Forming ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 10th...)

Ordinal numbers describe an order/rank.

Look at these ordinal numbers:

English  French Long-hand
1st 1er / 1re premier (m) / première (f)
2nd 2e / 2/ 2de deuxième 
second (m) / seconde (f)
3rd 3e troisième
4th 4e quatrième
5th 5e cinquième
 9th 9e neuvième

The main rule to form ordinal numbers is as follows:

Cardinal number + -ième at the end
(stripping off any mute -e if there is one first)

EXCEPTIONS

- premier/première and second/seconde agree in gender with the noun they refer to

- you add a -u after cinq to form cinquième, as the syllable "qi" doesn't exist in French.

- the -f of neuf becomes a -v in neuvièmesimply to ease the pronunciation.

Now listen to these examples:

Je préfère la première robe.I prefer the first dress.

Il a fini le troisième exercice.He finished the third exercise.

Je suis arrivé sixième au marathon.I came sixth at the marathon.

J'ai réussi la neuvième fois.I managed the ninth time.

 

When to use deuxième vs second/seconde ?

On aime la deuxième chanson de l'album.We like the second song of the album.

Il y avait deux gâteaux sur la table: j'en ai mangé un, tu as mangé le second.There were two cakes on the table: I ate one, you ate the second one.

- Use deuxième if there are more than two things,
- Use second/e if there are only two options.

 

Cardinal numbers = 1,2,3 etc 
Ordinal numbers = describing an order/rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc Fractions = describing a part of a whole = half, third, fourth etc
Also see Expressing fractions - general (numbers)

 

Want to make sure your French sounds confident? We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »

Examples and resources

Je préfère la première robe.I prefer the first dress.
Je suis arrivé sixième au marathon.I came sixth at the marathon.
On aime la deuxième chanson de l'album.We like the second song of the album.
Il y avait deux gâteaux sur la table: j'en ai mangé un, tu as mangé le second.There were two cakes on the table: I ate one, you ate the second one.
Il a fini le troisième exercice.He finished the third exercise.
J'ai réussi la neuvième fois.I managed the ninth time.
I'll be right with you...