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

first premier
  1st 1er
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


 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 French 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

 Number Quizzes

Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on ordinal and cardinal numbers with these fill-in-the-blank exercises:

 Related lessons

 More French numbers

Learn Spanish En español

Learn Italian In italiano

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French ordinal numbers

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