How to ask someone’s age in German & German numbers

numbers and age

In Germany, part of getting to know a person is enquiring about their age (‘Alter‘). In many other cultures, one’s age is considered personal, and asking about it would be rude, but not so in Germany. Germans are very straightforward!

Knowing someone’s age is seen as important since most people prefer to connect with people of the same age. Also, how old a person is reveals a lot about the political and personal background they grew up in – whether you’re a child of the eighties or nineties does make a difference!

How to say ‘How old are you?’ in German

To ask about someone’s age in German, you can say ‘Wie alt sind Sie?‘ or ‘Wie alt bist du?‘. Both sentences mean ‘How old are you?‘. I’m sure by now you know that the former question, using ‘Sie‘ is formal, and the latter, using ‘du‘, is informal, to be used with close friends.

To answer the question ‘Wie alt bist du?‘ or ‘Wie alt sind Sie?‘  you simply start a sentence with ‘Ich bin …‘, meaning ‘I am …’, and then add your age. That means it’s time to learn German numbers!

Here’s a short example of a brief conversation that involves asking about someone’s age. The conversation also recaps some of what you learned before.

Hi! Wie geht’s?

Mir geht’s gut. Und dir?

Auch gut. Ich heiße übrigens Paula.

Cool! Ich heiße Manuel.

Wie alt bist du, Manuel?

Ich bin vierunddreißig, und du?

Ich bin sechsundzwanzig.

Okay! Bis bald.

Bis später.


Note: I added the word ‘übrigens‘ in one sentence, which means ‘by the way’.

Learning to count in German

Here’s the good news: Learning to count in German is not that hard. You will need to learn a few numbers by heart, and all other numbers follow a simple pattern.

I’d recommend learning the numbers 1 – 20 by heart. Numbers 1 – 12 are unique, and although the formation of numbers 13 – 19 does follow a pattern, they are slightly different from how you form numbers 21 – 99.

So let’s first start with the numbers 1 – 12:


One – 1


Two – 2


Three – 3


Four – 4


Five – 5


Six – 6


Seven – 7


Eight – 8


Nine – 9


Ten – 10


Eleven – 11


Twelve – 12

Those are the unique numbers in German. Most other numbers (except for multiples of 10,  multiples of 100, and so on) are formed using the numbers above.

Let’s continue with the numbers 13 – 19. To form those, you take the first four letters of the number between three and nine and add the word “zehn” (10), the German word for ten, at the end:


Thirteen – 13


Fourteen – 14


Fifteen – 15


Sixteen – 16


Seventeen – 17


Eighteen – 18


Nineteen – 19

Multiples of 10

We’re almost there. Let’s now learn the multiples of 10 and then I’ll explain how to form the German words of all other numbers between 20 and 100.

The multiples of 10 from forty to ninety are formed by taking the first four letters between four and ten and then adding the suffix “-zig“.

As you can see, 20 and 30 are exceptions to this rule:


Twenty – 20


Thirty – 30


Forty – 40


Fifty – 50


Sixty – 60


Seventy – 70


Eighty – 80


Ninety – 90


A hundred – 100

How to form the words for all other numbers in German

All numbers larger than 20 (except for multiples of 10, 100, and so on) follow the same rule: The second number is said first. This is what I mean:

Let’s say, you’d like to say 99 in German. In English, you say ‘ninety-nine’, so you first say the bigger number (the multiple of 10), followed by the smaller one (the number between 1 and 9).

In German, this is different. Germans say ‘nine-and-ninety’, naming first the smaller number and then the larger one. So, 99 in German is ‘neunundneunzig‘.

While it may take a bit of getting used to, once you have internalized this pattern, you know how to say any number between 21 and 99!

Here are some more examples to illustrate the point:

58 – ‘eight-and-fifty’ – ‘achtundfünfzig

34 – ‘four-and-thirty’ – ‘vierunddreißig

67 – ‘seven-and-sixty’ – ‘siebenundsechzig

You can write down a few more numbers for yourself and then follow the above pattern to get to the German name for each number.

And how do I count to 1000 in German?

Once you are secure in forming the German names for numbers between 1 and 100, you are theoretically able to count up to infinity…! But let’s just start with counting up to 1000.

To count up to 1000, all you need to learn additionally is the multiples of a hundred. Forming the multiple of 100 is easy: You take the number between one and nine and add ‘hundert‘ (a hundred) at the end.


A hundred – 100


Two hundred – 200


Three hundred – 300


Four hundred – 400


Five hundred – 500


Six hundred – 600


Seven hundred – 700


Eight hundred – 800


Nine hundred – 900


A thousand – 1000

To say any number between 101 and 999, you add the name of the multiple of 100 in front of the other number.

For example:

124 is ‘hundert‘ + ‘vierundzwanzig‘ -> hundertvierundzwanzig

To internalize this, here are some more examples:

301 – ‘dreihundert‘ + ‘eins‘ -> dreihunderteins

513 – ‘fünfhundert‘ + ‘dreizehn‘ -> fünfhundertdreizehn

946 – ‘neunhundert‘ + ‘sechsundvierzig‘ -> neunhundertsechsundvierzig

Not too hard, after all, is it?

Using numbers in German sentences

Generally speaking, using numbers in German sentences is very similar to the way numbers are used in English sentences:

Ich habe zwei Brüder.

I have two brothers.

Du hast fünfzig Tragetaschen!

You’ve got fifty handbags!

Die Leute haben schon drei Mal gewählt in diesem Jahr.

This year people have already voted three times.

The big exception is the number one – ‘eins. This number adapts to the gender and the case of the noun it describes.

By the way, variations of the number ‘eins‘ are also used for the English words ‘a’ and ‘an’.

You haven’t yet learned about the German cases, so please don’t feel overwhelmed by the following explanations. The more you advance in your German practice, the more it will all make sense!

This is how you use forms of the number ‘eins‘ if the noun is in the nominative:

  • masculine nouns: ein Freund (a friend)
  • neuter nouns: ein Haus (a house)
  • feminine nouns: eine Freundin (a female friend)

Now, this is how you use ‘eins‘ if the noun is in the genitive:

  • masculine nouns: eines Freundes (of a friend)
  • neuter nouns: eines Hauses (of a house)
  • feminine nouns: einer Freundin (of a female friend)

For nouns in the dative:

  • masculine nouns: einem Freund (to a friend)
  • neuter nouns: einem Haus (to a house)
  • feminine nouns: einer Freundin (to a female friend)

And finally, for nouns in the accusative:

  • masculine nouns: einen Freund (a friend)
  • neuter nouns: ein Haus (a house)
  • feminine nouns: eine Freundin (a female friend)

If this is too much to understand right now, don’t worry about it. The cases of nouns will be explained in depth in a more advanced lesson.

For now, have fun counting in German and finding out how old your German peers are!

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