cardinales y ordinales

Last Friday, on the way back from school, Timur and I talked about difference between números cardinales (cardinal numbers) and números ordinales (ordinal numbers). I used to confuse which are which until I mentally connected ordinal with Spanish masculine noun orden (order). So, that’s it: ordinal numbers are those that refer to positions within some ordered list, and cardinal numbers are… the other ones (those which represent quantities). Unlike English, where the ordinal numerals beyond 1st, 2nd and 3rd are typically formed by simply adding -th suffix to the corresponding cardinal numerals, Spanish has rather different terminology for ordinals.

OK, to an English speaker primero, segundo, tercero etc. should not sound exactly alien. Apart from first, second, third, fourth and so on, English has another set of ordinal numbers derived from Latin: primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary… well, that’s about as far as it gets. I’ve never encountered quinary, senary and higher in either literature or conversation. Also, if you ever learned basics of music theory in a language other than English, the names of intervals are all very similar to Spanish ordinal numbers. But this is probably a topic for next post.

It is said that ordinal numbers above ten are seldom used in Spanish. Indeed, go googling for “mil novecientos sesenta y siete” and you’ll get thousands of hits. Now try to do the same with “milésimo noningentésimo sexagésimo séptimo”. The obvious explanation is that ordinals are significantly longer than cardinals. Still, it’s good to know one when you see one, so I think the table below may come handy *.

Cardinales Ordinales
0 cero
1 uno primero
un 1er primer
una primera
2 dos segundo
3 tres tercero
3er tercer
4 cuatro cuarto
5 cinco quinto
6 seis sexto
7 siete séptimo
8 ocho octavo
9 nueve noveno
10 diez 10º décimo
11 once 11º undécimo
12 doce 12º duodécimo
13 trece 13º decimotercero
14 catorce 14º decimocuarto
15 quince 15º decimoquinto
16 dieciséis 16º decimosexto
17 diecisiete 17º decimoséptimo
18 dieciocho 18º decimoctavo
19 diecinueve 19º decimonoveno
20 veinte 20º vigésimo
21 veintiuno 21º vigésimo primero
22 veintidós 22º vigésimo segundo
23 veintitrés 23º vigésimo tercero
24 veinticuatro 24º vigésimo cuarto
25 veinticinco 25º vigésimo quinto
26 veintiséis 26º vigésimo sexto
27 veintisiete 27º vigésimo séptimo
28 veintiocho 28º vigésimo octavo
29 veintinueve 29º vigésimo nono
30 treinta 30º trigésimo
31 treinta y uno 31º trigésimo primero
32 treinta y dos 32º trigésimo segundo
33 treinta y tres 33º trigésimo tercero
40 cuarenta 40º cuadragésimo
50 cincuenta 50º quincuagésimo
60 sesenta 60º sexagésimo
70 setenta 70º septuagésimo
80 ochenta 80º octogésimo
90 noventa 90º nonagésimo
100 cien 100º centésimo
101 ciento uno 101º centésimo primero
200 doscientos 200º ducentésimo
300 trescientos 300º tricentésimo
400 cuatrocientos 400º cuadringentésimo
500 quinientos 500º quingentésimo
600 seiscientos 600º sexcentésimo
700 setecientos 700º septingentésimo
800 ochocientos 800º octingentésimo
900 novecientos 900º noningentésimo
1000 mil 1000º milésimo
1001 mil uno 1001º milésimo primero
1002 mil dos 1002º milésimo segundo
2000 dos mil 2000º dosmilésimo
2011 dos mil once 2011º dosmilésimo undécimo
3000 tres mil 3000º tresmilésimo
4000 cuatro mil 4000º cuatromilésimo
5000 cinco mil 5000º cincomilésimo
10.000 diez mil 10.000º diezmilésimo
100.000 cien mil 100.000º cienmilésimo
500.000 quinientos mil 500.000º quinientosmilésimo
1.000.000 un millón 1.000.000º millonésimo

* In Diccionario panhispánico de dudas and Spanish Wikipedia, the symbols for ordinal numerals contain a full stop (1.º,, 5.ª), while Collins dictionaries do not (1º, 3er, 5ª). I used this latter style in the table. Also, starting with 4, I listed only masculine ordinals. I hope you don’t think this sexist. To get feminine forms, simply replace the terminal -o’s with -a’s and º’s with ª’s). Maybe one day Real Academia Española will admit uses like 1@ and segund@, why not.


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