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**Summary – m**eaning and use

Ordinal numbers tell us the position of something in a group. They are used for:

**1. Dates***It’s the twelfth of November*

**2. The order of events***Her fiftieth birthday*

**3. Position in space***Our apartment’s on the first floor*

*It’s the*

**third on the right****4. Order of quality***The first prize in the competition*

### Spelling and form

We usually form ordinal numbers by adding –**th** to cardinal numbers:**four – fourth**

**first, second**and

**third**are irregular forms

**fifth, eighth, ninth, twelfth**and numbers ending in

**-y**have irregular spellings:

**twentieth**

We say dates with **the** and **of**:*the eighth of** Apr**il**April the eighth *

But we don’t write them like that. We write them as:*8th April**April 8th**8 April*

**First, second** and **third** have the irregular suffixes **1st, 2nd **and** 3rd**

We usually use the definite article **the** with ordinal numbers:*on the third day*

*It was*

**the first**time I’ve ever been to FranceBut sometimes we use possessives:**my thirtieth** birthday**Julia’s second** child

Ordinal numbers are also used as adjectives and adverbs without **the** or a possessive adjective.

What’s the date today? And do you know how to say it?

**Listen to the audio**

**Transcript**

**Neil**And me, Neil. And today we’re talking about ordinal numbers.

**Catherine**Yes. So numbers like

**first, second**and

**third**. So let’s start by listening to Laurence. He’s talking about his 18th birthday party. While you listen, try to answer this question: What date was his party? Here’s Laurence.

**INSERT**

**Laurence**

For my

**18th**birthday last year, I invited about sixty friends and relatives! It was on

**the twenty-fifth of**May and it was

**the first**time that I’ve ever had a big party. It was in a restaurant on

**the third**floor of a hotel. The food was really delicious and I won

**second**prize in the dancing competition!

**Neil**So we asked you: What date was Laurence’s birthday party?

**Catherine**And the answer is:

**the twenty-fifth of**May.

**Neil**That’s right. Now

**the twenty-fifth**is an ordinal number like

**the**

**first**and

**the**

**second**. Ordinal numbers tell us the position of something in a group – the dates in a month, for example.

**Catherine**Or which birthday it is. Laurence said it was his

**eighteenth**birthday.

**Neil**Yes, he did. Lucky him! And ordinal numbers are different to cardinal numbers. We use cardinal numbers like

**one**,

**two**,

**three**for counting and to answer the question

**how many**.

**Catherine**And to make a cardinal number into an ordinal number, add the letters

**t-h**to the end of the cardinal number.

**Eighteen – eighteenth; sixty – sixtieth.**

**Neil**

And that works for all the cardinal numbers except for **first, second **and** third** – they’re irregular, but for all the others, it’s add **t-h, **so that’s** fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh…**

**Catherine**

**Eighth, ninth, tenth**. So that’s good but in writing we do have a couple of irregular spellings, such as

**fifth:**

**Neil**

**f-i-f-t-h**

**Catherine**

**eighth**

**Neil**

**e-i-g-h-t-h**

**Catherine**

**ninth**

**Neil**

**n-i-n-t-h**

**Catherine**

**twelfth**

**Neil**

**t-w-e-l-f-t-h**

**Catherine**And for numbers ending in

**-y**like

**sixty**, drop the

**-y**and add

**-i-e**and

**-t-h**to make

**sixtieth:**

**Neil**

**s-i-x-t-i-e-t-h**

**Catherine**Now let’s look more closely at dates. Listen for the date in this clip.

**INSERT CLIP 1**It was on

**the twenty-fifth of**May and it was

**the first**time that I’ve ever had a big party.

**Neil**

**The twenty-fifth of May**. When we say the day before the month, we always use the words

**the**and

**of**:

**the twenty-fifth of May**.

**Catherine**But when we say the month before the day, we don’t use the word

**of**. It’s just

**May the twenty-fifth.**

**Neil**We often use the word

**the**with ordinal numbers, but we can also use possessives. In this next clip, Laurence uses the possessive adjective

**my**before

**eighteenth**.

**INSERT 1 CLIP 2**For my

**18th**birthday last year, I invited about sixty friends and relatives!

**Catherine**Let’s have another clip.

**INSERT 1 CLIP 3**It was in a restaurant on

**the third**floor of a hotel. The food was really delicious and I won

**second**prize in the dancing competition!

**Neil**So, now we have two more ways of using ordinal numbers: space and quality.

**Catherine**Yes, we do. And

**the third floor**tells us about the position of the floors in space. It’s the same as when we give directions, for example:

**Take the second left after the traffic lights.**

**Neil**And

**second prize**tells us about the quality. And a point to make here is that ordinal numbers can be used as adjectives and adverbs without

**the.**Like in the phrase

**he won second prize. Second**is an adjective.

**IDENT**

6 Minute Vocabulary from BBC Learning English.

**Neil**And now it’s quiz time! Number one: Which of these is correct? The party’s on: a) thirtieth of July b) the thirtieth July c) the thirtieth of July.

**Catherine**And it’s c) the thirtieth of July.

**Neil**

Great! Now, number two. Which word in this list is wrong? First, second, third, ford, fifth.

**Catherine**

The answer’s **ford**. It should be **fourth**.

**Neil**Yes, it should! Number three: Which of these is correct? a) My twenty-first birthday b) My the twenty-first birthday c) The my twenty-first birthday.

**Catherine**The answer’s a) My twenty-first birthday.

**Neil**Well done if you got them right. But before we go, here’s a vocabulary tip. Try saying your own important and memorable dates in English, for example, birthdays, anniversaries and festivals. If the dates are important, you’re more likely to remember the English.