Latvian: number cases from 11 to 19


New Member
Hi, everyone.

I've been learning Latvian for the past six months now, as part my background is Latvian, and I'm confronted with two opposing views on which case nouns should have when preceded by the numbers 11 through 19.

In one resource guide, it says that all nouns take the genitive plural case from 11 to 19, e.g.) vienpadsmit gadu (eleven years), but another says that that rule only applies to numbers ending in -desmit (ten), e.g) desmit valodu (ten languages), divdesmit skolu (twenty schools).

Can a native Latvian speaker explain to me what the correct rules are for this situation?

Thank you. Paldies!
Last edited:
  • karuna

    Senior Member
    Latvian, Latvia
    Sveiks diesfaustus!

    What is the rule without understanding why such rule exists in the first place? ;)

    First of all, in colloquial Latvian (in Latvia) we rarely say desmit gadu as opposed to astoņi gadi. This form mostly belongs to the formal language and even then not always strictly followed.

    The reason is that historically the genitive case was used with inflexible numerals, similarly to other genitive constructions with certain adverbs that play the role of inflexible adjectives as in daudz darba, maz naudas.

    Flexible numerals are no different from normal adjectives as both: septiņi gadi. There is a tendency to use this patter with all numerals, including desmit, etc. So, today we are more likely to say desmit lati than desmit latu. Even native speakers often ask the question why there is a genitive form used on banknotes?

    Apparently, the genitive is even less likely to be used with numbers 11 to 19 for the same reason but you may encounter the genitive forms in formal language. Personally I would not use the genitive form with any numerals to avoid too formal.