Malagasy: Numbers (Up to 99)

Numbers are very important in Madagascar – especially when buying things – but also complicated even for Malagasy people. In Antananarivo (Tana), many shopkeepers will use French numbers because they’re considered “more clear” than Malagasy numbers – and, in doubt, either write a number using Arabic numerals on paper, or use a cell phone calculator to show you the number (again, using Arabic numerals).

Here are some basic numbers in Malagasy:

iray one Pronounced “ray” (as in “stingray”).
roa two Pronounced “rue-uh”.
telo three Pronounced “tay-loo”.
efatra four
dimy five
enina six
fito seven
valo eight
sivy nine
folo ten

So far so good? Well, the next series of numbers is additive, functioning more or less as “number plus ten”.

iraika amby folo eleven Pronounced “ee-rye-kuh ahm-bee fooloo”
roa amby folo twelve
telo amby folo thirteen
efatra amby folo fourteen
dimy amby folo fifteen
enina amby folo sixteen
fito amby folo seventeen
valo amby folo eighteen
sivy amby folo nineteen
roa polo twenty Literally “two tens”, but with the “f” changing to a “p”, which cues you that you’re moving into larger numbers.

The next set of numbers (through 99) follows a combination of the above two schemes. For example:


iraika amby roa polo twenty-one Literally “one plus two tens”.
roa amby roa polo twenty-two
telo amby telo polo thirty-three
efatra amby telo polo thirty-four
dimy amby efa-polo forty-five Efa-polo is a contraction of “efatra-polo”. Both are correct, but “efa-polo” is the one you almost always hear.
enina amby efa-polo forty-six
fito amby dimampolo fifty-seven
valo amby dimampolo fifty-eight
sivy amby enimpolo sixty-nine
fitopolo seventy
iraika amby fitopolo seventy-one
valopolo eighty
iraika amby valopolo eighty-one
sivi-folo ninety The “y” turns to an “i” when it becomes an interior vowel. The pronunciation is the same, though!

The “p” turning back into an “f” is one of those special exceptions here.

sivy amby sivi-folo ninety-nine

A note on punctuation: when writing the larger number at the end of a compound number, you will see people using hyphens, spaces, and no spaces. This inconsistency is normal and these do not affect pronunciation!


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