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Italian Language Lessons: Italian Counts - Counting past a million
Previous lessons covered saying and recognizing numbers from 1 to 1,000,000. This lesson covers really large numbers; you will need to be sure you have worked through the vocabulary and pronunciation in the earlier lessons before you continue.
Count to a Billion
The Italian for million is un milione (pronounced "oon mee-LYOH-neh"). Note the preceding "un" to express "a" million; this is different from cento and mille (100 and 1,000, respectively) which stand on their own with no preceding "un". Instead of "un", you may see "uno" denoting "one million" as opposed to "a million". Numbers of millions greater than one use the plural form "milioni" as in, say, due milioni (two million).
To express a round number of millions greater than one, from two million through nine hundred ninety-nine million, combine the word for the required number of millions with the ending milioni (pronounced mee-LYOH-nee). The number of millions is written as a separate word and often as a number as in, for example, trecento milioni or 300 milioni (300 million).
To express a number above 1 million but less than 1 billion which is not a round number of millions:
The Italian for a billion (American billion or 1,000 million, not the British billion which is one million million) is un miliardo (pronounced "oon mee-LYAHR-doh").
You have now covered the numbers in Italian up to 1,000,000,000!
You learned the numbers from 1 to 1,000,000 in previous lessons. To practice expressing round numbers of millions up to 999 million, use the table below. To express a number between 1,000,000 and 999,999,999 first build the "round millions" part, then add the word for the last 6 digits of your number after "milione" or "milione" (numbers from 1 through 999,999 are covered in detail in previous lessons).
To practice with the "round millions" parts of numbers from 1 million to 999 million, use the following table. Pick an entry from each of the first two columns, one from either the third column (endings up to 19) or from each of the fourth and fifth columns (endings from 20 through 99) and add either "milione" or "milioni" as a second word. You may pick a blank entry from one or more of these columns corresponding to zero positions or numbers in the 100 millions; e.g. uno milione, centotrentadue milioni (132,000,000), cinquecento milioni (500,000), seicentottanta milioni (680,000).
* The "o" ending of cento is dropped if followed by "otto" (eight) or "ottanta" (eighty). Remember also that endings of numbers in the "tens" column are dropped if followed by "uno" or "otto".
** Use milione, the singular form, if the first word is "uno" (or "un") to express one million. Use milioni, the plural form, if the first word is due (two) or higher.
With the above information, previous lessons and some practice, you now know how to say, understand and read numbers up to one billion! Here are a few examples to get you started. Note that, as in English, number of this magnitude are often written with a combination of numerals and words. Practice with these examples, then make up more of your own. Pronounce the words aloud to become familiar with how they sound.
Italian Numbers Beyond One Billion
As mentioned above, the Italian for a billion (American meaning) is un miliardo (pronounced "oon mee-LYAHR-doh"). An alternative form is uno miliardo (pronounced "OO-noh mee-LYAHR-doh"), meaning one (rather than a) billion. The plural form, for numbers of billions greater than one, is miliardi (pronounced "mee-LYAHR-dee). As with numbers in the millions, you can express whole numbers of billions with the word for the required number of billions followed by either "miliardo" (for one billion) or "miliardi" for 2 billion and up. Numbers in the thousands or millions may be used before "miliardi", so you can now express VERY large numbers.
Large numbers like those discussed in this lesson are usually written either entirely in numbers or as a combination of numbers and words rather than being spelled out entirely in words. One thing to watch out for: in Italy (and other parts of Europe), the use of the comma (virgola) and decimal point (punto) are usually the reverse of the U.S. so that, for example, you may see 1,500.00 (U.S. form) written as 1.500,00.
* American trillion = 1,000 billion.
To complete this series of lessons, here are a few brief excerpts from Italian news stories mentioning large numbers. Sometimes numbers in news stories, especially stories from the U.S., use the American convention for commas and decimal points, so you have to pay close attention to the context.
If you practice the material outlined in this and preceding lessons, you can learn to say and recognize all the numbers you are likely to ever run into in Italian.
You can count on it!
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