using the cardinal number names and the word câte (or cîte, depending on the spelling convention), roughly meaning "each", but requiring a different word order. The following examples show some distributive numbers in various cases:

Collective numbers[edit source | edit]

Collective numbers are used when all members of a group are referred to by their number, like English all four wheels. Generally, for sets of more than a few elements, the word toţi / toate ("all", masculine / feminine) is used together with the cardinal number. The use of the demonstrative cei / cele is optional in the nominative-accusative, but required in the genitive-dative. The genitive-dative form is tuturor celor for both genders. In the following examples note that the modified noun always has the nominative form, and that the definite article goes to the demonstrative where it is used:

Special words[edit source | edit]

When the number is 2 or sometimes 3 or 4, special words are used instead of toţi, just as the word both replaces *all two in English. The most frequent of these words are:

Adverbial numbers[edit source | edit]

The adverbial number is the number used to show the repetition of a certain event, in constructions such as de cinci ori "five times". The table below shows a few examples of adverbial numbers.

NumberAdverbial numberEnglish
1o datăonce
2de două oritwice
3de trei orithree times (thrice)
12de douăsprezece oritwelve times
21de douăzeci și una de oritwenty-one times
22de douăzeci și două de oritwenty-two times

For number 1 the usual form is o dată ("once", "one time"). The construction o oară is possible, but rarely used. In the plural, the adverbial numbers are formed using the preposition de, the cardinal number in the feminine, and the noun ori "times", which is the plural of the feminine noun oară.

Sample sentences:

Approximate numbers can be used, like in the examples below.

Multiplicative numbers[edit source | edit]

For some numbers, special words are used to show multiplication of size, number, etc. The table below gives the most frequent such words, with their English equivalents.

NumberMultiplicative numberAdverbial equivalentEnglish
traditionalneologism
2îndoitdublude două ori mai (mult)double, twice as (much)
3întreittriplude trei ori mai (mult)triple, three times as (much)
4împătritcvadruplude patru ori mai (mult)quadruple, four times as (much)
5încincitcvintuplude cinci ori mai (mult)quintuple, five times as (much)
10înzecitde zece ori mai (mult)ten times as (much)
100însutitde o sută de ori mai (mult)a hundred times as (much)
1000înmiitde o mie de ori mai (mult)a thousand times as (much)

The traditional multiplicative numbers are formed from the respective cardinal number with the prefix în- (changed into îm- when the following sound is a bilabial plosive), and the suffix -it, the same used to form the past participle of a large category of verbs.

In contemporary Romanian the neologisms are more frequently used.

The multiplicative number can be used as adjective and as adverb. Examples:

Often instead of the multiplicative numbers an adverbial construction is used. This can be applied for any number larger than 1.

Fractional numbers[edit source | edit]

Numbers expressed as parts of a unit (such as "two thirds") are named using the cardinal number, in its masculine form, with the suffix -ime. Other morphological changes take place, as shown below.

NumberNameNotes
1/2(o) doimeAlso: o jumătate
1/3(o) treime
1/4(o) pătrimeAlso: un sfert
1/5(o) cincime
1/6(o) şesime
1/7(o) şeptime
1/8(o) optime
1/9(o) noime
1/10(o) zecime
1/100(o) sutime
1/1000(o) miime
1/1,000,000(o) milionime

A number like 3/5 is expressed as trei cincimi "three fifths". Since all the fractional number names behave like feminine nouns, when the numerator is 1, 2, or any other number with a distinct feminine form, that form must be used: două treimi (2/3). The preposition de is used depending also on the numerator: douăzeci de sutimi (20/100), o sută zece miimi (110/1000).

In music several other such words are frequently used for note lengths:

Fractions involving larger numbers tend to become hard to read. Especially in mathematics it is common to read fractions only using cardinal numbers and the words pe or supra ("on", "over"). For example două treimi "two thirds" becomes doi pe trei or doi supra trei.

Ordinal numbers[edit source | edit]

The ordinal number (linguistics) is used to express the position of an object in an ordered sequence, as shown in English by words such as first, second, third, etc. In Romanian, with the exception of number 1, all ordinal numbers are named based on the corresponding cardinal number. Two gender-dependent forms exist for each number. The masculine form (also used with neuter nouns) ends in -lea, whereas the feminine form ends in -a. Starting from 2 they are preceded by the possessive article al / a.

Examples:

Basic forms[edit source | edit]

The basic forms of the ordinal number are given in the table below. All other forms are made using them.

NumberOrdinal numberMeaning
masculinefeminine
1primul (întâiul/întîiul)prima (întâia/întîia)"the first"
2al doileaa doua"the second"
3al treileaa treia"the third"
4al patruleaa patra"the fourth"
5al cincileaa cincea"the fifth"
6al şaseleaa şasea"the sixth"
7al şapteleaa şaptea"the seventh"
8al optuleaa opta"the eighth"
9al nouăleaa noua"the ninth"
10al zeceleaa zecea"the tenth
100al o sutăleaa o suta"the one hundredth"
1000al o mieleaa o mia"the one thousandth"
106al un milionuleaa o milioana"the one millionth"
109al un miliarduleaa o miliarda"the one billionth"
............

