Ordinal Numbers

French ordinal numbers
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Adjectifs numéraux ordinaux

Ordinal numbers are essential for lists: they denote the rank, position, or order of items in a group, whether that group is made up of people, objects, or things to do.

Par exemple…

Guy est en deuxième position, et Alain en cinquième. Guy is in second place, and Alain is in fifth.
En premier lieu, il faut choisir un président. In the first place, The first thing we need to do is choose a chairperson.

French ordinal numbers

seconddeuxième 2nd2e
thirdtroisième 3rd3e
fourthquatrième 4th4e
fifthcinquième 5th5e
sixthsixième 6th6e
seventhseptième 7th7e
eighthhuitième 8th8e
ninthneuvième 9th9e
tenthdixième 10th 10e


 Premier is the only ordinal number that changes to agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies.

Par exemple…

ta première idée your first idea
les premiers colonisateurs the first colonizers

 In English, we can say, for example, May 25 or May 25th. But in French, the only ordinal number that is used for dates is premier – for all other dates, you must use the cardinal number.

  Note the abbreviated forms for each ordinal number. Though many native French speakers write things like 2ème or 2ième, they are incorrect: the only correct abbreviation for deuxième is 2e. Likewise, the abbreviation for première is 1re, not 1ère.

Creating ordinal numbers

Other than premier, all ordinal numbers are based on their corresponding cardinal numbers:

cardinaladd –ième
vingt et unvingt et unième

When the cardinal number ends in -e, that letter is dropped before the ordinal ending:

cardinaldrop –eadd –ième

Two other numbers require minor spelling corrections in their ordinals:

cardinalcorrectionadd -ième

Of course, those corrections are also required in dix-neuvième, vingt-cinquième, etc.

 Most ordinal numbers are identical to their corresponding fractions

 If you have trouble remembering the difference between ordinal and cardinal numbers, try this mnemonic:

  • ordinals are for ordering
  • cardinals are for counting cards
French quizQuiz: Ordinal numbers

 Related lessons

 More French numbers

Learn Spanish En español

Learn Italian In italiano

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French ordinal numbers

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