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Ordinal Numbers

In Spanish, They're Seldom Used Above 10

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Row of Russian books

El primer libro es rojo. (The first book is red.)

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski; licensed via Creative Commons.

The ordinal numbers might be thought of as the adjective form of the cardinal numbers, which are the numbers in the form they are most often used. Thus uno ("one") is a cardinal number, while primero ("first") is its ordinal form. (Of course, in Spanish as in English, adjectives often can be used as nouns, so el primero is "the first one.")

In Spanish, the ordinal forms are used most commonly for the numbers 10 and under. Here are the forms:

  • First: primero
  • Second: segundo
  • Third: tercero
  • Fourth: cuarto
  • Fifth: quinto
  • Sixth: sexto
  • Seventh: séptimo, sétimo
  • Eighth: octavo
  • Ninth: noveno
  • Tenth: décimo

When used as an adjective, ordinal numbers must agree with the nouns they refer to in both number and gender: el segundo coche ("the second car"), but la segunda vez ("the second time").

Note also that when primero and tercero precede a singular masculine noun, the final -o is dropped: el primer rey ("the first king"), el tercer trimestre ("the third trimester").

For larger numbers, it is common to use simply the cardinal number, especially in speech. Thus el siglo veinte ("the 20th century") is more common than the cardinal form, el siglo vigésimo, and in writing the numerical form (el siglo 20) is often used. It is also common to word a sentence in such a way that the ordinal form is not used. So, for example, cumple cuarenta y cinco años would be the most common way of saying it is someone's 45th birthday. In general, the ordinal numbers for 11th and above can be considered mostly a formal usage.

In any case, here are examples of larger ordinal numbers.

  • 11th: undécimo
  • 12th: duodécimo
  • 13th: decimotercero
  • 14th: decimocuarto
  • 15th: decimoquinto
  • 16th: decimosexto
  • 17th: decimoséptimo
  • 18th: decimoctavo
  • 19th: decimonoveno
  • 20th: vigésimo
  • 21st: vigésimo primero
  • 22nd: vigésimo segundo
  • 23rd: vigésimo tercero
  • 24th: vigésimo cuarto
  • 30th: trigésimo
  • 31st: trigésimo primero
  • 32nd: trigésimo segundo
  • 40th: cuadragésimo
  • 50th: quincuagésimo
  • 60th: sexagésimo
  • 70th: septuagésimo
  • 80th: octogésimo
  • 90th: nonagésimo
  • 100th: centésimo
  • 200th: ducentésimo
  • 300th: tricentésimo
  • 400th: cuadringentésimo
  • 500th: quingentésimo
  • 600th: sexcentésimo
  • 700th: septingentésimo
  • 800th: octingésimo
  • 900th: noningentésimo
  • 1,000th: milésimo
  • 2,000th: dosmilésimo
  • 3,000th: tresmilésimo
  • 4,000th: cuatromilésimo
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