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Ordinal numbers

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 Numbers in French 2 : ordinals

1. Ordinals in French

Ordinals are words like  premier, second, troisième.....
They are adjectives formed from cardinal numbers.
They are used to indicate the position of an entity in a stated or implied series.

With the exception of the words premier and second, they are usually formed by adding  the ending -ième to the cardinal number.  trois > troisième,  vingt et un > vingt et unième.

Numerals ending in e lose the e :  quatre > quatrième,  mille > millième,
Cinq adds a u : cinq > cinquième
The f on neuf becomes a v : > neuvième
The x on dix  becomes a z : > dizième

Ordinals are also used to express fractions but not dates. 

From premier to centième

As numerals rather than as words, ordinals are in theory (as in official publications) written with the numeral followed just by e, except for premier (1er) or second (2d). For example: 6e
Also In theory, the e, ème or ° should be written in superscript, i.e. slightly higher than the base line. 6e not 6e

In practice they are often written with the numeral followed by  ème or sometimes by ° : for example: 6ème or 6°, and few people use superscript, as few people know how to do superscript on a computer keyboard, let alone a smartphone.

Here are the main ordinals in French, up to centième; from these examples all others can be formed.

1er premier 11th onzième 21e vingt et unième
2e second 12th douzième 22e vingt-deuxième
3e troisième 13e treizième 33e trente-troisième
4e quatrième 14e quatorzième 44e quarante-quatrième
5e cinquième 15e quinzième 50e cinquantième
6e sixième 16e seizième 60e soixantième
7e septième 17e dix-septième 71e soixante et onzième
8e huitième 18e dix-huirième 82e quatre-vingt-deuxième
9e neuvième 19e dix-neuvième 90e quatre-vingt-dizième
10e dizième 20e vingtième 100e centième

Ordinals after centième

From these examples you can see how all ordinals are formed
101e  cent unième or cent-unième 365e trois cent soixante-cinquième
111e  cent onzième 500e cinq centième
121e cent vingt et unième 546e cinq cent quarante-sizième
133e cent trente-troisième 649e six cent quarante neuvième
245e deux cent quarante-cinquième 999e neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuvième
308e trois cent huitième 1550th mille cinq cent cinquantième


Ordinals can be preceded by a range of different articles or determiners.
Son dizième anniversaire
Sa première communion
Trois centièmes de seconde
Ce cent troisième festival.
Vous êtes notre cent millième visiteur.

Other points to note :

Translating ordinals.

The fundamental rule is simple : translate using words when the original ordinal is written in words, translate using figures when the original uses figures.
The Second amendment  = Le Second amendement
My 21st birthday  - Mon 21e anniversaire
Four hundredths of a second - quatre centièmes de seconde
His 24th attempt - Sa 24e tentative
The US Hundred and first Airborne division - La cent-unième division US aeroportée.

Return to cardinal numbers

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