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Hi, everybody! Stefania here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Greek questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is “Which numbers get inflected and which don't?”
This is a question that all new learners have as soon as they start studying Greek, since numbers are some of the first vocabulary words they need to know. However, on a grammatical level, some of these words get inflected and some don't. So learning how to use them properly in speech is not as simple as it is in English. You have to become familiar with the declension system first, so mastering these words might take some time. This lesson is here to help you a bit!
Let's go into more detail. First, let's see some details about the cardinal numbers.
Those are considered adjectives in Greek, so they need to agree in gender, number, and case with the noun they define. For example, μία μύγα (mía míga, feminine numeral and noun) ("one fly"), not ένα μύγα (éna míga, neuter numeral - feminine noun). Sounds complicated? Let's start with the easy stuff: the numbers that have only one form for all genders and cases. Those are the number 2 and the numbers 5 through 100.
For example...
Χρειάζομαι πέντε πιάτα ακόμη. (Hriázome pénde piáta akómi.)
"I need five more plates."
The numbers 1, 3, and 4, as well as all numbers that end in those digits, such as 13, 21, 1003 and so on, have three genders and they get inflected, so do the numbers for the hundreds from 200 and on, and the number for one thousand.
For example...
Έχω τρία παιδιά. (Ého tría pediá.)
"I have three children."
Now, let's see how the numbers 1, 3 and 4 are inflected.
ο ένας, του ενός, τον έναν for the masculine "one"
(o énas, tu enós, ton énan)
η μία (η μια), της μίας (της μιας), τη μία (τη μια) for the feminine
(i mía/i mia, tis mías/tis mias, ti mía/ti mia)
and το ένα, του ενός, το ένα for the neuter.
(to éna, tu enós, to éna)
οι τρεις, των τριών, τους/τις τρεις for the masculine and feminine "three"
(i tris, ton trión, tus/tis tris)
and τα τρία, των τριών, τα τρία for the neuter.
(ta tría, ton trión, ta tría)
οι τέσσερις, των τεσσάρων, τους/τις τέσσερις for the masculine and feminine "four"
(i téseris, ton tesáron, tus/tis téseris)
and τα τέσσερα, των τεσσάρων, τα τέσσερα, for the neuter.
(ta tésera, ton tesáron, ta tésera)
The articles are not always needed and sometimes the nouns are omitted. In that case, the context will help you use the right gender and case. For example...
—Πόσους βώλους έχεις; (—Pósus vólus éhis?) "How many marbles do you have?"
—Τρεις. (—Tris.) (βώλους, vólus - masculine) "Three."
—Πόσα άτομα είστε; (—Pósa átoma íste?) "How many people in your party?"
—Τρία. (—Tría.) (άτομα, átoma - neuter) "Three."
Here are some sample sentences.
Βλέπω τρεις γυναίκες. (Vlépo tris yinékes.)
"I see three women."
Τρεις στους τέσσερις απάντησαν αρνητικά. (Tris stus téseris apándisan arnitiká.)
"Three out of four gave a negative answer."
Next, let's see how the hundreds and one thousand are inflected.
These follow the declension model of the adjectives that end in -ος, -η, -ο (-os, -i, -o) in the masculine, feminine and neuter gender but only in the plural. As an example, let's see the declension of "two hundred."
οι διακόσιοι, των διακοσίων, τους διακόσιους for the masculine
(i diakósii, ton diakosíon, tus diakósius)
οι διακόσιες, των διακοσίων, τις διακόσιες for the feminine
(i diakósies, ton diakosíon, tis diakósies)
and τα διακόσια, των διακοσίων, τα διακόσια for the neuter
(ta diakósia, ton diakosíon, ta diakósia)
Note that the accent mark moves one position to the right in the genitive case.
The declension for "one thousand" uses the same endings and accentuation.
οι χίλιοι, των χιλίων, τους χίλιους for the masculine
(i hílii, ton hilíon, tus hílius)
οι χίλιες, των χιλίων, τις χίλιες for the feminine
(i hílies, ton hilíon, tis hílies)
and τα χίλια, των χιλίων, τα χίλια for the neuter
(ta hília, ton hilíon, ta hília)
For multiple thousands, we use the feminine noun χιλιάδες (hiliádes), literally meaning "thousands", and the corresponding feminine cardinal number before it. For example, τρεις χιλιάδες παιδιά (tris hiliádes pediá, "three thousand kids").
Finally, the numbers zero, one million, one billion and so on are actually neuter nouns and are declined like this.
το μηδέν, του μηδενός, το μηδέν for "zero,"
(to midén, tu midenós, to midén)
το εκατομμύριο, του εκατομμυρίου, το εκατομμύριο, τα εκατομμύρια, των εκατομμυρίων, τα εκατομμύρια for "million,"
(to ekatomírio, tu ekatomiríu, to ekatomírio, ta ekatomíria, ton ekatomiríon, ta ekatomíria)
and το δισεκατομμύριο, του δισεκατομμυρίου, το δισεκατομμύριο, τα δισεκατομμύρια, των δισεκατομμυρίων, τα δισεκατομμύρια for "billion."
(to disekatomírio, tu disekatomiríu, to disekatomírio, ta disekatomíria, ton disekatomiríon, ta disekatomíria)
Here are some sample sentences.
Το αυτοκίνητο κοστίζει είκοσι μία χιλιάδες ευρώ. (To aftokínito kostízi íkosi mía hiliádes evró.)
"The car costs twenty-one thousand euros."
Οι αστέρες του Χόλιγουντ πληρώνονται εκατομμύρια δολάρια για κάθε ταινία. (I astéres tu Hóligud plirónonde ekatomíria dolária ya káthe tenía.)
"Hollywood stars get paid millions of dollars for every movie."
If you are wondering which gender to use with the cardinal numbers when you count abstractly, you should be using the neuter gender. For example,
ένα (éna, 1), δύο (dío, 2), τρία (tría, 3), τέσσερα (tésera, 4), πέντε (pénde, 5)... εκατό (ekató, 100), εκατόν ένα (ekatón éna, 101)... χίλια ένα (hília éna, 1001), ένα εκατομμύριο (éna ekatomírio, 1,000,000), δύο εκατομμύρια (dío ekatomíria, 2,000,000) and so on.
There's more to Greek numbers than what we discussed in this lesson. For more information, go to GreekPod101.com and listen to the lessons 17 and 18 of the Intermediate series, which cover everything there is to know about numbers!


How was the lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
Γεια χαρά! (Ya hará!)

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