Russian Numbers: The Definitive Guide


This post is specially created for complete beginners. Here I not only teach the very basic Russian numbers but show you how to use them in live speech with no mistakes.

So, what’s our plan? It consists of two stages. Stage one: we’ll learn the words for numbers: I’ll teach you to count from 1 to 20, then I’ll show you all the tens and hundreds and explain how to create compound numerals. In the second stage, I will show you how to connect a numeral and a noun correctly, so that you’ll be able to count things in a sentence. Let’s go!

Numbers from 0 to 10

We’ll begin with learning the first ten by heart. These numbers have one stem that you will also meet in more complex, so-called compound numbers.

In Russian In English Audio Pronunciation
Ноль Zero
Nol’
Один One
A-dín
Два Two
Dvа́
Три Three
Tri
Четыре Four
Chi-tí-ri
Пять Five
Pjа́t’
Шесть Six
Shе́st’
Семь Seven
Sjе́m’
Восемь Eight
Vо́-sim’
Девять Nine
Djе́-vit’
Десять Ten
Djе́-sit’

At this stage, students can’t wait to begin building phrases such as “I have three brothers”, “Give me please ten packs of juice” and so on. However, phrases like those require knowing some additional grammar, so stay where you are and keep reading! I’ll explain these aspects soon. Now let’s move forward and I’ll show you how the next ten look.

Numbers from 11 to 20

Have a look at the next ten digits. As I promised, you’ll see the “basic” stems from the previous part together with the other parts: “…на…” (which means on) and “…дцать: (which comes from the word “ten”). For example, the numeral 11 may be roughly interpreted as “one on ten”, 13 – “three on ten” and so on. 

While merging “…на…” and “…дцать”, most of the numerals lose their last letters and the number 12 changes “a” to “e”: 2 – два, but 12 – “двенадцать”, not “дванадцать”.

In Russian In English Audio Pronunciation
Одиннадцать Eleven
A-dí-na-tsat’
Двенадцать Twelve
Dvi-nа́-tsat’
Тринадцать Thirteen
Tri-nа́-tsat’
Четырнадцать Fourteen
Chi-tír-na-tsat’
Пятнадцать Fifteen
Pit-nа́-tsat’
Шестнадцать Sixteen
Shis-nа́-tsat’
Семнадцать Seventeen
Sim-nа́-tsat’
Восемнадцать Eighteen
Vо-sim-nа́-tsat’
Девятнадцать Nineteen
Di-vit-nа́-tsat’

Once you’ve memorized these numerals and their logic, we’re ready to know how to count our tens.

Tens

Numbers in russian

Following the principle of “economy”, the language doesn’t create new words for tens but makes them from the stems that already exist. The words below are the best proof. 

While counting tens we see two different patterns: 20 and 30 unite with the part “дцать”, while their neighbors from 50 to 80 with “десять”.

In Russian In English Audio Pronunciation
Десять Ten
Djе́-sit’
Двадцать Twenty
Dvа́-tsat’
Тридцать Thirty
Trí-tsat’
Сорок Forty
Sо́-rak
Пятьдесят Fifty
Pi-di-sjа́t
Шестьдесят Sixty
Shis-di-sjа́t
Семьдесят Seventy
Sjе́m-di-sjat
Восемьдесят Eighty
Vо́-sim-di-sjat
Девяносто Ninety
Di-vi-nо́-sta

For Russian learners, it seems weird that numerals are built with the help of different suffixes: “-дцать” and “-десять”.  However, students can usually tolerate it. Even “девяносто” is something we can live with. 

What confuses them the most is the word 40 – “сорок” because it looks completely alien it this group. 

It’s not for nothing, though. 40 has a special place in history, as “сорок” was not a numeral in Russia’s ancient past, but a special unit to measure valuable furs. That is why it doesn’t follow the same trends as other numbers. 

Hundreds

Hundreds are slightly easier to memorize. They get two different suffixes: сто and ста. And of course, nothing in the Russian goes without exceptions: 200 has “-и” instead of “-a” at the end: “двести”, not “двеста”.

