Now You Master Your Numbers in Portuguese
If you are in Brazil, you probably want to buy stuff. It doesn’t matter if it’s a beer, 1 kg of meat for the barbecue on the weekend, or even a notebook for you to write down the new Portuguese vocabulary you learn. And to do all that, you’re going to need the numbers in Portuguese.
It’s actually one of the first aspects of any language that we learn. And one of the hardest to master, too. Many people overlook the importance of saying the numbers in Portuguese, because they think they’re not mathematicians.
Please, don’t think like that. It’s not going to get you anywhere. And, I prepared this guide to help you smoothen out the way to truly master and understand the numbers in Portuguese.
And just a quick note – this article is for numbers in Brazilian Portuguese. If you go to any of the Portuguese speaking countries – Cape Verde, Mozambique, Portugal, and others – you won’t have any trouble understanding the numbers. Just keep in mind that spelling might change.
That said, let’s get started.
Cardinal Numbers in Portuguese
Cardinal numbers are numbers we use when we count. One, two, three… Those are cardinal numbers.
In English, they are very straightforward. But in Portuguese, we have some aspects to consider.
|English Number||Portuguese Number|
|One||Um ou uma|
|Two||Dois ou duas|
If you’ve read the table above, you have noticed that for numbers one and two we have two forms.
That happens because in Portuguese quite a few numbers can be either masculine or feminine.
- Eu tenho um livro. (I have one book)
- Estou vendo uma pessoa ali. (I see one person over there)
- São duas horas. (It’s 2 o’clock)
Again, you should really keep that in mind. One of the most common mistakes is that people don’t know that there is a feminine form for the numbers one and two. (and others; we’ll see.)
Now, let’s go see numbers 11 to 20.
|English Number||Portuguese Number|
|Fourteen||Catorze / quatorze|
Apart from some differences in spelling with the number fourteen, this section is quite straightforward.
If you have a hard time memorizing numbers sixteen through nineteen, just remember – in English you follow the same logic.
Nine + teen (representing ten) = nineteen.
dez (ten) + e (and) + nove = dezenove.
No mystery there, right?
So, we don’t need to make it more difficult than it is.
- Eu tenho apenas treze reais para comprar o livro. (I only have thirteen Brazilian real to buy the book)
- Eu já visitei quinze cidades. (I have already visited fifteen cities)
- Há doze casas nesta rua. (There are twelve houses on this street)
Also, something that teachers sometimes fail to remind students of is, the number twelve has two names in Portuguese – “Doze” and “uma dúzia” (a dozen). The latter is used when you talk about quantities.
In a moment I’ll show you how useful that can be in your daily life.
Now, let’s take a look at numbers twenty-one through ninety-nine.
|English Number||Portuguese Number|
|Twenty-one||Vinte e um / uma|
|Twenty-two||Vinte e dois / duas|
|Twenty-three||Vinte e três|
|Thirty-one||Trinta e um / uma|
|Thirty-two||Trinta e dois / duas|
|Ninety-nine||Noventa e move|
Again, the rule for numbers one and two applies here. There is a masculine and the feminine form for them.
- Vinte e sete carros ficaram parados na rua. (Twenty-seven cars remained stopped on the street)
- Noventa e duas pessoas ganharam na loteria. Que sorte! (Ninety-two people won the lottery. How lucky!)
- Eu já li vinte e uma páginas deste livro. (I already read twenty-one pages of this book)
And the process doesn’t change when you want to have numbers like thirty-seven, forty-five… just remember to insert the connector “e” (and) between the numbers.
- Quarenta e dois. (Forty-two)
- Cinquenta e cinco. (Fifty-five)
- Vinte e oito. (Twenty-eight)
Numbers from One Hundred Through 999
Well, for someone who is not mathematically inclined, I see so many numbers here… I’m getting giddy.
Anyway, let’s take a closer look at this section.
Even Brazilians make mistakes when using this number range.
|101||Cento e um / uma|
|102||Cento e dois / duas|
|200||Duzentos / duzentas|
|300||Trezentos / trezentas|
|400||Quatrocentos / quatrocentas|
|500||Quinhentos / quinhentas|
|600||Seicentos / seicentas|
|700||Setecentos / setecentas|
|800||Oitocentos / oitocentas|
|900||Novecentos / novecentas|
As we can see, every hundredth presents two forms – masculine and feminine.
And something else to notice is, although in speaking it doesn’t really sound like we are saying the word “e” (and), we do have to add it in between each word.
- Novecentas pessoas já passaram por aqui hoje. (Nine hundred people have already been here today)
- Quinhentos e trinta e sete reais e vinte e dois centavos. (Five hundred thirty-seven reais and twenty-two cents)
- Eu tinha oitocentos e doze livros na minha biblioteca. (I had eight hundred and twelve books in my library)
And Now, Finally – the Numbers We Hardly Use
But make no mistake – we hardly use them in daily conversation. But if you have been taking Portuguese lessons, probably your teacher has had you talk about subjects that are outside of your immediate knowledge. (If they haven’t, what the heck are they teaching you?)
So, being able to use those numbers – or at least recognize them – is going to be very useful.
|Cardinal number||Portuguese number|
|1.001||Mil e um / uma|
|1.002||Mil e dois / duas|
|2.000||Dois mil / duas mil|
|101.000||Cento e um mil|
|200.000||Duzentos / duzentas mil|
Again, numbers one and two present two forms, masculine and feminine.
