Ordinal Numbers in Spanish
Today is my 20th birthday! My party will be at the fifth house on the second avenue. As of now, you’re the first to know!
Ok, ok, so today isn’t really my birthday, but without the use of ordinal numbers, I wouldn’t be able to tell you all about it.
Ordinal numbers tell us about an object’s position in relation to others. They are the numerical labels that help us arrange objects or ideas in order: first, second, third, etc. They are different from cardinal numbers, or natural numbers, that represent a quantity that we can count.
Keep reading to master using ordinal numbers in Spanish!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Ordinal Numbers in Spanish: 1-10
- Ordinal Numbers in Spanish as Adjectives
- Ordinal Numbers vs Cardinal Numbers
- Number Order in Spanish
- Ordinal Numbers in Spanish: 11-100
- Abbreviations of Ordinal Numbers in Spanish
- Use Numbers in Your Free Spanish Class
- Ordinal Numbers QUIZ with Instant Results
Ordinal Numbers 1-10
The most commonly used números ordinales in Spanish are numbers 1-10. As you will soon see, the numbers after 10 grow in complexity and length, which has undoubtedly persuaded Spanish speakers to use the cardinal numbers between 11 and a million much more frequently. Let’s start with a list of the numbers 1-10 in their ordinal form with a pronunciation cheat sheet!
It is important to take note that we do not use these ordinal numbers in Spanish exactly the same way that we use them in English. For example, unlike English, we write the days of the month with the cardinal number to specify a date. The only exception is for the first day of the month, where we use the ordinal number:
Cardinal number: El diez de agosto (August 10th)
Ordinal number for the first day of any month: El primero de abril (April 1st), el primero de agosto (August 1st)
The use of the ordinal number to denote the first of the month is a general and common rule for Spanish, but it is acceptable only in Spain to use uno instead of primero (El uno de abril).
Give it a try
Here is a quick quiz to see if you can fill in the blanks with the correct ordinal number, using the chart above to help! (See the answers at the end of the blog to check your work!)
1. el ______________ (8th) carro
2. el ______________ (1st) de noviembre
3. el ______________ (10th) suéter
4. el ______________ (5th) hermano
5. el ______________ (9th) cuadro
Ordinal Numbers as Adjectives
A smart way to approach ordinal numbers is to see them as the adjective form of cardinal numbers.
Remember, every adjective in this language has to agree with the number and gender of the noun.
Let’s look at some examples to better understand this:
La primera lluvia del año
The first rain of the year
In this case, lluvia is the noun. A feminine, singular noun. So, the adjective primera reflects that.
Los primeros vuelos del día
The first few flights of the day
In this example, vuelos is a masculine, plural noun, and the ordinal number primeros works as an adjective to reflect the qualities of the noun.
Although ordinal numbers behaving as adjectives usually precede the noun, when they’re used as part of a name, royalty or nobility title, they come after the noun.
Ricardo Tercero es una obra de teatro escrita por Shakespeare.
Richard the Third is a theater play written by Shakespeare.
Ordinal Versus Cardinal
While cardinal numbers act as adjectives, ordinal numbers can be adverbs, pronouns, and adjectives. The major difference between them is that cardinal numbers do not usually change according to the gender and number of the noun, as ordinal numbers do. Here are a few examples that show how ordinal numbers change in order to adapt to the noun that they describe:
|Today I bought my second car.||Hoy compré mi segundo carro.|
|We live on 5th street.||Vivimos en la quinta calle.|
|They game the first ticket.||Me dieron el primer boleto.|
|It’s the third time that I’ve called you.||Es la tercera vez que te llamo.|
|I have two cars.||Yo tengo dos carros.|
|We live five blocks from here.||Vivimos a cinco cuadras de aquí.|
|You have one ticket.||Tienes un boleto.|
|I called you three times.||Te llamé tres veces.|
You will see that the ordinal number ending in “-o” comes before masculine nouns, while the ordinal number ending in “-a” precedes feminine nouns.
Primer or Primero?
Do you notice anything strange in the chart above?
Take a closer look at the ordinal number in the sentence: Me dieron el primer boleto.
In our example, it’s no mistake that primer is written without the final “-o.” Ordinal numbers primero and tercero both lose the final “-o” when they are in front of a singular noun. This is the case even if another word appears before the noun, as in, el primer gran día (the first big day).