In Russian In English Audio Pronunciation
Сто Hundred
Sto
Двести Two Hundred
Dvе́-sti
Триста Three Hundred
Trí-sta
Четыреста Four Hundred
Chi-tí-ri-sta
Пятьсот Five Hundred
Pit-sо́t
Шестьсот Six Hundred
Shi-sо́t
Семьсот Seven Hundred
Sim-sо́t
Восемьсот Eight Hundred
Vо-sim-sо́t
Девятьсот Nine Hundred
Di-vit-sо́t

Thousands

Numbers in russian

Once you’ve learned numbers from 1 to 19 counting thousands is not a problem at all. Just add the word “тысяча” in a proper form. Why do we need a specific form, I’ll explain a bit later.

In Russian In English Audio Pronunciation
Тысяча Thousand
Ti-si-cha
Две тысячи Two thousands
Dvе ti-si-chi
Пять тысяч Five thousands
Pjа́t’ ti-si-ch

By now remember this:

  • Use “тысяча” after a number that ends with 1 
  • Use “тысячи” after a number that ends with 2, 3 and 4 
  • Use “тысяч” after a number that ends with  0 and 5 to 19

Not difficult at all. Here are some practical examples:

  • 1,000 – одна тысяча
  • 3,000 – три тысячи
  • 18,000 – восемнадцать тысяч

Creating Compound Numbers

Now you know how the basic numerals look. You can create 9,999 different digits combinations. Your vocabulary just grew by nearly 10,000 words! The basic principle is the same as in the English language.

While making a compound number, name higher order digits first and then lower order digits.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Двадцать три (23)
  • Сто шестьдесят девять (169)
  • Одна тысяча пятьсот семьдесят один (1571)
  • Четыре тысячи девятьсот двенадцать (4912)
  • Семь тысяч четыреста восемнадцать (7418)

This was a brief Russian numbers overview for beginners. I know that now you want to count items and say, for instance, “I’ve got two pens and four pencils”. In the next passage, I’ll tell you how to do that.

Counting One or Two Items

Russian Numbers

We’ve finally got to counting objects. By some reason, the first two numbers obey pretty weird grammar rules, which are different from all the rest numerals of the Russian language.

The numerals “один” (one) and “два” (two) have several forms and they depend on the gender of the noun that goes after them.

Masculine Neutral Feminine Plural
Один Одно Одна Одни
Два Два Две

For example:

  • Один брат (One brother)  – The word брат is masculine, so we use the form один
  • Одна сестра (One sister) – The word сестра is feminine, so we use the form одна
  • Одно солнце (One sun) – The word солнце is neutral, so we use the form одно
  • Одни брюки (One trousers) – The word брюки is plural, so we use the form одни
  • Два друга (Two friends) – The word друг is masculine, so we use the form два
  • Две подруги (Two girlfriends) The word подруга is feminine, so we use the form один

True, the Russian language is not a place where you can find a lot of sameness. Regardless, I’m very glad to report to you that all that the other numerals don’t have any additional forms and we can use them with feminine, masculine and other nouns with additional no changes. 

However, please don’t count more than two things until we get to the next paragraph, because further calculations require some additional grammar. And if you don’t know it, you’re very likely to make a mistake. 

Counting More than Two Things

In the English language, we use the ending -s to show that a noun is a plural. The Russian language has a larger scope of rules about that. In short, they say:

If you want to count things

  • After 1 and everything that ends with 1 uses the Nominative case
  • After 2, 3, and 4 and everything that ends with 2, 3, and 4 uses the Genitive case singular
  • After 0, and 5 to 19 and everything that ends with 0, and 5 to 19 uses the Genitive case plural.

So, to say “I’ve got 5 books” you need to know a relatively big piece of grammar, that includes not only the numerals but the Genitive case as well. For those who are not familiar with the concept of grammar cases, I have a very clear explanation here. And if you know what a case is but want to refresh your memory on the Genitive, my complete guide to Genitive case is waiting for you here. I highly advise you keep a table with the Genitive case endings at hand: we’ll need it soon.

