Learn ordinal numbers in French (Les nombres ordinaux)

Ordinal numbers in French 1st to 12th.jp

Previously, we have seen cardinal numbers.

Today  you will learn how to say  the  first, second or third in French. For that, we use ordinal numbers.

 

1. What are ordinal numbers?

 

Ordinal numbers are adjectives used to give the rank or position of someone or something.

Example 

  • J'habite au deuxième étage. => I live at the second floor.

2. When do you use ordinal numbers in  French?

Ordinal numbers can be very useful in the following contexts :

  • to indicate someone’s position among others

  • to indicate the floor number or the district number when giving an address

  • to talk about centuries; e.g. vingt et unième siècle (21st century)

  • to tell fractions; e.g.  (1/5) = un cinquième

  • to indicate  the date (only for the 1st day  of the month); e.g. 1st May= le premier mai.

3. How to get ordinal numbers?

Before diving into learning them, make sure you know well your cardinal numbers as you will need them.

The rule is simple. Take the cardinal number and add the suffixe ième.

Example 

  • Deux+ième => deuxième (2nd)

  • Trois +ième = troisième (3rd)

Note that the 2nd can also be translated as le second/la seconde.

🛑Exceptions

  • For the cardinal numbers ending with  "e", then you should suppress the "e" before adding the suffix ième. E.g.  4th => quatr+ième = quatrième

  • For  numbers like cinq,  you should add "u" before the suffix. E.g. 5th => Cinq +u+ième =cinquième

  • For  numbers like neuf,  you should transform the f to v before adding the suffix. E.g.  9th => Neuv+ième = neuvième

You can use these numbers with articles, a possessive adjective or a different determiner.

Example

  • C’est la deuxième maison à droite. => It's the second house on the right.

  • Mon deuxième voyage en France était super ! => My second trip in France was great!

For numbers like 21, the ordinal becomes  vingt et unième.

4. How to say the first, last and before the last?

The first in French is translated as premier. When used with a feminine word, it becomes première.

The last is dernier or dernière depending on the gender.

Before the last is avant-dernier or avant-dernière.

Example

  • Il est toujours le premier à se réveiller. => He is always the last to wake up.

  • Elle est toujours la dernière à se réveiller. => She is always the last to wake up.

  • Elle est l'avant-dernière de la compétition. => She is before the last of the competition.

5. How to write ordinals in an abbreviate form?

 

In general, their abbreviation  follow this pattern in French : cardinal number followed by a surperscript letter e, without any space.  In plural the letter "e" takes "S".

 

However, first and second have particular abbreviations. Here is the list of the numbers from 1st to 10th abbreviated.

 

  • 1st = 1er or 1re

  • 2nd = 2e,  2d or 2de

  •  3rd = 3e

  • 4th = 4e

  • 5th = 5e

  • 6th = 6e

  • 7th = 7e

  • 8th = 8e

  • 9th = 9e

  • 10th = 10e.

Ordinal numbers in French 13th to 24th.p

6. Practice your ordinal numbers

 

​If you want to test your knowledge and make sure you understood how ordinal numbers work, take our test here.

You can also practice with this interesting exercise of Lingolia. Happy practicing !

 

Related lessons 

Numbers from 0 to 100

Demonstrative adjectives

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