Learn how to really count Tagalog numbers in the Philippines!
If you are reading this article, chances are you are either not a native speaker of Tagalog or a curious Pinoy who happened to see my title while scanning through the Internet. After all, I just told you that there’s an actual way of counting in Tagalog. But what if I tell you that the actual way to count numbers in Tagalog is by not counting numbers in Tagalog?
Think I’m pulling your leg? Well, keep reading.
If you read the other posts in this blog like Why is Tagalog Easy to Learn? and Why do Filipinos speak English So Well?, you know that the Philippines was conquered by the Spanish and the Americans. It is also conquered by Japan, and to some extent, Britain and the Dutch Republic but that’s beside the point.
Numbers-wise, Spanish and American English are the greatest contributors to this whole “count numbers in Tagalog by not counting numbers in Tagalog” thing. You see, the lists of Tagalog numbers you find in Tagalog grammar books and websites are not technically wrong. They are just not that common in day-to-day conversations, especially within the Metro Manila.
Now, before you click that “Back” button or scream “MISREPRESENTATION OF THE PHILIPPINES!!!1!1!!” in the comments, ask yourself, how often do you hear Tagalog numbers in a casual conversation?
No need for those torches here.
If you can count to the thousands in Tagalog, then kudos to you. However, it is undeniable that counting in the Philippines is not as simple as 1, 2, 3 (pun intended). In this post, I’m going to talk about the different “levels” of counting Tagalog cardinal numbers.
Tagalog Numbers: Cardinals
Cardinal numbers are the numbers you use to count things like “one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes”. Tagalog cardinal numbers started short but they can get real long, real fast. If you are not a Tagalog-speaker or not familiar with Tagalog numbers, here are some of the cardinal numbers in Tagalog:
11 labing isa
12 labing dalawa
13 labing tatlo
14 labing apat
15 labing lima
20 dalawang pu
21 dalawang pu’t isa
22 dalawang pu’t dalawa
23 dalawang pu’t tatlo
24 dalawang pu’t apat
25 dalawang pu’t lima
30 tatlung pu
40 apat na pu
50 limang pu
100 isang daan
115 isang daan at labing lima
150 isang daan at limang pu
200 dalawang daan
300 tatlung daan
400 apat na daan
500 limang daan
1000 isang libo
As a comparison, 21 in Tagalog or “dalawang pu’t isa” has 6 syllables, compare the English three-syllable “twenty-one”. Just saying the year this article is posted on the Internet is a mouthful. It’s “taong dalawang libo at labing walo”. For that reason, Filipinos usually prefer to say the English “two thousand and eighteen” or better yet, “twenty eighteen”.
This Tagalog number system is not unused per se. After all, Filipinos still use it, especially in areas not as exposed to English as the Metro Manila. However, once the number reaches the “mouthful”-threshold (depending on the person), people may resort to either Spanish or English.
Tagalog Numbers: Ordinals
Ordinal numbers are numbers used to rank or order thing, like “1st”, “2nd”, and “3rd”. If you think that Tagalog counting numbers are long, you should hear about the Tagalog ordinal numbers. It is basically adding “ika” in front of the counting numbers. For example, 14th is “ika-labing apat” and 115th is “ika-isang daan at labing lima”. That’s an additional two syllables, right there.
Imagine the number of steps you’ll need for the 115th person.
As you may now know if you read Why do Filipinos speak English So Well?, Spanish used to be one of the official languages of the Philippines. It may not be one right now, but the effects of Spanish in the local languages in the Philippines are still present. One of the most enduring Spanish influences is the Spanish numerical system.
Speaking of “enduring Spanish influences”: Ricky Martin
If your Spanish numbers are limited to Ricky Martin’s “María“, here are some that are used in the Philippines. Note that since these are used in the Philippines, there are some changes in pronunciation and spelling from the standard Spanish.
21 bente uno
22 bente dos
23 bente tres
24 bente kwatro
25 bente singko
1000 isang libo
When and How do we use them?
Since you are reading this blog post, it is safe to assume that you know how to count in English. Nonetheless, here are 1- 10 in the three languages including the number of syllables in parentheses.
|1||one (1)||isa (1)||uno/una (2)|
|2||two (1)||dalawa (3)||dos (1)|
|3||three (1)||tatlo (2)||tres (1)|
|4||four (1)||apat (2)||kwartro (2)|
|5||five (1)||lima (2)||singko (2)|
|6||six (1)||anim (2)||sais (2)|
|7||seven (2)||pito (2)||siyete (3)|
|8||eight (1)||walo (2)||osto (2)|
|9||nine (1)||siyam (2)||nuwebe (3)|
|10||ten (1)||sampo (2)||diyes (2)|
As you can see, the numbers in Tagalog and Spanish are relatively longer, syllable-wise. It may not sound much at first but given the situation and the numbers that you have to say, you may thank the past Filipinos for giving us options when it comes to counting numbers.