I’ve been thinking, how to illustrate our rule and came up with the following graph. There you can see a line of numbers and the case of nouns that they require.

Russian Numbers

I also put two examples. The first one is “рубль” (‘ruble’, the Russian currency). I granted it a place in my table for its frequency.

Another one is “тысяча” (thousand). Yes, the same thousand from the previous paragraph. I know that technically it’s a numeral. But if we imagine for a second that it’s a noun, we’ll immediately understand why we need to say “одна тысяча” or “две тысячи”, but then “пять тысяч”. Despite “тысяча” being a numeral, it still follows the same rules as if it were a noun. 

Is “тысяча” a one of a kind? No, it’s a rare animal, but not the last on the earth. Such words as “дюжина” (dozen), “миллион” (million), “миллиард” (billion) behave the same way. For instance: 

  • 1 000 000 – один миллион (nom. sin.)
  • 3 000 000 – три миллиона (gen. sin.)
  • 20 000 000 – двадцать миллионов (gen. pl.)

Curious, isn’t it? But we’ve got slightly off track. As the rule says, depending on the number, they will be in the nominative, genitive singular or genitive plural.

More Examples with Numbers

This is the moment where your genitive case cheat-sheet is needed. You can upload it here. I will provide my own examples and explanations. Read them carefully, compare with the cheatsheet, then try to make up your own. 

  • У меня есть два брата (I’ve got two brothers) – After the numeral два (2) we put the word брат (masc.) in the genitive singular and it gets the ending -а 
  • Дай мне двадцать пять рублей, пожалуйста (Give me 25 roubles, please) – After the numeral 25, that ends with 5, we put the noun рубль (masc.) into genitive plural, so that it gets the ending -ей.
  • Номер в отеле стоит двести пятьдесят долларов (A room in a hotel costs 250 dollars) – After the numeral 250, which ends with a 0, we put the noun доллар (masc.) into genitive plural, and according to our genitive case cheat-sheet it gets the ending -ов.
  • Дом стоит триста пятьдесят четыре тысячи долларов (A House costs 354000 dollars) – Again, the numeral ends with a 0, so we use genitive plural – “долларов”. Here pay particular attention to the word “тысяча” (thousand). It follows the numeral 4, so we use the form “тысячи”, that totally agrees with our genitive singular table.

Why are Russian Numbers So Difficult?

Agree, the Russian numeral rules are slightly more difficult than the English ones. And the most strange is this rule, that says that different numerals agree with nouns: genitive singular or plural. Even from the perspective of an ordinary Russian speaker, it doesn’t make much sense. 

However, everything in this world has a reason and the different types of genitive with different numerals is no exception. The answer lies in the history of language and its’ transformation over time. 

Long ago the category “numerals” didn’t exist and numbers belonged to other parts of speech. 

For example, digits from 5 to 9 were nouns. Time has passed, nouns turned to numerals, but their “habits”, or grammar, stayed the same. Nowadays they demand the genitive case after them, the same as usual nouns do! An echo from the past; vestigial grammar!

Three and four were adjectives and two had a special status – it was a so-called “dual” adjective (neither singular or plural). And they had their own rules of agreement with other words. 

All these explain the diversity of grammar rules that we see in such a routine sphere as counting things.

Conclusion

Basically, this is all you need to know about counting in Russian as a beginner. With this knowledge will help you to build-up grammatically correct sentences and feel confident when you buy things, say time and so on. 

Of course, there is much more to learn. We’ve just covered cardinal numerals; ordinal, collective numbers, numerals declension all these is waiting for us ahead. 

I also want to leave you with additional relevant resources. On this site, you can see Russian numerals in brief. Here you can also find some other examples of compound Russian numbers

As usual, if you have any questions, I will be very glad to answer them in the comments below.

Anastasia Korol

Anastasia Korol is an enthusiastic Russian language tutor. She gives effective, goal-oriented lessons to students all over the world. Thousands of people have already followed her Instagram.

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