Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers

In speaking and writing, we use number for many purposes.
  • to count people or thingsnumbers

  • to put things in order

  • to identify people or things

  • as determiners

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In this lesson, we are going to focus on the common uses of cardinal and ordinal numbers. Cardinal and ordinal numbers are used for counting and  putting things in order.

(When writing ordinal and cardinal numbers, you should use a hyphen for numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.)

English Number Cardinal Ordinal Ordinal Abbreviations
1 one first 1st
2 two second 2nd
3 three third 3rd
4 four fourth 4th
5 five fifth 5th
6 six sixth 6th
7 seven seventh 7th
8 eight eighth 8th
9 nine ninth 9th
10 ten tenth 10th
11 eleven eleventh 11th
12 twelve twelfth 12th
13 thirteen thirteenth 13th
14 fourteen fourteenth 14th
15 fifteen fifteenth 15th
16 sixteen sixteenth 16th
17 seventeen seventeenth 17th
18 eighteen eighteenth 18th
19 nineteen nineteenth 19th
20 twenty twentieth 20th
22 twenty-two twenty-second 22nd
25 twenty-five twenty-fifth 25th
30 thirty thirtieth 30th
40 forty fortieth 40th
50 fifty fiftieth 50th
60 sixty sixtieth 60th
70 seventy seventieth 70th
80 eighty eightieth 80th
90 ninety ninetieth 90th
100 one hundred one hundredth 100th
125 one hundred twenty-five one hundred twenty-fifth 125th

Cardinal Numbers – Counting Numbers

Children are first introduced to cardinal numbers when they begin counting objects.

child counting apples

Cardinal numbers are numbers that tell you "how many." They express an amount.
We use cardinal numbers to count people or things. They indicate a quantity of people or objects.

Cardinal numbers are whole numbers. They do not contain fractions or decimals.


I bought two bananas at the store.


There are seven people in my family.

Ordinal Numbers – Position

Ordinal numbers are numbers that tell you the position of someone or something in a group or list. Ordinal numbers tell order. 

Except for first (1st), second (2nd), and third (3rd), most ordinal numbers end in the letters "th."
  • fourth (4th)
  • fifth (5th)
  • eighth (8th)
  • thirteenth (13th)
  • twentieth (20th)
  • twenty-fifth (25th)

We can use ordinal numbers to tell the order people finish in a race or the order they are standing in line.

man racing

Nick finished the race in first place!

Nick's sister was tenth.

kids in line

My daughter is third in line for the bus.

Ordinal numbers are also used in recipes and instructions. They tell you the order of steps.


First, mix flour, sugar, and milk.

Second, add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers

We can use cardinal and ordinal numbers together in the same sentence.

Here's an example:

Tom's car finished 2nd in a race of three cars.

car race

In this sentence, we have used a cardinal and an ordinal number.

Cardinal numbers are used for counting. Cardinal numbers tell us "how many."

In the above example, three (3) is the cardinal number. It tells us how many cars were in the race. There were three cars in the race.

Ordinal numbers are used for putting thing in order. The ordinal number tells the position of Tom's car in the race.

In the above example, second (2nd) is the ordinal number. Tom placed second in the race. His car was the second car to cross the finish line. One car crossed the finish line before his car, and one car crossed the finish line after his car.

To learn more:

For additional information and rules for writing English Numbers, click here:

English Numbers

These were examples and rules of Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Get our ESL Books.

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