How People Count on their Fingers around the World

counting one"It’s interesting to learn about how people count on their fingers in different countries… I mean the way people show the digits with their fingers.  In the U.S., people show the forefinger for 1, so do the Spanish. While in France, we show the thumb, so do the Germans.  In Morocco, they join the thumb and the pinkie for one, the thumb and the ring finger for two…" -Monique

That’s interesting! 

In the US, we count one way (staring with the index finger) if we’re counting on our fingers for another person to see. But we count differently if we’re only counting on our fingers to ourselves (i.e. with no one else in the room). In the latter case we start with the thumb, then put up the index finger, the middle finger, the ring finger and the pinkie.

When we count on our fingers for someone else, we do it like this:

20160122_151006 (1)Start with the index finger for one.

20160122_151008For two, we put up the index and middle finger.

20160122_151013 (1)For three, we put up the index finger, middle finger and ring finger.

20160122_151015For four, we put up the index finger, middle finger, ring finger and the pinkie.

20160122_151022For five we add the thumb, thus putting up all five fingers.

But when we count on our fingers to ourselves, we start with the thumb and add fingers in this order: the index finger, middle finger, ring finger and pinkie.

To order one cup of coffee in a café in the US, we put up our index finger (like the pic for counting 1 above).

20160122_151025The French start counting with their thumb for one.

20160122_151028For two, they hold up the thumb and index finger.

20160122_151030For three, they hold up the thumb, index finger and middle finger.

20160122_151015For four, they hold up the index finger, middle finger, ring finger and pinkie.

20160122_151022For five, they hold up all five fingers.

To order one coffee in a café in France, you only put up your thumb.

How do you count on your fingers in your country? Let us know in the comments below or you can email me photos showing how you count.

Mama Lisa

Monique Palomares works with me on the French and Spanish versions of Mama Lisa’s World.

This article was posted on Friday, January 22nd, 2016 at 8:18 pm and is filed under Counting on Your Fingers, Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, France, Germany, Morocco, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “How People Count on their Fingers around the World”

  1. Monique Says:

    It’s funny that when we show numbers on our fingers in France, we do it the way Lisa describes but when we count to ourselves, we count the very same way the they count to themselves in the US.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Mohamed wrote from Morocco:

    “Concerning counting on fingers, I truly appreciate your note about Morocco. And here you can find both, people who count using the thumb to mean “one” and others who use the little finger, but never the index.”

  3. Lisa Says:

    Meeghan G. told me they count the same way on their fingers in Italy as the French.

  4. How They Count on Their Hands in the Dominican Republic Says:

    […] We recently discussed how people count on their fingers in different countries. […]

  5. Lisa Says:

    Ola Jablonska wrote, “Starts with the thumb in Poland.”

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