Let’s talk about money, counting money to be specific. Counting money in the Philippines can be tricky at first. You have at least 3 languages to choose from, and that’s excluding the local languages that the people can speak in an area. So, when do you use Tagalog, English, or Spanish numbers?
First, learn some of the money lingo. Philippine peso (Php) is the currency in the Philippines while piso is equal one Philippine peso. However, more than one piso is pesos, not “pisos”. You may also encounter the words “buo”, “basag”, and “barya”.
“Barya lang po sa umaga.”
(“Use loose change when paying in the morning, please.”)
“Buo” means “whole” in Tagalog. In money-context, it means “whole money” or paper bills, a.k.a no coins. That means multiples of 10, 100, and 1000 only. “Basag” means “cracked or broken” in Tagalog. In money terms, it means “broken money” or your money is comprised of paper bills and coins. So, ₱1678 is “basag”. Lastly, “barya” means “coins” in Tagalog. Sometimes, it means “coins only” but sometimes it can also mean like “basag” or when you have bills and coins. Tagalog is fickle that way.
Going back to the choices between languages, you can treat English numbers as the default choice, given the frequency of the preferred language when counting money in Tagalog-speaking areas:
|Multiples of 10||✓||✓|
|Multiples of 100||✓||✓|
|Multiples of 1000||✓||✓||✓|
That being said, this table is not definitive nor conclusive. Some areas may prefer more Tagalog. Some areas may use more Spanish. But for areas where people are frequently exposed to English, like Metro Manila, this is usually the case.
You can really tell the effects Spanish had on the Philippines in the way some Filipinos tell time. For most of the younger generations who grew up learning English in schools, English is the default language. However, that’s not the case for the some of the older generations. They prefer Spanish.
The Spanish time-telling version is so embedded in the Tagalog language that some Tagalog resources and books teach the Spanish version rather than the Tagalog. In the first place, telling time per hours, minutes, and seconds is a concept borrowed from the Spanish. Pre-colonial Filipinos have different ways to tell time and those definitely didn’t include clocks nor hourglasses. (If you’re interested in that topic, send us a message or comment down below!)
Here’s a table to compare the different ways to tell time in the Philippines:
|1||one o’ clock||one AM/PM||ala una||ika-isa|
|2||two o’ clock||two AM/PM||alas dos||ika-dalawa|
|3||three o’ clock||three AM/PM||alas tres||ika-tatlo|
|4||four o’ clock||four AM/PM||alas kwartro||ika-apat|
|5||five o’ clock||five AM/PM||alas singko||ika-lima|
|6||six o’ clock||six AM/PM||alas sais||ika-anim|
|7||seven o’ clock||seven AM/PM||alas siyete||ika-pito|
|8||eight o’ clock||eight AM/PM||alas osto||ika-walo|
|9||nine o’ clock||nine AM/PM||alas nuwebe||ika-siyam|
|10||ten o’ clock||ten AM/PM||alas diyes||ika-sampo|
|11||eleven o’ clock||eleven AM/PM||alas onse||ika-labing isa|
|12||twelve o’ clock||twelve AM/PM||alas dose||Ika-labing dalawa|
|— : 15||— fifteen / quarter past||— fifteen||— y kinse||labing limang minuto makalipas…|
|— : 30||— thirty / half past||— thirty||— y media||tatlung pung minuto makalipas…|
|— : 45||— forty-five / quarter to||— forty-five||— y kuwarenta’y singko||apat na pu’t limang minuto makalipas…|
As you can see, Filipinos may use the English “—o’ clock” version but using AM and PM to tell time and differentiate the morning from the afternoon is just too efficient not to use. After all, “eight AM” is wayyy shorter than saying “eight o’clock in the morning” or even “eight in the morning”.
On the flipside, you rarely hear anyone use Tagalog to tell time. That’s excluding radio broadcasters, news reporters, or an occasional layman, so it still pays to learn Tagalog time-telling system. Just remember that not everybody says, “labing pitong minuto makalipas ang ika-labing-isa ng umaga” when asked, “Anong oras na?” (“What is the time?”)
That’s “11:17 AM” for you.
Count Tagalog Efficiently
The Philippine may have two official nationwide lingua francas: Tagalog and English. However, when it comes to counting numbers, you can also count on Spanish. By all means, learn how to count Tagalog numbers. But like they say, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. When in the Philippines, you may want to try to do as the Filipinos do: count efficiently. Even if that means, not using Tagalog numbers at all in some situations.