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

      abbreviations
first premier
première 
  1st 1er
1re  
second deuxième   2nd 2e
third troisième   3rd 3e
fourth quatrième   4th 4e
fifth cinquième   5th 5e
sixth sixième   6th 6e
seventh  septième   7th 7e
eighth huitième   8th 8e
ninth neuvième   9th 9e
tenth dixième   10th  10e

etc.

  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:

cardinal add -ième
deux deuxième
vingt et un vingt et unième
cent centième

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

cardinal drop -e add -ième
quatre quatr quatrième
onze onz onzième
cinquante cinquant cinquantième

Two other numbers require minor spelling corrections in their ordinals:

cardinal correction add -ième
cinq cinqu cinquième
neuf neuv neuvième

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 quiz Quiz: Ordinal numbers

 Related lessons

 More French numbers

Learn Spanish En español

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French ordinal numbers
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