Ngā Tau – Numbers – In Te Reo Māori

Cardinal Numbers 1, 2, 3,4, 5 etc

(Cardinal numbers are just your regular numbers used to count, give telephone numbers, say how many things there are of a certain kind etc, etc)

kore (0), tahi (1), rua (2), toru (3), whā (4), rima, (5), ono (6), whitu (7), waru (8), iwa (9), tekau (10)

*NB  Another less common option for ‘ten’ which can also mean ‘tenth’ is ngahuru.  It can be combined with ‘mā’ and other numbers just like tekau is.  Eg. Ngahuru mā ono (16).

You can just put these numbers in a row to give a phone number:

ono whā whitu toru kore rima whā whā iwa   647305449

But for one of anything the word ‘kotahi’ is used instead of tahi.

Kotahi hōiho.  One horse.

I te wā kotahi.  At the one (same) time.

Kotahi rau.  One hundred.

Kotahi mano.  One thousand.

For lots of the numbers bigger than ten, you will need the word ‘mā’ (and) to add any ones on the end. 

tekau mā tahi, ten and one = 11

tekau mā rua, ten and two = 12

tekau mā toru, ten and three = 13

For multiples of ten 20-90 you just say how many tens that is:

rua tekau (20), toru tekau (30), whā tekau (40), rima tekau (50), ono tekau (60), whitu tekau (70). waru tekau (70), iwa tekau (90)

And then of course you can just use ‘mā’ to add those ones:

rua tekau mā tahi (21), toru tekau mā waru (38), whā tekau mā iwa (40), rima tekau mā whitu (57), ono tekau mā toru (63) etc

That should get you all the way to 99. 







After 99 here’s some more numbers you may need …

rau = hundred
mano =
miriona =
piriona =
rau one hundred
rua rau two hundred
kotahi mano one thousand
kotahi miriona one million

For bigger numbers, hundreds and tens just follow on. But ones are preceded by mā just like before.

Kotahi rau, toru tekau mā whitu.   137

Kotahi mano, rua rau, whitu tekau mā toru. 1273

You’ll need those bigger numbers to talk about years.

Rua mano, rua tekau mā whā 2024
Rua mano, tekau mā tahi 2011
Kotahi mano, iwa rau, waru tekau  1980

NB:  Rau – hundred, and mano -thousand, can also be used to mean a large number of something, not specifically one hundred or one thousand.

totorau – many bloods (ie. someone who descends from many lines)

Te tini me te mano – everyone, very many people  

And for even bigger numbers put the ones, tens and hundreds miriona (million), piriona (billion) etc.

9,874,249 – E iwa miriona, waru rau, whitu tekau mā whā mano, rua rau, whā tekau mā iwa

Ordinal Numbers 

(For ‘ordinal’ numbers just think of the numbers you need to put things in ‘ord’er lol – first, second, third etc)

To form the ordinal numbers in te reo Māori you add ‘tua’ in front of the numbers from 1-9.

tuatahi – first

tuarua – second

tuatoru – third

tuawhā – fourth

tuarima  – fifth

tuaono – sixth

tuawhitu – seventh

tuawaru – eight

tuaiwa – ninth

*ngahuru – tenth – not common


Some examples of ordinal numbers in use:

Kei te papa tuatoru tōna whare.   Her apartment is on the third floor.

Me pānui koe i te wāhanga tuarima.  You should read the fifth chapter/section.

I tuarua a Mere.  Mary came second.

Ko koe te tuatahi ki te kōrero i roto i tēnei wānanga.  You’re the first to speak at this conference.

Ordinal numbers from 10 up don’t require the prefix ‘tua’.

tekau mā iwa = 19 & 19th

toru tekau = 30 & 30th









Of course you’ll often need to use numbers with people or things so let’s see how to do that:

For one thing or person you use ‘kotahi’:

Kotahi te motoka.  There’s  one car.

Kotahi te tangata.  There’s one man.

If you’re saying how many things there are, you put ‘e’ in front of the numbers up to 2-9.   

If you’re saying how many people there are, you put ‘toko’ in front of the numbers up to 2-9.