11-19[edit source | edit]

Ordinal numbers in this range can be formed by modifying the corresponding cardinal number: the ending -zece is transformed into -zecelea and -zecea for the masculine and feminine ordinal number. Examples:

20-99[edit source | edit]

Ordinal numbers in this range that have the unit digit 0 are formed by replacing the ending -zeci of the corresponding cardinal number with -zecilea and -zecea (masculine and feminine):

When the unit digit is not 0, the cardinal number is used for the tens and the ordinal number for the units. The only exception is when the unit digit is 1; in this case, instead of primul, prima a different word is used: unulea, una. Examples:

All other numbers[edit source | edit]

The general rule for ordinal number formation is to combine the following elements:

Examples:

As seen in the last example above, the ordinal form of the plural of 100, 1000, etc. is needed for this process. These forms are:

NumberOrdinal number
masculinefeminine
n * 100suteleasuta
n * 1000miileamia
n * 106milioaneleamilioana
n * 109miliardeleamiliarda
.........

Examples with large numbers:

Reverse order[edit source | edit]

In certain situations the word order in expressing the ordinal number is reversed. This occurs when the object is not necessarily perceived as an element in a sequence but rather as an indexed object. For example, instead of al treilea secol the expression secolul al treilea "third century" is used. Note that the noun must have the definite article appended. Other examples:

For simplification, often the cardinal number replaces the ordinal number, although some grammarians criticize this practice: The form secolul douăzeci is seen as an incorrect variant of secolul al douăzecilea "20th century".

For number 1, the form of the ordinal number in this reverse-order construction is întâi (or întîi), in both genders: deceniul întâi "first decade", clasa întâi "first grade". For the feminine, sometimes întâia is used, which until recently used to be considered incorrect by normative works.

The same reverse order is used when naming historical figures:

As seen above, ordinal numbers are often written using Roman numerals, especially in this reverse order case. The ending specific to the ordinal numbers (-lea, -a) must be preserved and connected to the Roman numeral with a hyphen. Examples:

Pronunciation[edit source | edit]

In the morphological processes described above, some pronunciation changes occur that are usually marked in writing. This section gives a few details about those pronunciation aspects not "visible" in the written form.

Non-syllabic "i"[edit source | edit]

The letter i in the word zeci (both as a separate word and in compounds), although thought by native speakers to indicate an independent sound, is only pronounced as a palatalization of the previous consonant. It does not form a syllable by itself: patruzeci "forty" is pronounced /patruˈzet͡ʃʲ/. The same applies to the last i in cinci: /ˈt͡ʃint͡ʃʲ/, including compounds: 15 is pronounced /ˈt͡ʃint͡ʃʲ.sprezet͡ʃe/ and 50 is /t͡ʃint͡ʃʲˈzet͡ʃʲ/.

However, in the case of ordinal numbers in the masculine form, before -lea the nonsylabic i becomes a full syllabic i in words like douăzecilea "20th" /dowəˈzet͡ʃile̯a/ and in cincilea "5th" /ˈt͡ʃint͡ʃile̯a/.

Semivocalic i does not change its quality: trei /ˈtrej/, treilea /ˈtrejle̯a/, treia /ˈtreja/.

Stress[edit source | edit]

The stress in numbers from 11 to 19 is on the units number, that is, the first element of the compound. Since in all nine cases that element has the stress on its first syllable, the compound itself will also have the stress on the first syllable. The same is valid for the informal short versions:

Numbers in the series 20, 30, ..., 90 have the normal stress on the element -zeci. However, a stress shift to the first element often occurs, probably because that element carries more information:

Etymology[edit source | edit]

With few exceptions, the words involved in the formation of Romanian number names are inherited directly from Latin. This includes the names of all the non-zero digits, all the connecting words (și, spre, de), most of the words and prefixes used to express the non-cardinal types of numbers (toți, ori, al, în- etc.), and part of the multiple names (zece, mie). The remainder are largely relatively recent borrowings from French, such as zero, dublu, triplu, minus, plus, virgulă, milion, miliard, etc., most of which are used internationally.

But the most remarkable exception is the word sută, whose origin is still debated. It is possibly an old Slavic borrowing, although the phonetic evolution from sŭto to sută proves hard to explain. A Persian origin has also been suggested.[2]

Usage[edit source | edit]

Dates. Calendar dates in Romanian are expressed using cardinal numbers, unlike English. For example, "the 21st of April" is 21 aprilie (read douăzeci şi unu aprilie). For the first day of a month the ordinal number întâi is often used: 1 Decembrie (read Întâi Decembrie; upper case is used for names of national or international holidays). Normally the masculine form of the number is used everywhere, but when the units digit is 2, the feminine is also frequent: 2 ianuarie can be read both doi ianuarie and două ianuarie; the same applies for days 12 and 22.

Centuries. Centuries are named using ordinal numbers in reverse order: "14th century" is secolul al paisprezecelea (normally written secolul al XIV-lea). Cardinal numbers are often used although considered incorrect: secolul paisprezece. See above for details.

Royal titles. Ordinal numbers (in reverse word order) are used for naming ruling members of a monarchy and the Popes. For example: Carol al II-lea, Papa Benedict al XVI-lea. See above for details.

Particularities[edit source | edit]

Banknote labeled "una sută lei" (2005 issue).

See also[edit source | edit]

Notes[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ (Romanian) Mioara Avram, Gramatica pentru toţi, second edition, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1997
  2. ^ Alexandru Ciorănescu, Dicționarul etimologic român, sută, Universidad de la Laguna, Tenerife, 1958–1966

References[edit source | edit]