Mi primer momento libre
My first free moment
El ganador del tercer lugar
The third place winner
Give it a try
Which ordinal or cardinal numbers do you need to fill in the following blanks? (See the answers at the end of the blog post to check your work!)
6. Tengo ______________ (2) animales.
7. Tengo el ______________ (2nd) animal.
8. Hoy es la ______________ (1st) vez.
9. Lo hago solo ______________ (1) vez.
10. Comienza la ______________ (4th) entrada.
Click here to see the answer key.
Number Order in Spanish
We have just learned that ordinal numbers are often adjectives. As you may know, an adjective generally comes after the noun it describes in Spanish. In the case of ordinal numbers, however, they come before the noun unless discussing a member of royalty or the pope.
El sexto libro = the sixth book
Mi primera foto = my first photo
Juan Carlos Primero = Juan Carlos the First, the former king of Spain
San Juan Pablo Segundo = Pope John Paul the Second
Ordinal Numbers 11 to 100
Ordinal numbers are not ordinarily used after 10, but it is still important to expose yourself to them so that you can recognize them when they do appear. Both 11th and 12th have two acceptable forms, which the chart below shows. While there is, unfortunately, no formula to memorize for all the ordinal numbers after 11, there are a few guidelines we can follow. For numbers 13-19, we use a combination of decimo + ordinal number 3-9, as in decimocuarto (14th). For numbers in between 20-100, we use the ordinal number ending in -gésimo or -agésimo + the unique singular ordinal number 1-9, as in vigésimo primero (21st).
As you view the chart, keep in mind that all of these ordinal numbers can be written together or apart, as in decimoprimero or décimo primero. Additionally, if they describe a feminine noun, their form changes to decimaprimera or décima primera.
Abbreviations of Ordinal Numbers in Spanish
Similar to English, Spanish ordinal numbers can be written in long form or using superscriptions. While in English we use “st” “nd” “rd” and “th” as the superscriptions (as in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th), Spanish uses “o” for masculine nouns or “a” for feminine nouns, as in the following examples:
Long form: Primer capítulo
Superscript: 1er capítulo
English: 1st chapter
Long form: Cuarto capítulo
Superscript: 4to capítulo
English: 4th chapter
Long form: Primera dama
Superscript: 1a dama
English: 1st lady
Here’s a handy chart:
|1st||1º, 1ª, 1er, 1ra|
|2nd||2º, 2ª, 2do, 2da|
|3rd||3º, 3ª, 3er, 3ra|
|4th||4º, 4ª, 4to, 4ta|
|10th||10º, 10ª, 10mo, 10ma|
Roman Numeral Abbreviations
Another way of abbreviating numbers is by using roman numerals, which we read as ordinal numbers. We can use roman numerals with centuries, popes, monarchs, emperors, books, volumes, chapters, and recurring events. Keep in mind that in informal speech, the use of ordinal numbers above 10 is fairly rare. Instead of saying, el quincuagésimo capítulo, one would more likely say el capítulo cincuenta.
Use Your Number Knowledge in This Free Spanish Class
Now that you have learned how to use ordinal numbers, be sure to keep practicing them regularly in speech and writing. To enhance your language skills, schedule a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy and start speaking Spanish with one of our friendly, certified teachers today!
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Ordinal Numbers QUIZ with Instant Results
Miguel quedó en ________ (2nd) lugar.
English: Miguel got second place.
Yo fui el ________ (1st) de mi clase.
English: I was the first of my class.
Me comí ________ (5) tacos.
English: I ate five tacos.
Karla ganó la ________ (8th) medalla para México en las Olimpiadas.
English: Karla won the eighth medal for Mexico at the Olympics.
2018 fue el ________ (4th) año más caliente de la historia.
English: 2018 was the fourth hottest year in history.
Mi perra tuvo ________ (7) cachorritos.
English: My dog had seven puppies.
Empieza el ________ (3rd) cuarto del Superbowl.
English: The third quarter of the Superbowl is starting.
Estamos en la ________ (10th) entrada de la Serie Mundial y esto sigue empatado.
English: We're in the tenth inning of the World Series and it's still tied.
El ________ (6th) año de primaria es el más difícil.
English: The sixth year of primary school is the hardest.
Ya vi las ________ (9) películas de Star Wars.
English: I saw the 9 Star Wars movies.
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