E toru ngā pea.   There are three bears.

Toko toru ngā kōtiro.  There are three girls.

E rima ngā heihei.  There are 5 chickens.

Tokoiwa ngā tamariki.  There are 9 children.


The ‘e’ works a bit like ‘there are’.  Notice the difference in meaning if you change the order of the sentence:

Ngā ngeru e iwa.   The 9 cats.

E iwa ngā ngeru.   There are 9 cats.


Numbers after 10 don’t require a prefix.

Tekau mā ono ngā kurī.  There are 16 dogs.

Tekau ngā tamariki.  There are 10 children.


You can also reverse the order when you’re going to add some more information:

Ngā whare e rua …

The two houses …


To ask how many there are, you will use:

E hia?    (for things)

Tokohia?    (for people)


E hia ngā hōiho?  How many horses are there?

Tokohia ngā tāngata?  How many people are there?











These work much the same was as in English, the numbers before the decimal point are said as we’ve learnt above, then the numbers after the point are just said in a list without mā.  Use the word ‘ira’ for the decimal point.

45.78   whā tekau mā rima ira whitu waru










Numbers in te reo Māori don’t behave exactly like they do in English, in English they are adjectives (describing nouns) in te reo Māori however they’re more like verbs.  It’s a bit like they include the verb ‘to be’.    Instead of just ‘1’ or  ‘4’ it’s more like ‘is 1’ or ‘are 4’.

Because they are more like verbs they are generally preceded by a verbal particle such as ‘e’, ‘ka’, ‘kua’, ‘kia’ or ‘i’

If the number begins with tekau or toko the verbal particle isn’t used.

Ēnei tēpu e rua.   These two tables.  (lit.  These tables are two.)

Ngā tamariki tekau mā rua.  The 12 children.   

Āna mokopuna tokowhā.   His four grandchildren.

The sentences above have determiners in the English sentences too: ‘these’, ‘the’ and ‘his’. But sometimes English sentences won’t have determiners, yet the te reo equivalents will generally still have them because sentences with nouns just generally also include determiners.   This is especially the case with sentences that involve ‘there is’, ‘there are’ or ‘someone having a number of things’.

E waru ngā pukapuka.   There are 8 books.  (not ‘There are 8 the books.’)

Tokorua āku teina.   I have 2 younger sisters. (not ‘I have 2 my sisters.’)

You can also use the order of your sentences to stress the most important thing.

Both of the following sentences could be translated as ‘He saw 9 children behind the school’ but the stress is a little different in each.

In the second one the determiner ‘ētahi’ is needed although it’s not found in the English translation.  This is because sentences in te reo Māori that include nouns also normally contain a determiner.

Tokoiwa ngā tamariki i kite ia i muri i te kura.   The stress is on the fact that there were 9.

I kite ia i ētahi tamariki tokoiwa (nei) i muri i te kura.    The 9 is not so important, what’s important is that he saw children behind the school.









Ka, kua and i before a number, can all be replaced by ‘e’ + a number but ‘kia’ can not.

Ka toru – that makes three  (this is usually used to express a progression to that number)

Ka toru ai aku pukapuka.   I’ve got three books.  (ie.  I have progressively gained books and now that number has reached 3)

E toru aku pukapuka.   I’ve got three books.  (can be translated the same was as the ‘ka’ sentence but without the meaning of having gradually reached that number)

Ka rima tau au ki reira.   I’ll be there for 5 years.  (talking about the future, that the years will eventually add up to 5).


Kua toru – refers to something having been completed

Kua waru kē ngā rā ….  After eight days … (lit the days have already become eight)


I – there was / were (can also be expressed by ‘e + a number)’

I waru ngā hipi.   There were  eight sheep.


Kia toru – let there be three –

When a number of something is wanted or part of a command, use ‘kia’. 

Hōmai kia ono ngā pihikete.    Give me six biscuits.

Kia hia?    How many?  (lit.  You want that there should be how many?)




Kotahi taku tuahine.   I have one sister.

Ka ngaro e rua ngā tāea o tētahi o ō mātau motokā.   Two tyres from our cars went missing.