But even if it numbers in the thousands? Yep, even if it’s a thousand or two thousand, it has to have the gendered ending.
(And just a quick side note – try Russian numbers if you want to go really crazy)
When we talk about ordinal numbers, we mean ranks and positions in order – first, second, fifth…
|Brazilian Portuguese Notation||Spelling|
|1º/ª||primeiro / primeira|
You have probably noticed, but I would like to bring to your attention the fact that all ordinal numbers have both masculine and feminine versions.
- Essa é a milésima vez que eu explico isto para você. (It’s the thousandth time that I explained this to you)
- Você é a primeira pessoa a chegar hoje. (You are the first person to arrive today)
- Hoje é o centésimo quadragésimo terceiro sorteio. (Today is the 143th drawing)
In English, when we talk about days of the month we use ordinal numbers. We don’t do that in Portuguese.
In Portuguese we only use ordinal numbers for the first day of the month. All of the other days are expressed with the cardinal numbers we studied above.
- O dia do trabalho é no primeiro de maio. (The labor day is on May 1)
- O meu salário só sai no dia cinco. (I only receive my salary on the fifth)
- No dia vinte e três, eu vou viajar para a Alemanha. (On the twenty-third I’m going to travel to Germany)
Let’s Talk About Math, Baby
Now I really have a problem. I teach Portuguese, not math. I had to call some friends to help me write this section.
Fractional numbers in Portuguese are expressed by using a mix of cardinal and ordinal numbers.
- 1/2 – metade
- 1/3 – um terço
- 1/4 – um quarto
- 2/5 – dois quintos
- 3/8 – três oitavos
- 3/12 – três doze avos (We need to add the word “avos” for fractional numbers above 1/10)
- 5/15 – cinco quinze avos
And when talking about percentage, we use cardinal numbers and add the expression “por cento” afterward.
- 1% – um por cento
- 3% – três por cento (a good Netflix series at the time of this writing)
- 50% – cinquenta por cento
And we also have the Roman numerals.
Up to nine, we usually read them as ordinal numbers.
After that, it gets simply too hard for us to remember all ordinal numbers. So, we prefer cardinal ones.
- O papa João Paulo II (segundo).
- O século XVI (dezesseis).
And something very few people care to teach numbers for sets of quantities.
Perhaps because most of them aren’t teachers or have very little knowledge of Portuguese?
Anyway, here’s the scoop.
- Dezena – a set of ten.
- Dúzia – a set of twelve, or dozen.
- Quinzena – a set of fifteen, or fifteen days. Also, when talking about salary, it’s the amount of money corresponding to fifteen days’ pay.
- Vintena – a set of twenty.
- Centena – a set of a hundred.
- Milhar (usually in plural, milhares) – a set of a thousand.
How About Commas and Dots?
That’s a good question.
In general, punctuation marks in Portuguese are the opposite of what they are in English.
Whenever you use a dot, we would use a comma. And when you have a comma, we put a dot.
- 5,7 = cinco vírgula sete
- R$ 1.000,37 = mil reais e trinta e sete centavos
- 1.000.000 = um milhão
Mistakes to Watch Out For
There are two things you’re going to notice when you speak with your Brazilian friends or watch Brazilian media.
First, Brazilians tend to use numerals with nouns, but they forget about putting the nouns into the plural form.
Then, we end up with sentences like this:
- Cinco cara vieram mais cedo hoje. (Five dudes came in earlier today)
- Eu só tenho dois real. (I only have two bucks)
This is wrong but common.
Second, some expressions that in English you would use numbers to express like “50-50” are said differently in Portuguese.
- Meio a meio ou metá-metá = 50/50
- Vinte e quatro horas por dia, sete dias por semana = 24/7
Can You Give Me Your Phone Number… in Portuguese?
And there are three things about phone numbers here in Brazil that you should know.
First, in all states cell phone numbers are comprised of nine digits + 2 digits corresponding to the area code.
Example: (00) 0000-00000.
I have to say this is quite bothersome. Before, cell phone numbers only had eight digits (like landlines now). It was easier for us because Brazilians usually say phone numbers in twos.
So, if you’re talking with Paulo and want to get his phone number, he would probably say:
- 22-44-22-44 (either “vinte e dois, quarenta e quatro, vinte e dois, quarenta e quatro,” or “dois-dois, quatro-quatro, dois-dois, quatro-quatro”)
He would omit the area code if he lived in the same city as you did.
But now, with nine numbers, we usually say: 9-00-00-00-00.
The second thing is, when talking about phone numbers we don’t usually say “seis” for six. We prefer to use the word “meia” meaning “meia dúzia” or “half a dozen.”
- Meu telefone é cinco-cinco meia-sete, dois-dois, dois-oito (5567-2228)
But, when talking about time, “meia” refers to “meia hora” or half an hour. So, “duas e meia” means 2:30.
And since we are talking about telling the time, just a quick thing to stop you from getting into trouble when you want to express the duration of something.
We don’t have a couple of minutes and we don’t say a quarter of an hour in Brazil.
It’s dois minutos and quinze minutos.
Just that. Believe me, it’s more common than you might think that Portuguese learners make this mistake, and Brazilians never correct them out of politeness.
Well, that’s it for today.
Now that you have done a deep dive into Portuguese numbers, how about learning some grammar to go with it?