An important topic I haven’t yet covered is how to count in Latvian. For now, we’ll start with the very basics – how to count up to nine and how Latvians indicate ordinals (first, second, third, and so on).
Numbers Zero Through Nine
For the most part, this is quite straightforward. These are critical to learn early on as the digits are used in word-building quite frequently, in addition to just being handy for phone numbers, addresses, etc.
Zero is nulle. You can create nulltais, an ordinal, from nulle, the same way we can create zeroth from zero. I believe nulltais is used as jargon primarily and may not be considered a “real” word (neither is zeroth for that matter).
Viens is singular without a plural form. The remaining digits from two through nine are plural without singular forms. Ten and up are handled a little differently, so I’ll do those in another post so this one isn’t hugely long.
Every number from 1 to 9 has two endings, masculine and feminine. Except for trīs, one through nine decline like regular indefinite adjectives. (I’ll note the table for trīs at the end of the post.) Ordinals (including trīs) decline like regular definitive adjectives.
Note the different stem used for pirmais/pirmā and otrais/otrā.
Cardinals (m/f) | # | Ordinals (m/f) | Meaning | |
viens – viena | 1 | pirmais – pirmā | 1. | first |
divi – divas | 2 | otrais – otrā | 2. | second |
trīs | 3 | trešais – trešā | 3. | third |
četri – četras | 4 | ceturtais – ceturtā | 4. | fourth |
pieci – piecas | 5 | piektais – piektā | 5. | fifth |
seši – sešas | 6 | sestais – sestā | 6. | sixth |
septiņi – septiņas | 7 | septītais – septītā | 7. | seventh |
astoņi – astoņas | 8 | astotais – astotā | 8. | eighth |
deviņi – deviņas | 9 | devītais – devītā | 9. | ninth |
Difference between cardinal and ordinal numbers
First, a number is a skaitļa vārds. A cardinal number, or pamata skaitļa vārds is a number word that indicates the quantity of something like one, two, or three. An ordinal number, or kārtas skaitļa vārds, is a number word signifies rank, order, position, importance, or other discriminating factor like first, second, or third.
When we write ordinals using digits in English, we’ll write “2nd” or “3rd”, with an abbreviation of the last two letters of the ordinal’s written form. Latvians simply place a period after the number like so: “2nd” is “2.” and “3rd” is “3.” If a roman numeral is used (VI or L, etc.), no dot is needed but the number is still considered an ordinal. When you read roman numerals aloud, you’d use the definitive adjectival form of the number.
Cardinal numbers are written without a dot. “One” is just “1” that’s all
An important thing to remember is that Latvians use commas for decimal notation rather than periods. For example: A bottle of water’s label would read 1,5 l for the volume, while in America we’d see 1.5 L on our labels. Prices are written similarly: the same bottle of water might cost Ls 0,75.
Trīs Trouble
Trīs can be either declined specially, as shown below, or not declined at all:
vīriešu dzimte (masc.) | sieviešu dzimte (fem.) | |
Nom. – Kas? | trīs | trīs |
Gen. – Kā? | triju, trīs | triju, trīs |
Dat. – Kam? | trim, trijiem, trīs | trim, trijām, trīs |
Acc. – Ko? | trīs | trīs |
Intr. – Ar ko? | ar trim, trijiem, trīs | ar trim, trijām, trīs |
Loc. – Kur? | trijos, trīs | trijās, trīs |
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